What are your conditions for peace with your body?
I don't know about you, but it's 3 weeks into January and I'm still seeing ads from weight loss companies promising that their program will take me from caterpillar to butterfly in the new year. Those before and after photos, meal replacement bars, and celebrity-sponsored "lifestyle change" programs try to lure us in with the promise that if you buy what they're selling you'll get the VIP pass to loving your body and living a fantasy life. Of course, while they're selling us the fun new life fantasy, they're hard selling the idea that our bodies are deficient the way we are now. For these companies to make a profit, they have to persuade (or sometimes just remind) us we haven't met the basic conditions to deserve peace with our bodies. When the message that our bodies aren't good enough is everywhere from TV ads to the news, from your doctor's office to the break room, and from the book club all the way to the dinner table, it's really hard to be peaceful with ourselves! Most of us carry spoken and unspoken conditions for our bodies, and we promise ourselves that after we meet them, we can relax and stop criticizing ourselves. Until then, peace with your body may feel impossible or undeserved. Maybe you're waiting to fit into an old pair of jeans or reach a magic number on the scale for your body to be good enough. Or does it require a clean bill of health from your doctor? Maybe, whether you want to or not, you're holding out for approval from your mother.
Maybe you've got more hoops to jump through because the pressure is constant. Our daily conditioning paints a narrow picture of what counts as a "good" body. That picture is rooted in sexism, racism, ableism, fatphobia, classism, and more, and we're programmed to work toward achieving it from a really young age. Twisting ourselves into knots in pursuit of this artificially constructed ideal is also in the interest of the $64 billion weight loss industry working overtime this time of year. We're up against a lot! If it feels like you've been trying for decades but you still haven't jumped through all of the hoops, it's not because you've failed. It's just that the system is rigged. Body shame is a cultural failing, not your own. The condition of shrinking your body size to be worthy of body peace isn't self-imposed so much as it's cultural. In our culture, thinness is the most important part of the fun new life fantasy: it's supposed to bring unlimited joy, love, worth, and respect. Because 95% of the time diets don't work and more than half the time lead to weight gain, a culture that demands we lose weight to deserve body kindness is failing us. Bodies of every size are worthy of kindness. No conditions. The condition to have a perfect bill of health from the doctor before you can stop criticizing your body stems from the promises that physical health guarantees us a long life; that weight and health are the same thing and that we have complete control over them; and that physical health is more important than mental, emotional, and spiritual health. These false promises can start or reinforce disordered eating, over-exercise, stress, and anxiety. A culture that tells us our worth is conditional on physical health is failing us. Your health status is irrelevant to your body's worthiness. And even if it was relevant, you can't criticize yourself healthy. Conditions for body peace can lead to temporary "fixes" at best and destructive patterns at worst; it's unnecessary and honestly impossible to bully yourself into perfect health and a great relationship with your body. That's not how self care works! Putting conditions on peace with your body isn't sustainable, supportive, or compassionate. That's ok! Peace isn't something you have to earn. You deserve to accept and care for your body, exactly as you are. Unconditionally.