Body positivity and ‘The Power of Now’
We can use the principles of Eckhart Tolle’s famed book to work for us when we’re uncomfortable with our appearance.
I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about what it is I’m doing here. Here in this life, yes. But here in this newsletter, too. The longer I go through this process, the more my purpose becomes clear.
This week will mark the first anniversary of this newsletter. When I began, my goal was to share what to expect in the first year of intuitive eating. There were plenty of dietitians and therapists who could share the steps to make this massive transition, but there were few people sharing real accounts of what it was like to go through this experience. I had so many questions, and there were so few answers. I wanted to be that resource for people going through the same experience as me.
But as time has gone on, I realize that my purpose is larger than that. A month ago, I attended a panel about personal branding at the National Association of Women Business Owner’s annual conference, and the speaker asked everyone in attendance to write down the personal “why” driving their purpose. By the end of the session, here is what I had written: I want to help women stop measuring their self-worth by their appearance.
Today, I can tell you that I want this newsletter to be a gathering place for growth-minded women to find support and guidance to help them quit diets, stop measuring their self-worth by their appearance and embrace living.
My why isn't just about quitting diets or transitioning to intuitive eating—it’s a larger quest for personal growth and fulfillment. But it does include quitting diets, and here’s why.
We cannot stop measuring our self-worth by our appearance if we are still taking a measuring stick to your body every morning when we step on the scale or every time we set foot in front of a mirror. We can't get rid of our diet mindset but keep our diet. To find freedom from these negative thoughts and judgments, we must give up the old way of doing things.
Transitioning back to intuitive eating (we are born knowing how to eat this way), however, isn't a quick or easy fix. It's a gradual process, a journey of reconnecting with our bodies and our inner wisdom. The process and lack of trust—will it work for me?—often keeps many from starting, despite the liberation waiting on the other side.
To cultivate a healthy relationship with our bodies (and a truly healthy relationship, not the latest fad or trend we read about on Instagram or our Aunt Linda tells us about over Thanksgiving dinner), we have to begin to accept our bodies as is. For some of us, this sounds impossible. But, in fact, all of us have the ability to do this. And it’s not some magical power, but it takes work and time.
We can’t just quit diets and magically begin eating the way we were meant to be eating our entire lives; it doesn’t work that way. We didn’t learn to diet and restrict and ignore our bodies overnight, so we won’t re-learn to tap into our bodies’ inner wisdom overnight either. Transitioning to intuitive eating is a long-term process.
Cultivating this relationship doesn't entail indulging in everything we desire. It's about nourishing and respecting our bodies. In the initial stages, however, sometimes called the “honeymoon phase,” we permit ourselves what we've been denied as a means of rebuilding trust. As I've shared before, this phase is a necessary part of reconnecting with our bodies and freeing ourselves from the remnants of diet culture.
“In this phase, you’re putting a lot of the intuitive eating principles into practice—rejecting the diet mentality, honoring your hunger, making peace with food, challenging the food police, discovering the satisfaction factor, and, just maybe, starting to feel your fullness. You may even have a few “last suppers,” where you basically treat your next meal as if it were your last. This hangover from diet culture, where you’d have one last blowout before the diet begins, can still happen in the early days of intuitive eating. As time goes on, you emotionally and your body physically understands that, in fact, your last supper eating is no longer necessary. From here on out, you’re largely going to be eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.”
The more I delve into this journey, the stronger my desire becomes to nurture and honor my body. After months of adjustment, a turning point emerges where self-care becomes self-reinforcing. Nourishing and listening to my body feels right, and the signals become stronger. It's a reciprocal relationship—the more I honor my body, the more I want to continue.
Perfection is not the goal. There are still days when I see flaws in the mirror, but now, instead of berating myself and vowing to take action, I acknowledge them. I face myself and say, “I don’t like this belly. Not one bit. But this is my belly right here, right now. It’s not going to change overnight. And I’m not going back on a diet to try and fix it. I’m not getting back on the hamster wheel. I don’t like this belly, but this is my belly.” Then, I take a few deep, calming breaths and move on.
I’m not taking action against my body or attempting to control my feelings. By allowing the uncomfortable feelings in the moment, they hold less power over me. And because I’ve been doing this long enough now to have experienced these feelings of liberation, of not being obsessed with my appearance, I’m motivated to do so. I can return to my priorities—my writing, my family, my interests—without beating myself up or retaliating for the past.
Speaking of the past, I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now.” It’s a dense read, but the premise is pretty damn simple: We are not our minds. The more we can separate ourselves from our thoughts by living in the present, the happier we will be. When we can interrupt the incessant chatter of the mind, we begin cultivating a higher awareness. Tolle calls it Being. I call it freedom. Just knowing we are not our minds, even when our thoughts are rampant, creates distance. This distance is crucial, akin to sitting with discomfort until it passes.
Dieting often distracts us from the present—we’re often idealizing our past bodies (even though we didn’t appreciate them back then) and chasing our perfect future selves that will never exist. We rarely appreciate ourselves in the moment, because we are rarely in the moment.
Let’s change that.
AN EXERCISE TO TRY
Applying the principles of “The Power of Now” when we’re unhappy with our bodies
We can use the principles of “The Power of Now” to address dissatisfaction with our appearance. It involves cultivating a mindful awareness of your thoughts and emotions and redirecting your focus to the present moment. Here's how you can integrate these principles:
1. Acknowledge the negative thoughts
Recognize and acknowledge negative thoughts about your appearance without getting entangled in them. Allow these thoughts to come and go, understanding that they are transient and not a reflection of your true self.
"I am aware of my negative thoughts about my appearance. I observe them without judgment, recognizing that they do not define who I am."
2. Bring attention to the present
Shift your focus away from past criticisms or future worries or expectations about your appearance. Ground yourself in the present, allowing the feelings and emotions. Where do you feel them inside your body? Feeling the connection within helps you to stay present.
"In this moment, I release the grip of past criticisms and future anxieties. I am present, and my worth is not determined by external appearances."
3. Find gratitude for the body's functionality:
Express gratitude for the functionality and health of your body. Instead of fixating on perceived flaws, appreciate the incredible capabilities that your body provides for you in each moment. It could be as simple as giving thanks for your breath, for your breath gives you life..
"I am grateful for the functions of my body—the ability to see, hear, move and experience life. These are the true gifts of the present."
4. Accept your present self
Practice self-acceptance in the present moment, acknowledging that your appearance is a part of the ever-changing nature of life. Embrace the uniqueness of your current self without the need for comparison or judgment.
"I accept myself as I am in this moment, recognizing that my appearance is just one aspect of my being that does not determine my worth."
5. Focus on your inner qualities
Shift the focus from external appearances to the inner qualities that define your true essence. Consider attributes such as kindness, compassion and authenticity, recognizing that these are the qualities that truly make you beautiful.
"I redirect my focus to the inner qualities that reflect true beauty. Kindness, compassion and authenticity define my essence, transcending physical appearance."
By applying these principles, you can navigate feelings of unhappiness in the present moment with a sense of mindfulness and self-acceptance. This approach allows you to embrace the beauty of the present, appreciating yourself for who you are beyond external judgments and perceptions.
Let me know if you try this out and find it helpful or if you have a similar practice! The more we can share what works for us, the better!
A few quick reminders…No Diet Talk December is just getting started!
For the entire month of December, I’m challenging you to just say no to self-destructive “diet talk” about food, bodies and appearances. The purpose of this challenge is to support those of you who have given up diets or are just working to be kinder to yourselves. It’s to spare everyone the uncomfortable conversations that creep up this time of year. Full details about No Diet Talk December are available right here, but we’ve got some important events coming up, and I would love for you to be a part of them.
The best way to ensure you don’t miss out is to become a subscriber. It’s free and ensures you don’t miss any of the accountability prompts, chats, posts and other goodies I’ll be sharing this month.
No Diet Talk December accountability events
Monday, Nov. 20 - A writing prompt to get you prepped - Tapping into your inner wisdom—What do you need most right now?
Thursday, Nov. 23 - We kicked off the Almost Sated subscriber chat with the question: How do you shut down uncomfortable conversations?
Thursday, Nov. 30, 12 p.m. CST (10 a.m. PT) - A workshop to officially kick off No Diet Talk December with special guest, non-diet nutritionist
Linn Thorstensson. You’ll find tips for dealing with diet talk and maybe even find an accountability partner!
Mondays, Dec. 4 and 11 - Writing prompts to support you.
Thursdays, Dec. 7 and 14 - New chat thread topics, open discussion and calls for questions.
Even for those of you who are not ready to quit diets, opting out of diet talk can measurably improve how you feel about yourself.
Please join me and the others who have signed on!
One last announcement!
I’m co-hosting the first official AustinMeetup with fellow writers and on Nov. 28 in downtown Austin.
We’d be so grateful if you’d share this with other Substack folks so we can reach as many people as possible.
Here are the details:
👉 When: Tuesday, November 28, 2023 - 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
👉 Where: Mort Subite Belgian Beer Bar, 308 Congress Avenue Austin, TX 78701
👉 Why: For Substackers to get together and make new friends!
👉 How do I sign up? With this Eventbrite invitation Austin Substack Meetup.
👉 Can I bring a friend? Heck yeah! Please do – and we’d love it if you’d pass the Eventbrite invite around
Thank you, my friends!