Yesterday morning I complimented a woman at the gym on how strong she looked after squatting 200 pounds. Actually, I said, “You look strong as hell! You go Glen Coco!” We had crossed paths many times at the gym because apparently we both liked to do a 7 am lifting session on Thursdays. I then proceeded to my own squat rack and when I saw myself in the mirror, all the kindness in my demeanor vanished and I began to pick myself apart.
We are taught as children how to be kind to others. We are not taught how to be kind to ourselves. Doesn’t that seem like an oversight? At HelloWellness we have been pondering Rebecca Scritchfield’s self-care term “body kindness,” which is rooted in the “simple belief that health begins by being good to yourself.”
Being good to ourselves is a challenge. I’ll confess that I often take part in negative self-talk first thing in the morning, like at the gym yesterday or after a shower etc. I wake up, look at myself in the mirror, and think “I hate XYZ about my body.” That’s not very nice, is it?
Scritchfield’s book “Body Kindness,” centers around the fact that everyone has a gut instinct for how to be kind to their body. There are days that I have no clue what “my body” wants. Sweets? Salt? Sleep? Probiotics? It’s hard to decipher our true desires or gut instincts from those we’re told we should want, like kale and exercise. Some days my gut instinct is kale and exercise, but other days my gut instinct tells me, “stay in bed and skip the workout!”
Frequently when my alarm goes off at 6 am for a 7 am HIIT class I want to cry. More times than I can count, I have ignored my body’s signs that what I really need is to catch some more zzz’s. I tell myself that I’ll feel better after a workout and better about myself in general. But is that right? Or will this kind of behavior most likely lead to burnout, fatigue, and crankiness? (Spoiler alert: it’s burn out).
The pursuit of health should not cost anyone their sanity, social life, or mental health. I was drawn to look deeper at the theory of Body Kindness to unearth some sustainable solutions for myself. To begin with, Rebecca Scritchfield really knows her stuff. She is a well-being coach, registered dietitian nutritionist, and certified health and fitness specialist. She takes a holistic viewpoint that is easy to follow. Body kindness is built on three pillars. Those pillars are Love, Connection, and Care. Let’s break them down.
This doesn’t mean loving your body every second of every day (which is sadly unlikely). You can express self-love in meaningful ways with all of the other choices you make that day- like going to bed early that night, taking a nap, meeting up with a friend, supporting someone you love, listening to your favorite album on repeat, cleaning your room etc. Bottom line, you don’t have to love your body in order to love yourself, but you have to stop being mean! The idea that you have to love your body is, for the most part, a female experience encouraged by the media and businesses. That said, it has value in the fact that you can’t ever truly love something you are constantly hating. When you catch yourself saying “I hate my…,” apologize to yourself. That’s not a loving thing to say to anyone, but especially yourself. After all, if you are steadfast in your love for yourself, it doesn’t really matter what you look like, does it?
In order to tune in to our body’s needs “an alliance of trust based on connection” needs to be nurtured. Basically, form a bond with yourself like you would a friend. This allows you to listen to what your body is telling you it needs. Imagine your best friend texting you saying “I really need your support. I’m having a bad day.” Would you ignore that? No! You would be ready to listen to them, talk, cry, and laugh as long as they needed it. Now, put that same sort of supportive energy towards yourself. You wouldn’t tell your best friend to stop being emotional after an upsetting incident and get back to their daily life ASAP, right? Bottom line: be open to observing what your body needs and allow it to guide your choices.
In order to build trust, you show your body you care by making body-kind choices. Think of it like peeling back the layers of an onion through experimentation. I struggle with knowing when to rest and when to push myself to get a work out in. Using the body kindness mindset learning how to care for my body will take practice. 6 am the alarm goes off and I want to keep sleeping. So I do. Then I pay attention to how I am feeling all day. Am I more rested? More lethargic? Our bodies tell us what it needs all the time but after years of hearing and reading “Get your workout in! Just do it! Be disciplined and mindful about what you put in your body! You are what you eat!” We often don’t know how to listen to our bodies. If you run your body ragged, don’t sleep enough, don’t recover from workouts or stressful days at work, and you generally aren’t kind to yourself, your body will not be kind to you. Mic drop.
Body Kindness shouldn’t be that hard a concept to practice and ingratiate into our daily lives, but for some of us, this feels wildly radical. Be kind to my body and it will be kind to me? Unlike the body positivity movement, body kindness implies that you can be kind to your body and love the way you look, but simultaneously want what is best for your body, which might mean a workout because your body deserves to get its heart pumping and blood flowing that day. The practice of Body Kindness starts with noticing all of the decisions you make in a day. Ask yourself, “Is this helping to create a better life for me?” Once you start asking yourself that over and over again, you will form an internal compass for decision-making based on what’s actually helpful.
You don’t have to love everything about yourself, but we should all be striving to treat ourselves with kindness. Outside of your physical appearance or your accomplishments section on your resumé, you are worthy of respect, love, and connection from yourself and others. No matter what you look like, what profession you have, or how much money you make, you are ALWAYS worthy of a happy, full, life. As my mom always says to me, “Your pants size and your bank account will always fluctuate. Don’t ever get attached to those numbers.”
If my mom can't convince you, then maybe Ru Paul can: