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Why is body image work not working? (Part 2)

Moving beyond body image into embodiment can be key to feeling accepting of your body.

Bubbles under water
Bubbles under water
 

When do you feel the most powerful in your body?


Whenever I get in the ocean, I feel like myself. The feeling of water enveloping my body, on the palms of my hands as I swim connects me to nature and my body. It is a state in which I feel embodied, acutely aware of my own body and that I am a body.


This feeling is often hard to find amongst the pressures and challenges of daily life, which include the systems, cultures and society I am in.

For many of us to do things in life, to get through the day, we leave our bodies and live more in our minds. We are so hyperconnected, that we end up disconnected.


At the same time, many of us are thinking a lot about how our body is not working the way we want, not feeling the way we want or not looking the way we want. We look at our bodies as if they were an external thing, like a house or a computer.


We end up spending so much time thinking about our bodies, and we are not in them.


And, yet, when we are trying to do 'body image work' we end up just feeling like it is so.much.work. For clients I work with, it can feel frustrating, laborious and futile.




 

Why is body image work not working?


What I have come to after being in the field for 10+ years is that embodiment is key to accepting our body, and that acceptance can happen even if you don't love your appearance.


So, what if we flipped the script, and lived more in our bodies and less in our minds? What if we grounded ourselves and paid attention to our hunger for food or to the tension in our shoulders or to the feeling of dread in our stomach? What would we learn about ourselves? How would we view ourselves?


Today, I’ll introduce the idea of embodiment and how it could be the way past body image 'work' to bring you back to your body, ultimately healing your relationship with body.


What is Embodiment?


Embodiment is being a self in and through the body.


According to scholar Niva Piran, it is the “lived and felt experience of being a body and how that experience is shaped by the world around us”.


Embodiment is non-appearance related.


By being more in your body, it is possible to understand that your body is you. Thus, appearance does not have to dictate how you feel about yourself. Just imagine us all in a more embodied state! Companies making lots of money off of our discontent and disconnection with our bodies would not thrive.


Embodiment frees us from systems that have hurt and disconnected us, whether that be sexism, racism, white supremacy, trauma, social media and more. Our bodies hold memories and the burdens of cultural and societal expectations. Being embodied can help us process these memories and lift these burdens. It is a radical act.


Embodiment helps us hold perspectives and practice behaviors around food, eating and exercise that are supportive of our wellbeing, not destructive. This is why embodiment is so important to our relationships with food and eating, and why I talk with clients about it.


How do I get started with embodiment?


  • Practice mindfulness, to calm your nervous system and ground yourself. This can help you experience your body. Things like walking meditations, dance, breathing exercises and more can help you make choices around body, food and exercise that are supportive.

  • Look at your feet, hands or other part of your body. Wiggle and move that area. How does that feel? When was the last time you thought about what that part of your body does for you? How does that part feel?

  • Sit comfortably in a chair and manually feel your heartbeat for 1 minute. Count the beats. Now, do that same exercise without putting your fingers on your pulse. Could you notice your heart beating? Where did you feel it? How did that feel? (this takes practice!)

Your body is you. You are a body.


Closing Thoughts & Resources:


The body, and not just mind, can be a vehicle for healing and connection. Practicing embodiment may help you feel more free of body image struggles and help your connection with food be one of support and not of obsession or stress.


If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend the following resources.


If you, or someone you know, is struggling with body acceptance, contact me!


With hope,

Kate


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