We are embodied beings. This means that we take on physical form.
While we are not only the form that is our body, we are also not only a soul - we are both. Why does this matter? How we interact with the world and connect with others occurs in the context of embodiment. Our relationship with our bodies; how we think and feel about them, ultimately creates how we talk about and treat them. These actions and words do not occur in a vacuum, they absolutely influence how you show up in the world, and how you are able to contribute to your community. Bodies do not look the same.
We come in different shapes and sizes. That fact can either be used maliciously to divide and create otherness, or it adds another layer to our diversity that can be celebrated and embraced.
You might argue that if you are dissatisfied with your body and your diet, that you are able to put it in separate a box, and still be present in your world. However, as Brené Brown expresses in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” , “Empathy and connection require us to know and accept ourselves before we can know and accept others.”
Often, how we feel about our bodies and food choices relates to shame. Shame resilience requires empathy; and if we desire to connect, we must decrease shame and amplify empathy. This starts with our relationship to ourselves. If we are busy indulging in negative self-talk and building up our inner critic, we will be hard-pressed to be able to be present and full of grace for those around us. Instead, we allow fear and insecurity to further push us apart. Brené also says, “Shame often prevents us from presenting our real selves to the people around us — it sabotages our efforts to be authentic.”
The way we eat directly reflects our ability to relate with others. As Dr. Steven Bratman states, “Diet is an ambiguous and powerful tool, too unclear and emotionally charged for comfort, too powerful to be ignored.” This concept is challenging to express, but Dr. Bratman sums it up well:
How we eat undoubtedly impacts how we connect with others.
For example, this last weekend my boyfriend was thrilled to be able to serve me by cooking us dinner. He had been oozing with excitement all week. During our time grocery shopping together, he even explained the dish’s origin story and unique family significance. After he was done cooking, we sat at the table together, shared the meaningful dish, and enjoyed the experience of connecting over the meal.
This was a meal I would not have eaten 5 years ago. Sure, we could have made a separate dish that adhered to my dietary restrictions. Yet it would have been an entirely different experience if I were not able to eat the meal that he created for us. We would have felt disconnected and tense, scrutinizing over the ingredients and the rigidity of my diet regimen. There a deeply spiritual and psychological aspect about being able to eat together in community that must not be glossed over.
I am not saying that we all have to eat exactly the same way as everyone else, nor am I saying that there is shame for those who are medically unable to eat the same way as their partner or community. The key is in the the deeply rooted “why” of our food choices.
For me, self-imposed rigidity that robs us of joy and connection is not how I want to live anymore. Instead, I want to live in a way where I can learn to have admiration and love for my physical body, in addition to my inner being. To create freedom to eat in a way that helps me join my community while caring for my body’s specific needs.
When I am able to be completely in my body, have minimal negative self-talk, and sync my dietary choices with my core values, I am able to not only connect with others, but to contribute to the world. This continues to provide a motivation larger than myself and my external appearance. When we subscribe to the belief that there is a limited scope for an acceptable body type, shape, or way of eating, we cease to appreciate and uplift our differences, and further create division in our world.
To dive into figuring out how you can improve your relationship with your body and with your food, I would highly recommend starting with these resources:
1. Intuitive Eating and Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch
Foundational book exploring the 10 principles that make up Intuitive Eating, a way of eating that helps us reconnect with our innate body wisdom, which has been supported by a body of research. The workbook can stand alone or be used with the book, and provides many helpful exercise and worksheets for beginning your work getting back to being an intuitive eater.
Key book that helps to explore the importance of viewing health through behaviors rather than focusing on weight.
Practical book written by an anti-diet dietitian about how to care for your body without beginning from a place of shame, but rather from kindness.
Incredible project filled with articles summarizing fundamental principles in the anti-diet movement, including the Ancel Keys study.
This website is geared toward those who are recovering from an eating disorder and disordered eating, providing blog posts, an app, directory of professionals treating eating disorders, and a podcast.
Unsure if you have a disordered relationship with food? Complete the quick screening on the National Eating Disorder Association’s website.
7. Love, Food
Amazing podcast by another dietitian and nutrition therapist along with the help of many guest experts, listeners write in like they are writing to food, and food “writes” back.
Two dietitians tell it like it is on their podcast covering topics including body positivity and advocacy for people of all body sizes.
Straight-forward explanation about one of the major arguments of the Health At Every Size community about health’s relationship to body size.
Eye-opening video about how we develop our negative thoughts and feelings about our bodies, they are not innate.
This piece does an excellent job explaining the issue with the clean eating movement and how it can be problematic for making peace with food.
Written from the experience of an author in a larger body who has been on many diets herself, much of the Weight Watchers history is explored, as well as exposing our still weight-biased culture despite our change of language from “diet” to “lifestyle.”
Photos by: Amy Hulst