We All Need a Little Body Kindness
Soon after giving birth to our first daughter, I called a friend to share the good news. With the wisdom and humor that comes with being a mother herself, she replied, deadpan, “Congratulations on your baby girl, Katie. Now you just have to keep her alive for the next 18 years.”
It was a sobering moment and a hard reality for my tender postpartum soul to process. But of course she was right. It’s my job to protect my children, from physical harm, of course, and emotional harm too. It’s the emotional piece that feels elusive at times, and challenging nearly always. Among other things, I’ve spent a lot of time ruminating over how to shield them from our cultural expectations around body and diet. How do I help them develop a positive relationship with food and care about being healthy, not “perfect”? Or teach them that dieting and deprivation isn’t the answer when every message in the media says otherwise? And how to do this when every woman I know, myself included, has struggled with her weight, the size of her thighs, or the slope of her belly?
It’s not easy and I’ve encountered challenges along the road. BUT, I’m for hope and hope came to me by way of a new book called Body Kindness A few pages in and I wanted to imprint its messages onto the DNA of my three daughters, along with every other child I know. Figuring that getting a teen to pick up a “self help” book was about as likely as getting her to pick up dirty socks, I decided to read it myself. Perhaps by osmosis, or at the very least positive role modeling, I hope my children will absorb some of its important messages.
Written by Rebecca Scritchfield, a registered dietitian who has overcome her own body battles, the book proposes we run, don’t walk, away from from our pervasive culture of dieting and body shaming. Body Kindness is about making choices around food, exercise, sleep, and self-criticism that are intended to be fundamentally, well, kind. If that sounds like new-age nonsense, it’s not. The book is grounded in research and full of practical advice for doable ways to move away from behaviors that do more harm than heal, including how to:
- Make peace with your body
- Get in touch with natural cues around hunger and satiety
- Ditch restrictive diets for good, which research shows time and again don’t work
- Give yourself permission to eat or (or not eat) “forbidden” foods
- Find a way to fitness that doesn’t feel like a dreaded chore
- Get adequate sleep (with fascinating data on how this relates to weight and wellness)
- Create a community of support
My overall takeaway from the book, and what I most want to pass on to my kids? To make decisions around food and fitness that come from a place of compassion, not deprivation and punishment. And to consider the ways certain choices don’t serve you, whether that’s staying up late watching the Real Housewives, skipping breakfast to save calories, or keeping the pair of jeans you haven’t fit into for 10 years.
As Rebecca says in her book, “You can’t hate yourself into healthy.”
Body Kindness feels like such a better way.
Workman publishing sent me a complimentary copy of Body Kindness. There is an affiliate link in this post from which I receive a small percentage of purchases. It’s part of what keeps this blog afloat.