When you hear the term 'Body Acceptance', what is your initial reaction? For many of my clients, this idea scares the sh*t out of them. And you know what? I'm never surprised. We've been raised in a culture that values thinness and that measures our worth on how willing we are to fit conventional standards of beauty. As in, it's ok if you don't have the "perfect" body... as long as you're trying to.
When we stop chasing the thin* ideal we actually ARE giving up. Through Body Acceptance, we give up the pursuit of thinness. We give up measuring our self worth by the size of our body. We give up manipulating our food and movement patterns in an effort to be smaller. We give up the shame and guilt we experience every time we try on an article of clothing that doesn't fit.
But this isn't the "giving up" most of my clients envision when they hear me utter the words Body Acceptance. They envision complete resignation. Because, if we're not chasing the thin ideal, why eat vegetables? Why move your body? Why engage in any self-care practices? This is the fun part... that's for you to decide! When we can accept our body as it is right now, we give ourselves the opportunity to actually connect with our bodies and to actually listen to our bodies, without caveats or conditions.
Here's how I see it: Have you watched the show "Chopped" on Food Network? In this show chefs are given four basket ingredients, often a weird combination of foods. They are allowed to make whatever they want, and they have access to additional ingredients and kitchen tools, but they HAVE to use the four original basket ingredients to make an appetizer, entree, or dessert.
Now, if the ingredients were chicken, mozzarella, breadcrumbs, and basil, I'm sure we could whip up a bad ass dish of chicken parm. However, no matter what, they will not be preparing chocolate cake. It's not to say that chocolate cake is *better* than chicken parm (hey, it just depends on your mood, right?) but it just isn't going to happen with what we have in our basket. So now we have two choices. We can obsess over the fact that we don't have chocolate cake ingredients and try to torture ourselves trying to do the impossible... OR we can accept what we have in our basket and whip up the bad ass chicken parm (now I'm hungry).
Body Acceptance is about accepting the ingredients and the tools that we have available, connecting with those ingredients, and finding beauty in what we already have. Giving up is throwing the basket ingredients away, because we just can't deal with the fact that they will not make chocolate cake. Accepting your body as it is now means caring for it, and respecting it, without the expectation of changing it.
It's also important to remember that there is no end point to Body Acceptance. Our bodies are changing every minute of every day and we always have to be ready and willing to work with the new 'ingredients' we receive with each round of life. Sometimes we get 'ingredients' we don't like, such as aging and illness. But coupled with compassion, wisdom, and presence, we can find new ways of accepting and connecting to our bodies, and slowly detach from the idea of perfecting it.
So, will you choose Body Acceptance, or Giving Up? Let me know in the comments below!
*When I talk about the "thin ideal" I am really talking about ALL conventional body ideals; thinness, fitness, health, shape, etc.