I’ll be sharing essays; love notes to our bodies; wise women to follow; media to watch, listen to, or read; and invitations to join me in learning how to accept, respect, and love our bodies.
I’m so glad you’re here with me. <3
I’ll be sharing essays; love notes to our bodies; wise women to follow; media to watch, listen to, or read; and invitations to join me in learning how to accept, respect, and love our bodies.
I’m so glad you’re here with me. <3
I think your nickname should be Dimples. Thoughts?
I don’t see you often, but I feel your textured divots when I smooth lotion on the backs of Thighs and Booty. I’m most aware of you when I put a swimsuit on and turn around to get the view from the backside.
I used to believe that you only existed on people who were lax about their weight (yes, this meant I was berating Body for weighing too much). But that’s just one more made-up belief I’ve learned to release.
Now I know that you’re created because of the way that Fat Storage Cells and Connective Tissue are arranged vertically in one of Skin’s layers. This is why I’ve seen cellulite on thin bodies and on young bodies and on all sorts of bodies. Men’s fat storage cells and connective tissue are more of a crisscross pattern, which is why we don’t see cellulite as often on men.
I’ll never forget enjoying a couple’s massage on a cruise with Terry. After the massage was over, the massage therapists offered me cream for you. Wow, that felt crummy in a moment that I wanted to feel sexy.
I hate that people use you to humiliate women when textured skin is a really normal part of being human.
Most treatment methods claim to reduce or improve the appearance of cellulite, but the results are short-term. Makes sense because none of the treatments, including liposuction, can do anything to change the shape of our fat storage cells. Needless to say, most treatments are ineffective.
You’re harmless. And I don’t need to do anything about you. We can coexist just fine.
Writing love notes to my body was my entry onto the body-acceptance path. I knew I wanted a different relationship with my body, but I had no idea how to get started.
I considered how people fall in love. The whole courtship and wooing thing. Writing love notes has always been a direct way to my heart. Something about seeing love declared on the page makes me melt. One of my favorite memories with my husband was the year we took turns making lunch for each other. We’d leave little love notes in the other’s lunchbox. Extra points for when they were punny.
“I’m bananas for you” written on the banana peel. “You make me melt like butter” on baked potato day. “I doughnut know what I’d do without you” on a sweet-treat day.
With that memory in mind, I decided I would attempt to love my body by writing her love notes.
Except writing to my body felt overwhelming. I had already written a “history” of my body and was still reeling from the experience. It was angry and wounded and raw and way too much to wade through.
I wanted to tiptoe my way into this healing process, so I made the decision to write to my body’s parts instead of my whole entire body.
Over the years, I’ve read so many benefits to journaling. It’s always been an intuitive action for me, one I’d take whenever I had something to process.
Well, not always. There was over a decade that I didn’t write anything more than academic papers, and a couple of decades that I didn’t journal. But that’s a story for another time, one you could read in the “Dear Voice” essay of Love Letters to My Body.
Writing, journaling specifically, is a path to healing.
There are studies to support the therapeutic benefits, such as reduced stress and better sleep. Also, some studies have shown support for journaling to heal from trauma.
They were no longer swimming in my head. I could reread them and get curious about them. I could examine my beliefs about my body and determine if those beliefs were mine, or something I’d picked up from another source.
No longer were my thoughts about my body nebulous negativity. I was very clear about what parts I liked, what parts I hated, what parts I was grateful for, and what parts I wanted to change.
Journaling turned into a written conversation I was having with my body. It shifted my feelings so that my body became “her,” rather than “it.” I realized that there was no escaping my body, no matter how much time I’d spent disassociated from her, making all my decisions via my mind. Instead, I learned that my body had things to say too. Wisdom to share.
Yes, love notes. Sort of. Sometimes, I wrote hate notes instead.
While I wanted to write loving notes, I wanted to write honest notes more. Deep, authentic relationships are built on honest foundations. I didn’t want to bypass the pain I carried in my body and pretend that I loved her when I didn’t.
Plus, I figured that she already knew how I felt about her. It wasn’t some big secret. I’d been clamoring nastiness at her for most of my life. She was strong enough to handle some heartfelt, soul-searching notes about the places in her that hurt.
I often kept it simple. One or two sentences would suffice. Somedays I had loads to say and those notes transformed into letters. I didn’t set any rules around the love-note writing other than to show up as truthfully as I could.
As I began to write, I realized that even when I hated a particular body part, or held a lot of anger or grief around it, I could often find something to be grateful for too. I had the capacity to hold both feelings.
I could be curious about what I was feeling and why. Then I could process the anger or grief or resentment. And I could soften toward that part. Which paved the way for a more accepting relationship with my body. Which has led to a more loving relationship with my body.
I mentioned how overwhelmed I felt when I thought about writing to my body as a whole. There was too much to process, and I shut down.
But writing to my body’s parts individually allowed me to use a trauma-informed approach to my healing.
This process is called titration. It asks you to move slowly through your healing process; to dip into the experience and then dip out, in small increments; to pause and notice what’s going on in your body during the experience.
I didn’t know about titration when I began this process, but intuitively, I knew this was the best approach for me. It helped me maintain a consistent journaling practice, and it alerted me to the wounds that were too much for me to work through alone so that I could seek help as needed.
You just need a notebook and something to write with. Set aside time to journal each day. I found it easiest to write for a few minutes most mornings, but you may prefer a different schedule. Or no schedule at all.
If you need ideas to get started, check out my guided journal, Writing Your Way to Self-Love.
You can also connect with me on Instagram and read lots of body love note examples there.
Making peace with your body is a journey. There’s no set number of notes to journal. There’s no “right” way to do this. There’s no finish line to cross.
Remember that you can offer yourself love even if you don’t love your body. Offering love and actually loving are two different experiences.
You have permission (in case you need it) to show up on the page however you need to.
I’d love to support you in this process, so please reach out and share how your journaling experience is going.
My feelings about weight loss are simple and complex.
Simple: It’s your body. You make the decisions for your body. Your decision to lose weight (or not) is none of my business. The end.
Complex: Diet culture sucks and 95 percent of diets fail.
I want to dig deeper into the complex.
First, diet culture sucks. I grew up surrounded by women who were either on a diet, who just got done with a diet, or who were about to start a diet. Only to restart the losing-weight cycle eleventy billion more times.
Diet culture thrives because we’ve been soaked in lies about the size of our bodies since we were tiny.
Lies diet culture sells:
Bodies come in so many shapes and sizes. And everyone’s body is “right” for them. There isn’t one body that is inherently better than another.
Some thin people are healthy, but thinness does not automatically equal health. There are many people in larger bodies who are healthy. It all depends on what metrics you’re using to determine health. If weight is the only way someone is measuring health, that is a ginormous red flag that “health” isn’t what they’re actually concerned about.
And desirability is a personal preference. There are so many flavors of desirability. It’s true that some people won’t openly share their desire for someone in a larger body because fatphobia also sucks, but that doesn’t mean the desire doesn’t exist.
Finally, diet culture pushes hard to make us believe that we can belong, at least on the fringes, if we’re always striving for thinness. And the expectation is that we must make whatever sacrifices are necessary for an invitation to the cool club. Sacrifices include, but are not limited to, food restriction, exercise with the purpose of losing weight, diet pills, shots, fasting, cleanses, surgeries, eating disorders, and more. If you’re not naturally thin, then you better meekly acknowledge you had the audacity to be born in a body that doesn’t fit into a narrow weight-range of acceptability and then work your ass off (literally) to try to be thin.
Second, diets fail. By fail, I mean that 95 percent of the people who lose weight on a diet will regain the weight lost, and possibly more, within two to three years. There are researchers who’ve invested a lot of time and expertise in this field, and if you want receipts, I can point you to some resources. I was first exposed to these numbers in Dr. Lindo Bacon’s book, Health at Every Size. This fact has become so indisputable that weight-loss companies are now using this language to convince people that their lifestyle program is somehow different. (Looking at you, Noom.) Spoiler alert: it is not.
Diets do not work long-term for most of us. Again, for something like 95 percent of us. But what about that 5 percent? I imagine you want to know what they’re doing that the rest of us aren’t.
For the tiny bit of the population who maintain their weight loss for more than three years, odds are high that they either hit the weight their body is most comfortable living at; they are naturally predisposed to have a thinner body; or they continue to restrict their eating over the course of years/a lifetime.
When the diet “fails” and we regain the weight, we are the failure. Not the diet. Us. So we try again. Maybe we switch up the weight-loss plan, but the mechanics are always the same: Restrict food. Exercise to lose weight or earn food. Maybe throw in a supplement or a pill or a shot. Repeat.
As much as I grieve the way women (and men) throw their bodies against the unyielding wall of diet culture over and over, I understand some of the complicated emotions that feed a desire to lose weight.
I’ve had plenty of my own experiences with roller coaster weight loss. In eighth grade, my body began to add curves at the same time that I was using food to comfort myself. I gained weight quickly and the discomfort in my own skin compelled me to act out in brutal ways. I mean-girled other girls so I could stay in the popular group. If I could push someone farther down than me, I’d keep my spot. I also experimented with promiscuity. If boys were willing to make out with me, I must be desirable, right?
Then a couple of years later, when my home life stabilized, the weight I’d gained magically disappeared as if my own fairy godmother had blessed me with the “Bippity Bobbity Boo.” It wasn’t magic so much as biology. I stopped using food as a coping mechanism, and my body returned to its more comfortable weight, also known as set-point weight.
Side note: I say all the time that our bodies are miraculous. They know what their optimal weight is. And when we don’t get in their way, they will manage our weight just fine. But that requires so much self-trust and often some helping hands along the way. If this notion speaks to you, start researching intuitive eating. I can point you toward resources if you want.
In grad school, I dabbled with over-the-counter diet pills. They kept my body small. And my nerves jangly.
The last major diet I committed to was after my first daughter was born. I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those women who “let themselves go” after I had a baby. So I immediately signed up for Weight Watchers, now known as WW. And lose the weight I did, like the overachiever I’ve always been. Never mind that I was struggling with nursing because I couldn’t make enough milk to feed my baby. Not once did I consciously acknowledge that starving my body meant I couldn’t nurse. Because everyone I asked about it told me as long as I used the extra “food points” I got for nursing, there would be no problem.
Two years later, after my second daughter was born, the thought of counting food points again felt like despair. Instead of dieting this time, I decided I’d start running. I had never wanted to run, and in fact, I carried some childhood trauma around running, specifically how I looked while doing it. (That is another day’s essay.) Despite all that, I appreciated that I could walk out of my house and start my workout for free. So I ran. It often hurt, and not even once did I feel like a gazelle, but I kept at it. Until my knee became so unstable I couldn’t keep going.
Once again, I had sacrificed my body on the altar of thinness.
I know some of you are nodding along, agreeing that diet culture sucks, but your brain is screaming: What about being healthy? We can’t just let ourselves go. If we stop controlling our bodies with food and exercise, we will die. Figuratively and literally.
Those thoughts are direct courtesy of diet culture.
Being “healthy” has become code for dieting. So has “lifestyle change.” The truth is that weight should never be the sole measure of anyone’s health. There are so many other factors to include. And there are healthy people living in so many different body sizes. Just as there are unhealthy people living in so many different body sizes.
And I am all about “letting myself go” if that means I tune back into my body’s wisdom and offer her what she needs, when she needs it.
In no way am I saying that you shouldn’t eat nutritious foods or move your body. Our bodies need a variety of foods, the more nutritious the better. And our bodies need to move to stay healthy physically and mentally.
What I am saying is that you can be healthy without dieting. Without attempting to shrink your body.
It would be wrong not to bring anti-fatness into this complicated conversation. In the same way our world is made for whiteness, it is also made for thinness. It is easier for someone to break up with diet culture (i.e., stop using food restriction and exercise to shrink their body size) when they live in a smaller body, even if their body is larger than the current beauty standard’s ideal. People in larger bodies are often discriminated against in the medical field, in the workplace, in the travel industry, in clothing stores, and more. Diet culture literally endangers the lives of people with larger bodies.
But other people are more willing to offer grace to a person in a larger body as long as they are “trying,” i.e. using prescribed methods to lose weight that are almost guaranteed to fail.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight. You may have very solid reasons for wanting to do so that have nothing to do with diet culture.
I’m not here to judge you if you want to lose weight. If you decide that’s the best move for you, then I will support you in that choice.
I’m not here to judge you if you don’t want to lose weight. If you decide that’s the best move for you, then I will support you in that choice.
I just encourage you to realize that you do have a choice if you’ve always based your decisions about your weight from diet culture’s narrow point of view.
You get to decide what’s best for you and your body.
I’ve been excited to read this book since a friend popped into my DMs to tell me it existed. A book that takes a deep dive into how society perceives women’s faces as they age? And explores the effects of those perceptions on women? This is exactly the kind of conversation I want to have.
Justine Bateman (yep, Mallory from Family Ties) wrote a collection of fictional vignettes about the ingrained (and also fictional) beliefs we carry that teach us aging faces are ugly, undesirable, and unworthy. What bullshit. Yet we shame, demean, and ignore women as they age as if the wisdom they’ve collected is worthless. And this happens simultaneously as many women finally break free of the bonds that have kept them small and quiet. Fuck you, patriarchy.
I’m so glad this book exists because of the conversations that the title alone can spark. That said, I didn’t love this book. It was an okay reading experience. Many of the vignettes felt repetitive. I think this is purposeful. Our wrinkles and sagging skin and age spots are bludgeoned with the same marching-band beat throughout our lives, so to see so many women of different ages and life experiences hit with the same fat cudgel of shame makes sense. But it got tiresome to read, especially because there were very few moments of redemption. So many of the women in these short stories attempt to stave off the perceived threat and shame of aging with miracle creams and needles and surgeries.
I wanted these women to find ways to rise up like tsunamis and swamp the haters with their brilliance. And they didn’t. Many of their stories open with them feeling fly and end with them being crushed by the awareness that others are critiquing them like the meanest judge on reality TV. And the worst part—many of the people doing the smack-talking were other women. True to life and also gross.
Just last week, a social media acquaintance shared an old Geritol ad that shamed women in their forties for looking so old. Her post invited women to show how great they look today by comparison. And whew, did people say some rude, rude stuff about the women in that long-ago ad. It was unsettling and icky. We cannot lift ourselves up by putting other women down.
Even though I didn’t love the book, I think it’s a worthwhile read. Pick it up and randomly read stories rather than trying to read it straight through. Let it inspire conversations with yourself and with others about aging and the ways our faces reflect our lived experiences and what you want that to actually mean.
One of the go-to strategies I share with women who want to offer their bodies more acceptance is to create a sensory moment. Engaging the senses is a powerful way to connect with your body.
Notice I said “moment.” This is meant to be something you can do quickly to reconnect with your body, self-soothe, or offer yourself love, even if you aren’t feeling very loving.
Self-touch is my favorite way to create a sensory moment when I need a nurturing boost. I may wrap my arms around my body and squeeze. Or gently massage my scalp. Or hold my face with both hands, close my eyes, and take a breath.
But if you have experienced trauma, self-touch may not be soothing at all. If you’re resistant, honor your body and find another way to create a sensory moment.
You could experience touch by snuggling under a weighted blanket for a few minutes or sipping a warm drink and paying attention to how the warmth slides down your throat into your tummy. You could also step outside and feel sunlight sinking into your skin or notice a breeze that flirts with your hair.
You can also get out of your head and into your body by engaging one of your other senses. Whenever I’m trying to pay attention to a sense other than sight, I close my eyes to help me focus. Give it a try, but again, if that’s not comfortable, you could try a fuzzy gaze or pick one spot to look at.
1. Step outside. Find a spot to sit and close your eyes. Spend one minute cataloging all the sounds you hear.
2. Eat something with a strong flavor or texture (a piece of fruit or candy or a chip). Slowly chew and notice the sensations in your mouth.
3. Place a few drops of an essential oil on your wrist and inhale the scent.
4. Find something that you find beautiful and give yourself a minute to gaze at it.
5. Play a song that fits your mood.
6. Take three slow, deep breaths and notice any sensations in your body as you breathe.
My body is wise, and she sends me signals every minute of the day: Feed me. I’m thirsty. Go to sleep.
Part of my journey to accept and love my body was a promise to listen to her. There were a lot of years when I ignored her distress signals. And there were plenty of times when I’d ignored her for so long that I couldn’t even hear her anymore. Her cries were camouflaged by the cacophony of my life.
It was easier to ignore my body than attend to her because I didn’t want to confront all the uncomfortable feelings that arose when I did spend time thinking about her.
Creating a relationship with my body has forced me to excavate her voice so that I can hear her even when she whispers now.
The thing is, I don’t always like what she says. I can be stubborn and insist on learning lessons in hard, sometimes painful ways before I accept them. Take my obsession with diet soda as a good example.
Mind had been telling me for a long time to stop drinking the DDP. That’s Diet Dr. Pepper. But I loved it. I craved its cold fizziness first thing in the morning. Even though I knew that it was not a healthy way to love Body, I drank it anyway. As vices go, I figured it could be much worse.
But Mind got fed up and had a conversation with Body. And Body took charge. She decided that she’d make me quit drinking the soda since I refused to give it up on my own.
How did she manage that task? She made Mouth erupt in painful, aggravating ulcers.
It took me a while to clue into her strategy. And then I tested it a handful of times, just to see if she meant business. To be sure. And she was sure, all right. Every time I drank a DDP, Mouth got an ulcer.
So now I don’t drink DDP. Hardly ever. And never very much if I do risk the indulgence.
Body taught me that she knows what’s best for me, and that if I’ll listen to her sooner rather than later, I can avoid a lot of hurt and aggravation.
The idea of listening to our bodies can be confusing, understandably. How do you listen to your body when it doesn’t actually talk?
You must learn to interpret the ways she does communicate with you. Just like learning any new language, you have to practice real-world conversations if you want to deepen your understanding. But unlike other languages, Google Translate can’t help you when you’re stuck because each of our bodies communicates with us differently.
For example, my body tells me:
I’ve learned how to interpret my body’s messages by being curious and by paying attention. It’s a slow process, and I still have a lot to learn about my body’s unique language, but the reward of getting to know my body so closely is worth the effort.
I have so much more trust in myself and in my body now that we communicate regularly. This greater level of trust in my body spills over into other areas of my life too. I trust my intuition, or gut instinct, when I get a clear feeling that something is not right for me. I don’t second guess myself anymore, and I take better care of myself because I can anticipate many of my body’s needs. She shows me when she likes the care I offer her.
Even though my body doesn’t talk to me in a traditional way, we’re in constant communication. And I’m so grateful to listen to her wisdom.
Artwork by Mica Gadhia