Hello! Hi! And all the greetings!
Welcome to Light Post Quarterly, previously Light Post Monthly, the blog that is all about body inclusivity and healing our relationship with food and our bodies.
**Please note that in this edition, I share some of my experiences regarding the harmful impacts of diet culture. These topics may be triggering for some readers. If you choose to read on, please know that you are not alone and your body does not define your worth.**
The information contained in this document is not intended as a replacement for medical care/advice, or mental health care. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical, mental or emotional wellbeing, I encourage you to reach out to a trusted healthcare professional.
In this edition, I’m going to spend some time talking about the importance of allocating time for reflection, joy, and mindfulness. I know, I know…another mental health professional talking about mindfulness, what an original idea…but here’s the thing: being mindful of our thoughts and feelings is incredibly important. Being mindful of the thoughts and feelings that we have about our bodies is integral to maintaining a healthy relationship with food and our bodies over the long term. Maybe it would be helpful to consider this: rather than thinking about it as ‘mindfulness’ or another plug for self-care, think of as couples therapy…for you and your body.
Healing and repairing the relationship with our bodies isn’t a one-stop fix, it requires a lot of attention and care. I like to think that it’s a lot like maintaining and caring for the relationships that we have- maybe with our partners, spouses, friends, and family. We may have asked ourselves, how can I care for my partner? Or how do I show my partner that I care for them? These are the same kinds of questions we need to ask when we think about ourselves, our bodies, and our minds. For instance, I might ask, how can I show myself the kind of care and compassion that I need? Or how can I take care of the relationship that I have with my body?
There are practical ways that I can be mindful of the relationship that I have with my body. For instance, I can avoid body checking when I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a mirror. I can eat when I am hungry, I can eat when I’m celebrating or when I’m craving a specific food. I can move my body in ways that enrich my life and bring me joy.
I use all of these mindfulness strategies quite often- and when I do, I am saying to my body, “let me take care of you”. I’m taking care the only body that I will ever have. The body that has given me so much. The very same body that I took for granted and treated like a heaping pile of garbage for years and years and years. Some of these practical strategies might sound scary, or maybe you’re thinking, “how the heck is this mindfulness?!?!” Well, let me tell you. When I’m pushing back against body checking, I am being mindful of the harmful messages that are swirling around in my mind, and I’m saying, “no thank you, not today old friend.” Every time I eat when I’m hungry, I am being mindful of my body and what it needs. I am providing it with nourishment; I’m treating it with kindness and respect. When I eat what I’m craving, I am mindful of the fact that my body needs and deserves joy and pleasure. When I’m moving, I am being mindful of my amazing strength and resilience. I am giving my body the chance to act as a cohesive unit, a beautifully constructed machine that can bring about the most wondrous shapes.
Because it’s Spring, I have been getting my garden ready. I love to garden. I love to grow food. When I’m working in my garden, I am mindful of the way my body moves, the way it stiffens when I squat for too long, the way my boots sink into the soft soil. The soil is wet and loose from the winter thaw, and I image how it will change as we move into the warmer weather. I plant seeds with the hope that they will sprout into seedlings. I watch small seedlings emerge from the soil and grow into the most exciting shapes. I am mindful of their growth from day to day, I am mindful of the joy they bring me. I pay attention to my thoughts- I see in my minds eye- the day I can move these small seedlings into my gardens, and I fantasize about my body bending and lifting. I let myself daydream of big harvests and eating fresh treats with my family.
These thoughts are all part of how I take care of my body. I am mindful of what my body needs, and how I can best care for it. The relationship that I have with my body has been complicated. I have been both abuser and victim- simultaneously. When I am mindful of the relationship that I have with my body, I am respecting the journey we have been on. I’m saying, “hey, some of this has been really hard, you deserve some peace- real peace. You deserve some joy, real authentic, earth-shattering joy.” I try my best to remember that if I stop considering this relationship, it will begin to fade into the background and I will likely give in to the harmful thoughts that I have spent so long pushing back against.
It’s so often the case that we prioritize relationships with others, while ignoring or deprioritizing the thoughts and feelings we have about ourselves. I think one of the reasons we tend to do this is because we believe that pleasing others will make us more valuable, both inside and out. I totally get the logic here, but I think the reasoning is flawed. The thing is, we must take care of ourselves if we want to take good care of others- sometimes I refer to this as putting my oxygen mask on first. Translation: I need to make sure that I have the capacity to care for myself before I try to support someone else. When I am taking care of myself, I can be better attuned to others, I can be compassionate and kind to other people in a way that is authentic and true to my values. When I am truly taking care of myself, listening to my body, and attuned to my body’s needs, I can be present with other people. I can also find value and fulfillment in the relationships that I have outside of my body. If I am taking care of myself, I can check my need for external validation at the door because I know that I am valuable, on my own, without validation and reassurance from the outside world. When I am mindful of my needs and when I am taking care of myself, I am intrinsically validated, meaning that I find value in myself as opposed to asking others for approval.
When I take care of myself, I don’t need someone to tell me, “You are enough” for me to feel a sense of value or worthiness. I carry my worth with me, wherever I go. The benefit to taking care of myself is that I can love myself and others in a way that honours my values and my connections. So, I suppose the next question is, how do I learn to put my oxygen mask on first?
The answer is simple in that the words are easy to say, and the answer is also tremendously complex because the process is challenging. So, here’s the answer (in as few words as possible): putting my oxygen mask on first means being mindful of my thoughts and working on the relationship that I have with my body. Once I am no longer hooked by negative thoughts, food restriction and the desire for external validation, I can focus on taking care of myself in meaningful ways. It is then that my friendship and care-for-others will come from a place of authenticity- it becomes altruism as opposed to validation-seeking.
No one is perfectly mindful. Everyone experiences days when negative thoughts about our bodies penetrate our minds. My advice is this- find your garden, find your seedlings. Find that place where you are fundamentally at peace. Give your mind and body permission to be present in that place of joy and peace. Be curious about what your body needs and really listen to what you hear. Trust that if you give your body what it needs it will respond with kindness.
My best hope is that you will read these words and be inspired to prioritize the relationship that you have with your body. I hope that you will search out places that fill you with peace and pleasure, and allow yourself to find the calm that we all deserve.
If you have any thoughts or questions about what you’ve read today, I’m happy to receive any feedback that you might have. If you have any questions or want to learn more about the kind of work that I do, please feel free to reach out via email.
Take Good Care,