(905)-598-8047 support@lpcoaching.ca
How I am Learning to Appreciate My Body, One Day at a Time

How I am Learning to Appreciate My Body, One Day at a Time

Body Shaming

It’s so easy to get into a body shaming mode.

But first, some background.

I celebrated my 39th birthday in late October and took some time over the last month, reflecting on what I would like to achieve in this birthday year. Typically, one of the goals I’d focus on is transforming my body into an ideal shape, something I am sure many people have on their new year’s resolutions list. And as usual for me, it began with shaming myself.

After looking at my body in the mirror, calling out my arms and thighs for expanding, reprimanding myself for eating more rubbish than usual, being lazy, and putting on a few “pandemic” pounds, I decided it was time to whoop my ass into shape. I needed to adopt a strenuous exercise regime. I also knew that I had to modify my eating habits, so I came up with a strict low carb, no dairy, no sugar plan because I wanted results yesterday.

Anyway, I thought to myself, I’ve done this before, and I can do it again. Will power, self-discipline, perseverance, persistence? I’ve got those lying around somewhere.

I was ready to go with my insanely inflexible plan.

Or so I thought.

Something had been amiss, and I couldn’t quite figure out why I wasn’t motivated and couldn’t follow through on my plans. Shaming myself was the usual go-to tactic to initiate action, except it wasn’t working this time around.

And then THIS happened.

A few weeks ago, I chose to do a body scan, which I hadn’t done in a long time. A body scan is a meditative practice in which you mentally go over each body part and notice what might be arising in that part at the moment (sensations like pain, tingling or perhaps nothing whatsoever) without judgment.

During this body scan, I found myself moved to tears with sadness and gratitude. Even though I was to bring myself back to noticing sensations any time my mind wandered, I was distracted with other thoughts. I became aware of how much my body has been through because of my unhealthy behaviours and trauma, and yet, it is still doing everything it can to survive!


Mount Everest - Himalayas

I found myself fascinated and in awe, thinking about my body’s resilience.


I remembered how strong it was as I trekked my way to Mount Everest Base Camp in 2019- a bucket list activity I once thought was not possible!


Scanning each body part made me appreciate all the things my body can do.

But that body scan also opened up so much painful awareness, and several things came up for me.

I hadn’t realized how cruel and unkind I’ve been in my attitude towards my body until I had the chance to connect with each part through the body scan. Over the years, I’ve done more than my fair share of complaining about a flabby stomach or my hips being too curvy. Or my thighs being “so pudgy” or “Why the f***, do I still have “batwing” arms no matter how hard I work on my triceps???” This constant barrage of criticism made me take an aggressive kick-butt approach.

I’ve leaned towards dangerous and unhealthy practices (fad diets, cleansing, excessive, gruelling workouts, you name it, been there, done that). Also, and not surprisingly, I have battled an eating disorder, which began around age 17, shortly after I was assaulted, and so I think this is where the hatred started. I could be wrong.

Anyway, in the past, when I had gained weight, I had taken healthier measures to shed the pounds gradually, safely. But if I am being transparent, my motivation was mostly about physical appearance rather than being well. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the desire to want to look “fab,” the pressure of which is undoubtedly tied to some cultural or personal standard.

However, I am not sure it supports long-lasting change, and I am well aware that “looking good” doesn’t always equate to feeling good on the inside. When the looks fade, and the body is unable to keep up as it used to, or is dealt a devastating blow (i.e. chronic illness), what then?

That is a question that stared at me after I was injured in a car accident way back when. I remember all too well that when I had to shift my focus internally to health and wellness during the recovery process, I chose to fight it. Instead of appreciating that severe chronic pain was giving me the chance to slow down, prioritize what matters, meet my body where it’s at, and be kind to it, I was resentful that I couldn’t keep up with a consistently active lifestyle. I was angry that I could not involve myself in adventurous activities as I had pre-accident days.

I hated feeling weak, slow, and out of control. I was mentally beating up my battle-weary body for not being what it used to be in terms of shape, size, strength, agility etc. I was also doubly shaming myself because my injuries were invisible, and “other people have had it worse.” I don’t have the right to complain.

I’d been waging war with my body for far too long that I’ve taken it for granted. I feel saddened and appalled that I offered it cruelty when instead it could have benefited from tender, loving care.

The simple act of scanning the body showed me just how much shaming isn’t helping me sustain a healthy lifestyle or be present with and accepting of my body as it is. Shaming has taken away the chance to exercise genuine gratitude for what it does for me. It seems so obvious, yet it’s been the norm to think that something is so wrong with us that many of us use shaming to motivate ourselves to get fit and to fit into ideas of the perfect body type that may not be ours. So, I know I am not alone in this.

Body Shaming

Body shaming will continue to be a struggle for many, a problem only exacerbated by perfectly curated images on social media and other mediums, shifting cultural trends, and the development and use of filters and photo editing apps.

Not to mention companies that offer plastic surgeries, cosmetic procedures, and skincare/body care “solutions” to our “problematic” and “imperfect” bodies, and those who are excessively preoccupied with physical vanity and promote “picture perfect” health.

I remain largely skeptical and pessimistic of real change taking place here, where the motive is primarily profit-driven. And I hate to admit it, but I too am a sucker for clever marketing and using photo-editing apps, even if minimally so. And yes, on occasion, I find myself caught in between wishing I had the financial resources to alter my thighs and thinking I can have the perfect thighs that I want if I only work out hard enough! UGH!

But of course, I am also witnessing social movements such as body neutrality (emphasis on what the body can do) and body positivity (focusing on loving the body no matter the shape and size). Both these movements are not without flaws; however, they are better steps in the right direction.

And I have to say that I admire those people who embrace their bodies, who are comfortable in their skin and walk confidently no matter what society or the trolls say.

I can’t say the same for myself, not right now, and not always consistently, but here’s what I can say:

I may not like the aesthetics of a particular body part, AND I can still value and respect its functionality.

When my body is experiencing limitations or pain, I choose to offer it kindness and accommodate its needs.

I appreciate the desire to “look good,” AND I am more focused on taking better care of my body to support me in carrying out activities, big and small.

I accept my body as it is now AS it continues to change.

I am more than my body (as are other people), AND I respect and value my whole self as I would others.

From these standpoints, not only am I able to create realistic health goals, but I am also better able to transform the relationship I have with my body and act on my most important values.

I value respect and peace in relationships, among other things. Why should it be any different in my relationship to my body?

I value loyalty, and I’ll do my best to remain faithful and committed to nurturing my bod, sticking through it for better or worse, through sickness and in health, loving and treasuring it, and all that other good stuff most days of my life.

I am sure there are moments to come when I’ll feel like all of the above sounds so lofty and that I’m absolutely and utterly full of shit. Heck, I feel like a fraud even as I write it.

I am okay with that if it happens occasionally.

But I am no longer okay with picking on my body most of the time because it is exhausting.

I no longer wish to create body goals (hello, J Lo’s abs) that aren’t even a suitable match for my body type, much as I remain in awe and admiration of other people’s bodies.

I am not okay with being cruel and unkind to my body constantly. (Please know that I say this with a great deal of sensitivity and caution. I am conscious of the effects of trauma, illness, injury, social factors, and other issues that impact body image. I am not judging anyone for body shaming themselves, and I lovingly encourage receiving professional help if you need it. I love you!).

Hearing many of my client’s stories of grappling with chronic illness and chronic pain reinforces my decision to continue strengthening my self-compassion skills. After all, I’d like to practice what I preach.

And so, my goal is to be less focused on transforming my body and more about changing the relationship I have with it. Any striving to keep my body functioning well and relating to it with curiosity and openness should come from a place of acceptance and respect, if not unconditional love. While I’ve shared some statements above to help me (and you, if you find them useful) in this ever-evolving process, I know they aren’t enough to make a change.

I’ve put some other practices in place to strengthen a compassionate connection with my body regularly.

Compassionate Body Scan

Most mornings, I practice a compassionate body scan.

The audio version that I enjoy is the one shared by Dr. Christopher Germer on YouTube.

I find this useful because it emphasizes mindfulness (noticing sensations), practicing gratitude for a body part and function if applicable, and expressing compassion if there is judgment, discomfort or suffering.

“Gratitude for the Self” Journaling

Inspired by the above meditation, another practice I’ve started is journaling what I am most grateful for about myself. These include qualities, values, and skills that I appreciate within myself, and I celebrate them by writing specific examples of how I used them in ways that matter most to me. Doing this takes the focus off obsessing over body image, form or function, and in turn, helps deepen my relationship with my “whole self.” Naturally, there are days when I might not feel good about myself, body, or otherwise, in which case, a self-compassion writing exercise takes over. I may write a small note to self, or act as if someone I cherish is writing it to me. I tell myself that it is okay and normal to have these days, I am only human, that tomorrow is another day to take action in alignment with my values, practise self-kindness, and begin again.

Loving-Kindness Statements

Loving-kindness meditation (also known as metta meditation) involves sending kindness and warmth through good wishes for health, happiness, peace, safety etc., towards ourselves and others. Typically, you would repeat a set of phrases silently. Though there are traditional or common phrases used (i.e. May I be safe, may I be healthy), I’ve created specific ones related to the body. Whenever I am short on time, or if I catch myself looking in the mirror tempted to hate on whatever body part might be bothering me, I’ll use loving-kindness statements or tweak them on the spot if need be.

May I be at ease with my body
May my body be at ease with me
May I accept my body as is
May I be kinder to be body

I’ll allow those phrases to sink in, repeat them a few times, and notice any tension held within soften and melt away.

These are all the tools in my “body acceptance toolbox” I have available when I need them. I am sure I’ll come up with more, and I’ll be happy to share them with you.

As with anything new we try, it takes practice and time, and some days can be hard or just blah. The important thing is to keep trying and modifying when necessary as we go along.

On that note, I’d like to say that I view any movement (body positivity, body acceptance, body neutrality, etc.) as a process rather than an end goal. I say this because I know my body will go through its ups and downs, sometimes more immediate (i.e. bloating, pain) and those that will occur over time, with age, and who knows what else to come.

And so, I don’t think my body acceptance journey will ever be complete, but I am willing to take it step-by-step, one day at a time.