Finding Body Acceptance and Food Freedom in An Appearance Obsessed Culture

I am jealous of people who don’t seem to have a second thought about what they put into their mouths or what their body looks like that day. I am also equally amazed that I used to be one of these rare creatures. Because for most of us, even if you don’t have an eating disorder, food has become a confusing and sometimes even morally defining thing and we feel as if we must “mold” our bodies to fit society’s standards (news flash: we aren’t clay!)

But it’s not hard to see why we have become so confused. Everyday, we are bombarded with a million different sources telling us what to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat, etc, etc. “Don’t eat meat!” says one diet book, only to be contradicted by another. It’s exhausting honestly. We, as a society, in my opinion, have lost the joy in eating. Yes, I said JOY. Because eating is meant to be enjoyed. Food not only nourishes us but also binds us together as human beings. We have become so focused on what we should be eating and how many calories are the “right” amount and how to be healthy…only to end up miserable, unhealthy, and searching again for the “perfect” solution.

In the last two years, I have been on a rollercoaster that consisted of diets, body dissatisfaction, and eventually an eating disorder. And you know what? I am not one bit happier. Actually, as time went on and I got thinner and thinner, I became more depressed and confused and empty. I had reached my goal weights and yet, I wasn’t happier. The idea that thin=happy is ridiculous. The happiest people I know are confident. They are not one certain size and yet, they laugh and are, in general, just interesting people to be around.

I don’t know about you but at the end of my life, I want to be known for more than my weight or my clothing size or the food I ate. I want to have adventures and drink hot chocolate on cold nights and eat ice cream in the summer. I want to be able to live in a world where food is food and where every body is accepted as beautiful, no strings attached. Of course, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon but it starts with just a few people trying to find freedom and acceptance in a crazy, appearance obsessed culture. It only takes one person to spark a revolution.

And while food freedom and body acceptance sound good in theory, how can we actually make steps to find these things? And what do they even mean? The simple answer is that they mean different things for everyone. For me, food freedom and body acceptance looks like this:

Having no food restrictions of any kind

Trusting that I will eat enough and eat what my body needs, whether that be pizza or broccoli

Giving myself unconditional permission to eat

Not doing anything that will hurt my body just to reach a certain weight or look a certain way

Accepting that I will have good and bad body image days and letting them pass without trying to “fight” them

Not weighing myself or just not caring if I do know my weight

Being able to wear whatever I want and not obsess over what it makes me look like

Having a healthy relationship with exercise (not just doing it because I feel like I should or to burn calories etc)

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Some of these things I already do, to one degree or another. I don’t weigh myself and I’m consistently trying to challenge more foods. But I have a lot left to work on and that’s okay too. Your list will be different, at least in someway. My list will change too as time goes on. My opinion is that there is never going to be a time where anyone is completely accepting of their body or never doubts their food choices. That’s not realistic. We are human beings, we are critical of ourselves. But when we get to a place where we are harming our bodies and miserable and so confused and even feeling guilty about the food we choose, than there needs to be change.

So again, how can you start working towards all this freedom and acceptance? Just choose one thing you want to work on. Just one. Maybe it’s not weighing yourself for a week. Maybe it’s going one day without saying anything negative to yourself (and if you do, trying to rephrase it.) Maybe it’s ending a toxic relationship. If you say, “I am going to NEVER say anything negative about my body” and than you do, it’s going to make you feel like a failure. Saying instead, “Today I am going to find one thing I really like about my body when I wake up and before I go to bed.” That’s more attainable and will make you feel better overall.

And than think about all the other things you want to do that have absolutely nothing to do with your body or food. I want to travel, go skydiving, and also finish Orange is the New Black Season 2. Yes, I’m addicted.

Here’s the thing: We can’t change society as a whole, at least not all at once. We also can’t just start loving our bodies and being totally confident in our food choices after years of self criticism and doubt. But than again, I for one don’t want to sit around, feeling miserable and hating my body for the rest of my life. Whatever message we put across, positive or negative, will affect others around us and future generations. I don’t want my little sisters or my future children (if that happens) to view their bodies as these malfunctional things that must be fixed by whatever means necessary.

No. I want to show them through my actions and words that their bodies, that my body, is beautiful. That they and only they are the experts about THEIR body (not the lastest diet book.) That yes, sometimes they will doubt themselves and be critical; that’s okay. What’s NOT okay is hurting their body in response to those negative thoughts.

I will take steps, little, seemingly pointless steps, to reach a place where I start to see my body not as a piece of mold that I can shape at will nor as a malfunctioning piece of machinery but instead as something that takes me where I need to go and let’s me experience life with all it’s crazy adventures. I will take steps to get to a place where food is food; nourishing, delicious, but no longer a moral dilemma or something that gives me anxiety. I want to get to this place of freedom and acceptance for myself and for everyone I impact. So that, eventually, more and more women and girls will find that they are worth so much more than a clothing size and will begin to realise that they are not defined by what they eat but who they are.

Remember, it only takes a spark to start a revolution.

Tell me:

-What is one thing you want to do/work on this week to start finding peace with your body and food?
-What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to finding peace and is it external or internal (or both)?
-And finally (and most importantly), does anyone else watch Orange is the New Black? <No spoilers, I’m on season 2

-Sarah

Note: I realize that BOTH genders deal with these issues. I mention “women and girls” only because I’m a female and have personally known a lot of women/girls who have struggled with food and body image. I hope that at some point, I can feature a male perspective.

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5 thoughts on “Finding Body Acceptance and Food Freedom in An Appearance Obsessed Culture

  1. I am learning all of this, too. Reading and listening to Maddy Moon has been a huge help and I feel like I’ve made tremendous progress in the last month. But “baby steps” has been my motto. 😀 One thing I’m working on is putting clothes on and not immediately turning around and looking at myself in profile (or whatever) in the mirror. Because honestly, I don’t want my day to be ruled by how I looked in the morning. Or the afternoon. I think for me the biggest challenge is both external and internal, but definitely more on the internal side. The external feeds the internal with fodder so I can beat myself up mentally. And we don’t have cable or Netflix, so I don’t watch TV shows. 😀 Except for a few we own on DVD or Amazon Instant Video, but that’s all stuff from the food network or the history channel. 😛

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  2. Great post- really enjoyed reading this!
    This week I’m going to try and ask myself every time I have a negative thought about my body ‘would I say this to my son/daughter in the future (if I’m lucky enough to have any of course) because if not I shouldn’t be saying it to myself.
    I think my challenges are mainly internal- which is scary in some ways but empowering in others – it’s up to me to make the change.
    Finally, I love OITNB, seasons 1 and 3 were my favourite, started going off it during season 2 but then season 3 pulled it back!

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    1. I love the idea of asking if you would say the same negative thing to a son/daughter! Really makes you think. And season 2 of OITNB is a little slow to far but I’m glad to hear that season 3 is better!:)

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