Your Body Is Good

General

I’d like to tell you a long story. Truly more than ever before, I genuinely hope you’ll take the time. I’ve written, re-written, and edited this thing to death and it’s time to say it out loud (so to speak). It’s both very personal and very much something I want to talk about all the live-long day, so I hope you’ll stick with me as I toe that line.

I don’t remember the exact impetus, but somewhere in early adolescence, I recall a very distinct feeling taking hold of my brain: my body isn’t good. To make a long story very short, this paved the way for a slow unraveling of my relationship to both food and my body, and a significant path of disordered eating and attempting to fix that by, in many ways, implementing more and better disordered eating (I’m looking at you, diets). Rinse/repeat for a couple of decades, then cut to: after years of trying, I was pregnant for the first time.

I loved being pregnant. I am one of those absolute a-holes who never felt sick and nested so hard with that second trimester energy that my whole house got a makeover. And for the first time in years, I loved my body. I had a reason, outside of myself, to take care of it and honor it. I was in complete awe of my expanding belly. I went to bed when I was tired. I ate and moved in a way that felt nourishing and satisfying, for no other purpose than to nourish and satisfy. It was a truly new experience for me.

Then, of course, I had a baby I had to feed. Once she was ready for solids, I realized that I didn’t really know how to do that, so I turned to my trusty friend Instagram for help. I found Feeding Littles and Kids Eat in Color, among others, and dove in. One day I read that it is good to let your child decide when they are done eating (regardless of my opinion), because it teaches them to trust their bodies instead of being told by an external source what/how much to eat. This stopped me in my tracks. After years of dieting and wishing my hunger away, ignoring my body, did I even have that skill? Was I really 35 years old and unable (unwilling?) to listen my body to tell me what it needs? And if I couldn’t do it for myself – how in the world was I ever going to teach my kids how to?

Through those trusted sources, I found dietitian Colleen Christensen of No Food Rules. I liked her posts for a few months before I decided on a whim to apply to join one of her coaching groups. When I spoke to her on the phone and told her my story, she said with cheerful confidence that she could help me. It makes me cry even in this moment to remember the hope that call brought me. Cautiously optimistic, I paid her my cash dollars and spent the next 3 months diving in.

She told me a lot of things I didn’t know before, and I’m paraphrasing here: That I could be at peace in the body I have, today. That my weight, any weight, was not a moral failing. That food wasn’t good or bad. That I could ditch the rules that had plagued me my whole life and live and eat without them. That I could be a healthy person without signing up for another diet. That everything I do does not have to be punctuated by anxiety about my body or the food that I will/won’t/should/shouldn’t consume. That I could trust my body. Bingo.

{This is an enormous oversimplification of her excellent program.
It is worth your time and money if any of this resonates with you.}

This concept is called Intuitive Eating. Let me start with what it isn’t: Throw caution to the wind and eat candy all day! There are no rules, that is true – but maybe there really is only one: honor your body. If something makes me sick or feel badly, then I try not to do that again. But not because I’m ashamed or because a scale indicated that I made a mistake – because of how my body responds and feels. I let those experiences teach me something, instead of sending me into a shame spiral. And because I’m not at odds with my body anymore, I actually care to listen. As Glennon Doyle said (about something else, but it fits here too), “Just information. Not a problem.”

Next, I curated my social media feeds to include diverse bodies, people who look like me, people who don’t look like me, fashion influencers in larger bodies, accounts that gave me practical advice about feeding my kids and myself, too. Changing what was in front of my face every day made for an almost instantaneous adjustment to my thoughts about bodies, including my own. I recognized all of the diets I’ve been on in my life for what they are: externalizing the process of feeding myself in a way that made it impossible for me to know how to eat without someone telling me how I should. I recognized the diet industry for what it is actually about: money. Very cool! Because of the standards of beauty we’ve allowed to become mainstream, people (me, before I knew better) will pay anything to get a good body – when in actuality they don’t want us to realize we already have one.

Now that I know this, it’s hard to believe it never occurred to me, but – bodies are different! They are meant to be! There is not one size that should fit all, or die trying. I mean obviously, yeah? If we all eat and drink and move the exact same way we will still have different bodies. I genuinely didn’t know that. If you didn’t either, take a minute and read it again.

A few things I want to be sure to say, clearly: maybe you have never experienced the things I have, in which case, you will have to trust me when I tell you that it is a terrible way to live. And if this is not your experience and it makes you uncomfortable, I beg you to look at why. To look at whether there is someone you love who may have a similar experience and if you have had anything to do with perpetuating it. That is a hard thing to take in, I get that. But then I ask that instead of giving into shame or fear or making it about you – that you just do better, from here on out. And before you hit me with “but, I only care about their health!” let me tell you something absolute: the size or shape of someone’s body doesn’t tell you anything about their health. Full stop. But if you need me to go one step further, I’m happy to: no one, no matter their body type, owes you their health, certainly not to be treated with your respect. Mind your business.

All of this was revolutionary to me. I want to spend the rest of my born days telling people what I know now. Sometimes I can hardly shut my eyes at night because if there is even just one person in my circle who doesn’t know this, who is still wasting their time and money and energy and memory fighting their body, it’s too many. There is freedom. I chased it for literal decades and I finally found it by letting go of the idea that I had to conform to some ambiguous standard that I just never quite seemed to reach, even when my body changed. The very best part is, I am no longer afraid of passing along my own confusion to my girls, or that they will perpetuate this for anyone else, either. I will be here telling them (+ their friends, my nieces and nephews, my friends, whoever wants to hear it) that their bodies are good, and they can trust them.

Everything isn’t perfect now, but that’s the point isn’t it? I got to let go of some idea that things would be perfect, if only I achieved x-y-z. I am still learning things about my body and finding balance that works for me. But I am not exaggerating when I say that I am free. My brain is no longer fogged by shame. I am alive and present and having more fun than I’ve allowed myself in years.

More to come I’m sure, but for now I’ll leave you with this quote that sums it up well for me:

For me, it is recognizing that the essence of who I am is not this body. I am having a human experience and this body is allowing me to have it. Life is really short – why would I waste my time worrying about things that don’t matter? Things on my death bed I won’t care about? I’m not going to think, “oh, in 1999 I wish I’d dieted a little harder.” But we will remember the memories we created, the times we shared with people, and the love that we shared.

Chrissy King on the Forever35 Podcast