Loving, Liking, and Letting Be: Personal Thoughts on Body Love

by Gena on December 19, 2012

Earlier this fall, I wrote a post called “Body Love in the Face of an Illness or Feeling Unwell.” As usual, you all contributed some wonderful comments, and as usual, it has taken me a little time to digest them. One of the comments that most got me thinking was Amber’s. She said,

I almost feel like the latest “thing” is for people to insist that you HAVE to love and embrace your body, inside and out, at all times. That can make those of us who are uncomfortable feel even more frustrated and depressed, like there’s something wrong with us for not being able to look in the mirror and grin and claim to love everything we see. Thanks for handling this issue with sensitivity and grace.

I agreed with Amber, and rejoined that a more appropriate term for what I mean is “body appreciation,” “body respect,” or “body gratitude.” Though I do sincerely love my body—and you’ll see what I mean by that in a moment—I don’t relate to “body love” as it is portrayed in the media. The love I feel toward my body is a far more nuanced and complex emotion than the enthusiastic, grinning, jump-for-joy sentiment that one might see portrayed in a women’s magazine (probably with a picture of some lithe woman in a bikini nearby).

It’s almost always the case that one insightful comment on my blog will make me think of another insightful comment, and to the themes that we so often return to in this space. Amber’s remark about the problematic simplicity of “body love” memes got me thinking about a comment that my friend Kathleen once left on CR (on my “Fitspiration” post). She asked me,

Your description of the value you see in your body is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. A bit off topic, but I’m curious: While you were in recovery, did you ever think you’d get to a place where you would actually celebrate your body or was that something that came long after? Was it something you “worked on” or was it inherent to fully recovering? (Apologies if that is too personal.)

Not too personal at all. But as I was thinking about how to respond, it occurred to me that my own way of celebrating my body doesn’t quite match up with the pop culture standard, which seems to suggest that body appreciation resides in loving what you see in the mirror every morning, always feeling thrilled to slip into a bathing suit or a little black dress, and feeling downright proud of every curve. To be frank, my body love, such as it is, is just a lot more complicated than that. I’ve been in recovery for many years now, and am immensely proud of my redefined relationship with food, my enthusiasm for eating, and my respect for my own physical needs. I am also proud of the way I’ve come to accept and appreciate my own shape, but the process is not always simple, and it certainly doesn’t mean waking up every morning, staring in the mirror, and loving what I see.

The love I feel toward my body is real love, which is to say that it’s complex, sometimes uneven, and sometimes stormy. As with any loving relationship—with lovers, family members, or friends—there are ups and downs, good days and bad, sentiments that I regret or feel guilty for feeling. There are also days of gratitude, joy, excitement, and admiration. There are disappointments and frustrations and breakthroughs in communication. But the most important thing to say is that the love I feel for my body makes me generous. They say true love is about being able to put someone else’s needs above one’s own. For me, body love means that I prioritize my body’s best interests when my mind would have me do otherwise—when it would have me deprive my body for the sake of appeasing its own obsessive tendencies. When I’m tempted to be selfish and hold back, I give—usually in the form of nourishing food, mindful movement, and the experience of pleasure—instead.

I realize that I’m creating a schism here between my body and my mind, and perhaps that’s not a very healthy way to look at things. But the truth is that eating disorders are just that—a war between the body’s needs and the mind’s desire to quash them. And I’ve had much more personal success imagining my relationship with my body as a relationship between two loving entities—mind and body—than I have with any other kind of metaphorical construct. Many days go by without me feeling as though there’s any interference between body and mind, but sometimes there is, and when there is, I like to frame that interference as the tension that resides in any loving relationship.

I think it’s hugely important that we all learn to imagine our bodies not as commodities, but as entities with needs of their own, who deserve respect, compassion, and love. I don’t love my body the way I love a new shirt or the way I “like” something on Facebook. It’s not something that pleases or displeases me in a pat, yes or no, pretty or not pretty, sort of way. My body is a living, breathing being, and it is far too complex to be merely “likeable.” It is loveable, and it is beautiful. I don’t always find it superficially pleasing, and given my history, I don’t always expect to. But that’s not really the point.

When I was at the height of my disorder, my biggest fear was that my body would “change” on me. I’d eat a few extra calories or skip a workout, and suddenly my body would morph into a giant, unruly monster. Even more distressing was the idea that, by no act of my own doing, my body would change anyway. Name one thing that might cause the body to evolve or fluctuate, and I dreaded it: menstruation, pregnancy, aging. I wanted my body to behave, to remain trim and eternally pleasing. It did not occur to me that I was treating my body, which is by definition an ever-changing, living entity, like a static object: a statue, a cutout from a magazine, a paper doll.

Today, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my body is alive, and life means movement . My body’s shape will change with time, and so will its needs, tastes, preferences. I can’t strap it into a pants size and tell it to stay there forever, and I can’t force it to abide by some restrictive and crazy-making dietary protocol indefinitely. I’ve been forced to accept the fact that my body, like any other living entity, has evolving needs. Don’t they always say that if you love someone, you must give them space in which to grow?

The relationship I’m describing—good days, bad days, but fundamental appreciation and respect—is probably pretty close to “normal.” When I was recovering, I had the very false idea in my head that there are two kinds of people: people who have eating disorders, and people who LOVE their bodies. You’re either doomed to hate your shape and do all you can to destroy it, or you’re the sort of person who eats whatever she wants, slips into revealing clothes confidently, and never harbors a self-loathing thought. I was flabbergasted one day when my mother—who has a fantastic relationship with her body—told me, “well, everyone has days where they don’t like their body. That’s normal.” It really hadn’t occurred to me that it is. My mom’s remark put recovery in a whole new context for me. Being recovered doesn’t mean loving your body every minute of every day. It means struggling to love it sometimes, but not allowing that struggle to turn into a war.

These days, I know how to end the struggle in peaceful reconciliation. This doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and feel the old, familiar sense of disapproval and panic, or that I don’t irrationally fear weight gain, or that I never put on my jeans with a sense of unease. I feel all of those things, sometimes. But I don’t turn those feelings into “self-mutilation,” to use a phrase that one of my yoga teachers employs to describe our battles against the self. Instead, I take a few moments to feel sympathy and compassion for my body—the body that has withstood my many attempts to injure it, and bounced back with so much resilience; the body that seems to have forgiven me. Being forgiving and generous with it in return is the least I can do. This ongoing process may not match up perfectly with editorialized slogans about “body love,” but it’s enormous progress for me. And from where I stand, it feels very loving indeed.

As always, I’m curious to hear how you all see things. What does body love suggest to you? How do you encourage a loving relationship with your body in your own lives?

xo

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Hannah December 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I’ve missed these posts, Gena! With finals I can imagine writing lengthy essays such as these just don’t happen as often. I really like what you had to say here –

“But I don’t turn those feelings into “self-mutilation,” to use a phrase that one of my yoga teachers employs to describe our battles against the self. Instead, I take a few moments to feel sympathy and compassion for my body—the body that has withstood my many attempts to injure it, and bounced back with so much resilience; the body that seems to have forgiven me. Being forgiving and generous with it in return is the least I can do.”

Sadly, self-mutilitation can take many forms, and we have to be careful not to let it manifest itself in multiple ways, or one after another. For example, after I was not eating enough, I moved onto exercising too much – simply another form of self-mutilation. But despite all that injury, like you said, our bodies are still resilient, and still forgives us for the suffering we have caused. I like my body so much more than I ever have but it’s not something I think about that much – I still have my days of course – but I think the fact that I spend less time analyzing myself in the mirror signifies, for me at least, that I appreciate, but also admire, my body. I’m not sure if I articulated that well at all!

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Gena December 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Yes, Hannah, these posts are all too infrequent lately! Being a post-bacc doesn’t give me enough time to write about this stuff. Actually, it doesn’t give me much time to think about my body, either, in spite of today’s topic, which I agree is in many ways a sign of freedom/recovery. But I try to be mindful; just because I’m too exhausted and busy to obsess, that doesn’t mean I’m not capable of obsessing, and I like to “check in” this way in order to keep my recovery healthy.

You articulated yourself very well!

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Tamar December 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Wow. This is arguably my favorite post you’ve ever written, even though I absolutely love your recipes. I am dealing with similar issues to Amber’s right now – subclinical hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, gut dysbiosis all which has probably contributed to a 20 lb weight gain over the last year. One huge realization I’ve had recently was the idea that our bodies are ever changing or as you put it so aptly, that our bodies are “ever-changing, living entities” and not static. Ultimately we can’t control everything our bodies do, but we can always choose to respond to our reactions to our bodies with more love. I really really love the way you’ve described your thoughts about your body – and your body itself as a relationship of sorts, which is sometimes stormy! It’s a paradigm that I’m definitely going to adopt. Thanks so much for this post!

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Colette December 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Wow! How timely! I have been raging a war against my body for about two years. Sometimes there a moments of peace (one moment long up to one month long) and then there’s some pretty nasty battles for any amount of time. I find it has also been a battle to love who I am as well as my body. I would have never admitted to an eating disorder especially by any psycological definition. But over the last couple months I have been coming to the realization that you stated so well:
“But the truth is that eating disorders are just that—a war between the body’s needs and the mind’s desire to quash them.”
True that by making an effort to treat my body as a separate entity than my mind might lead to more success. I am ready for the war to be over. I’m scared but encouraged by your post. It’s time I extend some love to my body instead of surrendering to the mind time and time again.
Thank you!

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Amanda December 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Gena, this verbalizes something that I think is the key to recovery. If you’ve ever truly loved another person, you know that love is not infatuation, manic “like”, etc. It’s not even contingent on physical attraction. Rather, it is the appreciation for another person, the acknowledgement that your life is drastically improved by your inclusion in it, that defines love. I think another good way to test our actions’ demonstration of “body love” – and I do mean the higher love you describe above – is to say, “Would I do this to my husband/wife/child/pet?” Would I make them run injured? Would I deprive them of food? One thing I notice myself doing quite often is encouraging a loved one to treat themselves, take a rest day, relax, etc., or reassuring them that incidental weight gain may not go unnoticed by me but that it certainly goes uncared for. I can rarely say the same thing of myself. It’s definitely a turning point, though, that I’ve recently started to think of my self-treatment in terms of others-treatment. It’s the Reverse Golden Rule – Do unto yourself as you would have yourself do unto others.

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Gena December 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm

So beautiful, Amanda. One of my readers, Laura, once said that she can question whether a thought is disordered by asking herself, “would I feel proud admitting this to the people who love me?” because they are so disturbed by the idea that she’d be unkind to herself. I, too, was once famous for encouraging others to be gentle to themselves while treating myself very poorly. (I still do this, but now it comes in the form of encouraging other post-baccs to nap or take a night off but never allowing myself the same freedom or self-care.) Love your insights.

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Amanda December 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm

It seems to me that many of us inherit the martyrdom mentality – instead of being taught to care for ourselves first and use our health to help others, we’re taught that deprivation is the only way to contribute. Sacrifice is certainly a beautiful thing (and so is investment, sacrifice’s kissing cousin), but when we start foregoing the oxygen mask to leave more oxygen for the other folks, what good are we really doing?

Easier said than put into practice. I like Laura’s self-question.

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am December 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Amanda, i think your reply, the mind-body disconnect, and this from Gena’s post, “crazy-making dietary protocol” all get to the cornerstone of my ongoing recovery, which i don’t think anyone has made explicit in detail on this particular page. so, if i might indulge myself: even when i can’t be a friend to the neck-down parts of my body, i can realize that i am a better person toward, at least, the rest of the world when i refrain from starving my brain. and i do, despite the difficulty, very much want to be engaged with the world.

my muscles may be resilient, but my brain is the fragile, fickle body that needs my care if i want to be any kind of happy at all.

i’m grateful to you, Gena, to be reminded of that. and i hope i’m not splitting fine hairs. happy holidays, everyone.

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Gena December 22, 2012 at 7:57 am

I do hear your point, am. But I’d also point out that you can’t serve the world without a healthy body, either. Maybe I’m misreading, but I do remember that, when I was anorexic, I had this idea–it was almost a sense of pride–that my starved body could withstand any amount of deprivation, that it would always bounce back, etc. From experience, I know all too well that it is only a matter of time before the health issues start to creep in, one by one. So ultimately, the body is not as resilient as someone who is actively starving it wants to believe it is.

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am December 22, 2012 at 9:06 am

true enough, but I think maybe I didn’t make my point well. what I meant to say is that recognizing that the health of my psyche depends in part on eating to fuel the gray matter of my brain allows me to embrace my physicality when it’s otherwise difficult to do so. my brain unfed will cause me to sink deeper into illness long before my legs will give out.

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Elisabeth December 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Very true and heartfelt post! I’ve never wanted to be thought of as selfish or a braggart, so it has taken me a long time to finally learn to take care of myself and show not only an outward but an inward appreciation for my body. Learning to love myself has been such an intimate experience, with many ups and downs, but I am so grateful for battling it out every day. I still have not completely grasped the fact that my body is a living, breathing entity, but I like to know that it is possible to change my mindset and that my sometimes self-deprecating mental state is not a permanent fixture of my being.

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Vegyogini December 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Dearest Gena, thank you for so articulately putting your feelings into words and for so generously sharing them. I relate to everything you said and I learned about myself from your sentiments, as well, something I’ve never been able to express. Thank you, this post is quite a gift.

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Gena December 22, 2012 at 8:13 am

Of course. I’m so glad it resonated.

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Angela December 19, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Wow. I’m not sure how to respond to these thoughts right now, except to say that this post resonated with me deeply in so many ways. The community of people recovering from EDs are truly lucky to have you writing about these topics and making sense of the struggles we sometimes don’t even realize we’re having. I have so many ah-ha moments when reading your words. Thank you sincerely, Gena.

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Gena December 22, 2012 at 8:13 am

Thank YOU for reading, Angela.

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hannah December 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Such a beautiful post Gena, thank you for sharing and taking the time to write one of these deep and meaningful posts.
xx

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Sarah E. December 19, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I read and loved this so much. Admiration, respect, and gratitude for all that you’ve shared, Gena.

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sarah December 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Gena, this was such a beautiful post! I particularly love the bit about giving to something you love, rather than depriving it of what it needs. I’m going to carry that thought with me now.

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Rachael December 20, 2012 at 1:21 am

Thank you so much for this Gena! What if part of the problem is the simple fact that women are under the impression there is something wrong with them if they don’t love their body unconditionally? The idea of letting go of that pressure is incredibly freeing for me. I’m finally getting to a place of gratitude for my body, for taking a beating and remaining resilient. Do I love what I see in the mirror every day? No, not really. Do I say thank you to my legs for hiking me to the top of a mountain? Absolutely.

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Elizabeth December 20, 2012 at 5:26 am

Dear Gena,

I am a long time reader and ardent admirer of all things choosing raw: your no-fail recipes, your infectious enthusiasm, and, above all, your courageous willingness to share insights from your personal ED recovery process. I first learned of Choosing Raw when I made the commitment to get treatment for my own eating disorder and was seeking inspiration on the Internet.

Back then, eating (or not eating to be more accurate) was a daily act of self-inflicted cruelty. I was depriving my body AND my mind of the nourishment that it craved and my disorder ended up plunging me further and further into my own head until I was completely enveloped by my own negative thoughts. My friends and family’s pleas of concern were muted and fuzzy.

Like you, I developed a “point of no return” mentality: if I ate this piece of cake, if I just stayed on the eliptical machine for 30 instead of 45 minutes, if I “caved in” and had a snack between meals… all of these acts were, to me, irreversible. I thought I was doomed to live with the consequences of every last food/exercise related decision, and that I was powerless to change things. Basically, I had completely disenfranchised myself from my own body.

Since then, I have lived my own “green recovery” story by adopting a vegan diet and completely overhauling my relationship with food and cooking. Thanks to my new vegan lifestyle, I transformed the act of eating (or not eating to be more accurate) from an act of self-inflicted cruelty, to an act of global kindness: towards my body, towards animals, and to my fellow citizens of the world.

The reason I felt compelled to comment was to say that one things you said in a previous post continues to provide me great confort. On the topic of indulgence, you wrote, “I’ve been reassured and pleased to realize—through my own experience and through my health education—that the human body isn’t quite so fragile as I used to think it was.” This simple idea hit me like a ton of bricks. My body was much stronger, much more resilient than I was giving it credit for, I just need to give it the TLC that it needed to thrive. Like you said, the body is far from being a static object, and throughout my ED recovery process, I’ve learned to let go of my obsession of controlling it as if it were such. Basically, I would like to add to the idea of body love, the notion of body TRUST. Recovery means first trusting your body so that the peaceful reconciliation between body and mind can then take place.

Thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy comment :) Keep your wonderful recipes and insights coming!

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Gena December 22, 2012 at 8:13 am

Elizabeth,

As you’ve probably read in my posts, my orthorexic relapse was one of the most difficult to overcome, because I really had developed the idea that my body would perish if I ate the “wrong” thing. I couldn’t see at the time that this was precisely the same as my fear that I’d gain ten pounds if I ate the “wrong” thing. I am so glad that that quotation has brought you some comfort. It’s something I believe with my whole heart.

Sounds like you have a green recovery story in progress, for sure. Let me know if you’d ever like to share it.

Gena

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Lauren December 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

I really enjoyed this post.

It’s interesting to note that our culture not only seems to have a “messed-up” picture of what our bodies have to look like, but it also has a kind of misguided way of attempting to correct it. There seems to be this standard that we cannot achieve regardless of if we ascribe to the ideal body or if we adopt this body love view. The culture’s views and definitions set us up for failure.

I also really loved the paragraph you wrote about our bodies changing and evolving over time. I think this is something we don’t talk about much and that is extremely important to realize!

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Lia @ Sojourning December 20, 2012 at 9:33 am

I like that idea, that it is a relationship, like any other. The relationship must be looked at as a living organism too in order to bring the mind and body together into an agreement or compromise. If the life of the relationship organism is not fostered it will be a battle for the entire life span of “you” since the mind and body are kind of stuck with each other, like an arranged marriage. I think that is where the “accepting” part comes in. One must accept the situation before one can move forward to bring positivity to a head. Thanks for your explanations and insight here Gena. They are always appreciated to get us thinking!

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Gena December 22, 2012 at 8:10 am

Ha! I like the arranged marriage metaphor, Lia :)

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Alex @ Raw Recovery December 20, 2012 at 11:45 am

This is a really beautiful, touching post. In the depths of my eating disorder I believed that my attempts to constantly control my body would result in both the body type, shape, and size I wanted, as well as body love (i.e. when I hit that size or number, I’d instantly love my body). That never happened. I only hated my body more for not losing weight fast enough and looking back I shudder at the crimes I committed against myself. I’ve found it ironic that when I eat properly and eat foods that make me feel good (i.e. vegan), take care of my body via yoga and cardio that I take at a pace that is challenging but comfortable, and do things for my soul and spirit that I start to like my body. I’m not at the point where I can say I love it, but at least I’ve found the path that can take me there.

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Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian December 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Very insightful and thought-provoking post. I know in my case, I tend to have more love for my body when I’m taking care of it (eating well, exercising regularly) than when I’m being lazy and neglecting it. The relationship between a person and his/her body is a very complex thing.

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Joe Strandell December 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Much respect, Gena.

You have so many great articles… I thought you might like to know that http://www.dentist.net is offering 10% off their products with the code ORALCARE.  Happy holidays! :)

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Katie December 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Thank you for this post! This is another one of yours that I will be bookmarking and returning to whenever I’m having one of those moments that you describe. I love reading the thoughtful and insightful comments too; I love the community feel of this blog and just knowing that there are other people out there who have felt the exact same things I’ve felt. I’ve read in ED recovery books before that its not good to separate mind from body, but like you, I find that actually really helpful! I also loved one of the comments about doing unto yourself what you would do unto others, the reverse Golden Rule. I never really thought about it that way and that sentiment just captures it all! It can be so easy to hold ourselves to some kind of impossible, unhealthy standard that we would never hold others to, so why do we expect it of ourselves?

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Gena December 22, 2012 at 8:08 am

I am glad it helped, Katharine.

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Delilah December 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Hey Gena! Just found your blog and love it!
I have come to look at my body from a perspective that is more worried about how I feel than how I look. Now that I follow a 100% vegan diet, I look and feel healthier and this is the most important thing. Thanks for your wonderful blog and I look forward to checking in again!

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elizabeth December 20, 2012 at 7:14 pm

I like the way you have come to love and appreciate your body, and the dimension of “care” that characterizes your relationship with your body, despite your occasional dislike of it, which is a true hallmark of “love.” I’m not sure it’s possible for someone in recovery to ever be enamored of one’s body – one’s aesthetic ideal may never shift – and I’m not sure I’d consider a good thing were it to happen. Narcissistic fixation does not equal love.

I have never managed to frame my own relationship, post-recovery, with my body so eloquently. But I think I underwent a similar process. In my case it was about learning to trust my body, and my hunger. I always felt that my hunger was something to be kept at bay (if not ignored or denied outright). I had nothing but disdain for my hunger, which I interpreted as weakness, ordinariness. I also feared what might happen if I ever loosened my restrictions, if I ever gave in and ate more than I’d planned to eat. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my body knows best, all of the time – I don’t indulge every single craving. But I pay attention to each and every one of them, because whether or not what my body is craving is what it needs at a given moment, the cravings, and the needs, are both very real. Even if my body is occasionally off (and who knows if it’s really “off” – a lot of times I think that because I end up eating more than some preconceived notion I have of what is “enough” or what is an appropriate “serving size”), I’ve learned that my cravings are more trustworthy than my ascetic impulses, which still run very very deep (I wish I could say after 15 years of recovery that they go away, but no, they don’t).

I think my relationship with my body today is a mostly healthy one – I’m far from enamored of it, but I do care for it. But I think the bedrock, or foundation, of my recovery is my relationship with food, not my relationship with my body. I could never have fallen in love with my body the way I’ve fallen in love with food, but I just don’t have that kind of aesthetic appreciation for my body. Sometimes, what keeps me from aspiring to a lower weight, is not concern for my health (though it’s there, it’s not a constant) but the thought of going back to a life of weighing and measuring and solitary meals of lettuce and vinegar or half a cantaloupe. It literally horrifies me to imagine a life without delicious food in abundant quantities.

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Gena December 22, 2012 at 8:06 am

As usual, I can definitely relate. Cherishing food certainly came before any kind of true ease with my body, largely because veganism was such a signifiant lens through which to see food and eating differently. And I, too, cannot imagine starving and eating steamed chicken and string cheese and plain yogurt and lettuce and balsamic the way I used to. I wonder how I ever did it.

I also appreciate your point about narcissism. I think one of my irrational ideas while disordered was that body appreciation must be the same as narcissism and pride–as I said, I had this notion that one’s relationship with the body is either loathing or LOVING, no in between. I am grateful to be at peace with the idea that I’ll likely never adore my body, but that’s fine, so long as I care for myself and can at least appreciate its beauty some of the time :)

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Lw December 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I have much more of an overrating problem but I can relate. My mind wants a certain type of food (oh, nuts – always nuts) even though I can tell that my body really doesn’t want to process any more dense fats. Then when I give in and eat what my mind wants, especially when I eat without being hungry, I remind myself that the feeling afterwards is no good… and I should have done what felt nourishing and energy-giving. My way of dealing with this tendency has been switching gradually to a plant-based, gluten-free and soy-free diet. I have a long history of chronic stomach aches at this point, so I’m trying to find a way around that problem mostly. I’m only about half raw now because all the raw vegetables gave me stomach aches every day, when I tried for 75% raw. Recently I’ve been trying to cut sugar, watch portions more. I also have skin problems that are aggravated by sugar. So… Plenty of reasons to watch my diet and stop myself from self-sabotage! I am a healthy eater, but I love good food so much that I overdo it occasionally on HEALTHY stuff.

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Marlena December 23, 2012 at 4:58 am

Lw, I have a tendency to overeat too. I’ve learned that it is exacerbated when I wait until my stomach is growling to eat, and by following certain rules that I thought were helping me when really they were just keeping me stuck. Not sure if that resonates.

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AmyLu December 21, 2012 at 9:56 am

Gena,

You express yourself so beautifully and articulately.

Your post made me think of one of my favorite quotes, from C.S. Lewis: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

Thank you for being so generous with your readers by sharing your blog year-round!

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Gena December 22, 2012 at 7:59 am

That happens to be one of my all time favorite quotations as well. Thank YOU for sharing.

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Molly December 21, 2012 at 11:09 am

A very thoughtful and provocative discussion on body love. For me, the concept confers a sort of triumph, a determination that the body’s needs are often more urgent than those of the mind. We live in a culture predicated on fear–in advertising, the education system, and sometimes in our familial interactions–that teaches us we must also fear change within ourselves. For years, every morsel of food that entered my mouth was potential for disaster: I wouldn’t be able to stop, my jeans would be too tight, all of my friends would notice and discuss my weight in hushed tones. I don’t think that we can ever truly rid ourselves of these fears, but I do believe that we can control their affects if we consider the mind-body relationship that you so eloquently describe.

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Chef Amber Shea December 22, 2012 at 10:56 am

I’m touched that you found my comment so memorable, and as always, impressed with the thought, value, and insight you infused into this resulting post. Being overseas right now, I’ve been pretty liberal about eating sweet and/or starchy things, and not more than 30 minutes ago, I pulled on a pair of jeans I brought only to find that they don’t fit – after only one week way from home! The instinct to panic is powerful indeed, but instead, I’m going to change into my leggings, venture back out, and enjoy the evening. Thanks, Gena. :)

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elizabeth December 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm

There is a great scene in Eat Pray Love when the Julia Roberts character has this very experience! What does she do? She goes out and buys new jeans. I just loved it. You must watch the film! I won’t confess how many years it was – post recovery – before I threw away my own skinny jeans. But a liberating moment it was, when it finally happened.

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Gena December 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Allow me to chime in and say that I also had a wonderful skinny jeans disposal moment. So. Freeing.

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Fiona December 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Ahh, I love this post, and all the others like it. I always appreciate your realism and objectivity and I love reading this post and feeling even better than before I started – which was already good!

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Marlena December 23, 2012 at 4:34 am

The relationship I’m describing—good days, bad days, but fundamental appreciation and respect—is probably pretty close to “normal.” When I was recovering, I had the very false idea in my head that there are two kinds of people: people who have eating disorders, and people who LOVE their bodies. You’re either doomed to hate your shape and do all you can to destroy it, or you’re the sort of person who eats whatever she wants, slips into revealing clothes confidently, and never harbors a self-loathing thought. I was flabbergasted one day when my mother—who has a fantastic relationship with her body—told me, “well, everyone has days where they don’t like their body. That’s normal.” It really hadn’t occurred to me that it is. My mom’s remark put recovery in a whole new context for me. Being recovered doesn’t mean loving your body every minute of every day. It means struggling to love it sometimes, but not allowing that struggle to turn into a war. 

Thank you for this post, and especially that above paragraph. You articulated what many of us feel so perfectly. As I continue to heal my own relationship with my body ( and food) your blog has been a consistent valuable source for me to learn more about that healing and show me how to genuinely love myself a little more. It’s also a reminder to take things one day at a time.

Forever grateful for your openness.

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Austin December 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Your posts on recovery always remind me that a “bad day” doesn’t mean I failed. This post was spot on, as always. Thank you for your strength and willingness to share the tough stuff (and the good stuff!) with us.

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Gena December 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Austin,

No way. In fact, the ability to see a bad day for what it is is a huge sign of recovery. Keep on keeping on. So glad these posts help :)

xo

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Anonymous March 18, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Wow. I feel like I am reading something I wrote, because these are my thoughts exactly. I struggled with eating disorders/body image issues from age 11 to 21. When I turned 21, I decided I was going to love my body, unconditionally, and exactly the way you described. From the inside out, and not the outside in. My body, too, has bounced back time and time again over the years, and I have spent the last six months nourishing it, treating it well, and listening to what it’s telling me. I can honestly say that I have never been happier. My eating disorder had been the elephant in the room for years until I finally let it go. Thank you for such a beautiful post! Best wishes.

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Lulu June 30, 2013 at 7:29 am

I absolutely love the two paragraphs underneath the picture. Your analogy clicked to me better than any other advices I have heard. Thank you for making me rethink about my beliefs about my body!

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Gena July 2, 2013 at 7:27 am

Oh, I am so glad. Thanks for the comment.

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Helen March 3, 2014 at 11:41 pm

I found this post through your NEDA entry today and this really speaks to me! I really like the idea of looking at my relationship with my body as just that, a relationship. Not something that is static and perfect but something that evolves and is more than just good or bad. I often feel guilty that I don’t “love” my body or feel frustrated and unhappy with certain parts of myself, but I think that looking at it through this lens will really help me see the whole picture and not only what I see as imperfect (which also relates to today’s post on body dysmorphia). Thank you for all your insightful posts, I especially loved all the NEDA related posts you did this week.

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Gena March 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

Helen, I’m so happy that this post (and others for NEDA week) spoke to you. Thank you for reading.

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