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Wellness Wednesday: An intuitive approach to body image

Health Promotion and Wellness
The staff of DePaul's Office of Health Promotion and Wellness (pictured above in a photo taken prior to the COVID-19 outbreak) are available to help during this time of social distancing. (DePaul University/Jessica Peterson)
While in quarantine, you have likely seen the social media posts or heard conversations about gaining weight or coming out of quarantine with a set of six-pack abs. How come it has to be either extreme? Either we look like a fitness model or look like we’ve gained what is being compared to as, "the freshmen 15 weight." Why can’t we strive to be healthy and allow everyone to define healthy for themselves? Let’s strive to define health on our own terms rather than just by shape or size or by what others are telling us healthy means.

As a culture, we have a tendency to jump from extremes, rather than finding that somewhere in the middle balance of caring for our physical, mental and holistic wellness. Instead of glamorizing the all or nothing mindset, let’s take a look at how an intuitive mindset could help us.

Intuitive eating is about trusting your inner wisdom to make choices around food that feel good in your body, without judgment and without influence from diet culture. We are all born with the skill to eat, to stop when we are full, to eat when we are hungry and to eat satisfying foods. As we grow up that can change for a variety of reasons. Many of us lose that freedom, and intuitive eating is learning to reclaim it. When we filter out the noise and influence that diet culture presents to us as false truths, we can then truly listen to what our body wants and needs from food. Intuitive eating is a peace movement. It’s ending the war with your body, learning to accept our diverse genetic blueprint.

Now, how about trying intuitive movement?

Intuitive movement is the practice of connecting and listening to your body to figure out how it feels and what type of movement it needs that day. Similar to intuitive eating, intuitive movement asks us to ask ourselves "What does my body need today?" Rather than, what "should" we be doing or eating according to others, but rather "how does my body feel" and "what does it need today."

Asking yourself these questions daily allows you to receive the answers and not change them according to what you think you "should or should not" be doing or eating according to someone else. It might not be easy, but over time asking yourself these questions will guide you to give your body what it wants and needs to thrive and flourish. When we think about our body image, we tend to focus on the foods we eat and getting enough exercise. But our bodies are more than just looks. Caring for our body in a holistic way can include nourishing it with good foods, asking it what it needs to thrive and using positive talk towards ourselves.

Over time, our negative thoughts and harsh criticism towards our body changes the radio that plays in our head. And over time hearing this feedback makes us think our bodies are just about looks. Our bodies do so much for us. Instead let’s take a moment to celebrate how much our bodies do for us and support us each and every day. Instead of pushing them and critiquing them, let’s thank them.

"Thank you body for supporting me. Thank you for getting me to and from places and for always being there for me. I love you body!"

This might feel unnatural or weird, but that’s okay. Give it a chance. Give thanks to your body and try some positive talk towards yourself.

The mind body connection is huge and when we stop to ask ourselves what we need, we begin to change the chatter in our mind and truly listen to our bodies needs in a holistic way. When we praise our bodies instead of ridiculing them, we can start to truly appreciate ourselves and begin the process of self-love. To learn more about body image, diet culture and intuitive eating, tune into our Wellness Wednesday session today at noon. RSVP.

Take Care, DePaul.