Home » 3 Ways to Respect Your Body (Even if You Don’t Love it)

3 Ways to Respect Your Body (Even if You Don’t Love it)

by Dana Bean, RD

You don’t have to “love your body” to improve your relationship with and respect it! Learn how this works and 3 steps to start with.

Body positivity or “loving your body” can feel intimidating when you struggle with negative body image thoughts. You may have thought something along the lines of “how can I love my body if I can’t even like it?” It can seem insurmountable to bridge the gap. But, this is why I love talking about body respect. Learning to respect your body is a form of body positivity or body love, but you don’t have to feel like you love your body to practice body respect.

Let’s use an analogy. Say you work with someone that you don’t necessarily like. You disagree about various topics, you would almost always do things differently, and overall have a different approach to the job. They still get their work done and are a considerate person. You don’t have to love or like this person, but it would be best to find a way to respect this person. Afterall, you will be spending time together and working on the same projects at times. It may even be beneficial to get to know this person better and find things about their work that you do appreciate. But at the least finding a way to keep your work relationship respectful in your communication with them, how you speak about them, and finding ways to still complete work tasks together will benefit you both.

Our relationship with our body can be similar to this. We don’t have to love our body everyday just like we don’t need to be best friends with our co-worker. Sure, it would be great if we developed a more positive relationship with our body and could feel more love for it, but that’s not the most important goal here. Finding a way to respect our body, regardless of the love we have for it that day is key.

Ok so respecting our body needs to be the foundation of how we treat it. But how do we accomplish that? How can we start moving from a place of contempt towards our bodies to a place of respect?

Our inner dialogue matters! The words and comments that cycle through your mind sticks and becomes more believable. The more we think positively or neutrally about our bodies, the more likely we are to remember and believe it. Be intentionally kind with your words to yourself. If you notice a body thought that is negative or destructive, reframe it to something neutral or positive!

And if you’re worried that giving yourself compassion will lead to liking your body less, it’s not true. This study found that women who had more compassion for themselves on a given day had less body image concerns and more body appreciation compared to days when they had less compassion. Those days of lower self compassion led to the opposite (more body concerns, less body appreciation)! Harsh words are NOT motivating. Bashing on our body is not going to make us like it more.

Another form of respecting your body is reacting to its cues and needs, and checking in to identify them in the first place. Regularly ask yourself if you have a need to address. Do you need:

  • Food
  • Water/something to drink
  • To take a break
  • A bathroom break
  • Rest/relaxation

After you’ve identified a need, it’s important to honor that need to respect your body. Did you realize that your hungry? Respect looks like finding a way to eat a meal or snack ASAP.

Responding to our body’s need builds trust between our mind and body. This in turns helps to continue showing respect to ourselves!

This may seem like a really specific suggestion, but has made a huge impact for many clients. When we wear clothing that is uncomfortable or is too small, it draws our thoughts to our body constantly. And if we’re already struggling with body respect, this becomes a problem. Have you ever had jeans digging into your stomach? How often do you think about it that day? Does it lead to negative thoughts about your body? For most this is a YES!

Allowing your body to move in clothing that is comfortable, fits right, and that you like is a form of body respect. This may mean switching sizes or brands of clothing. Every body is shaped differently and that’s ok! Clothing is meant to serve you, not the other way around.

Learning to respect your body doesn’t happen overnight. You have probably been treating your body a certain way for a while now, and it can take an adjustment period to start speaking kindly, responding to its needs, and dressing for your body. Just like hiking up a hill without a path, it may feel strange and awkward at first. Then with practice, a path up that hill will start to form and hiking up it eventually feels like second nature. The more you take steps to show respect for your body, the more you will be able to accept and trust that respect.

Give yourself the gift of respecting your body!

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