I am ecstatic to share with you Part 1 of an exceptional excerpt from a colleague that I greatly respect and admire. Marsha Hudnall is an incredible dietitian doing remarkable work as the president and co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, the women’s healthy weight retreat in Vermont that pioneered the non-diet approach to healthy weights in 1973. Her mission is to, “help participants learn to enjoy food and eating while successfully managing their weight and health”. Marsha is active on Twitter and blogs at A Weight Lifted.
If we were living in another time, those words would likely be disturbing to hear. Yet today, we hear them repeatedly. Whether they’re desperately uttered by a friend or overheard while trying on clothes in a dressing room, many people seem to accept the sentiment as the norm, even as body-positive movements urge us to love our bodies.
Is body love really possible these days?
Of course it is. But maybe we could benefit from a different route to the prize.
At Green Mountain at Fox Run, my women’s retreat that pioneered the non-diet approach to healthy weights over 40 years ago, we’ve found that it may be asking too much to try to go from body hate directly to body love. Instead, a stepped approach resonates best with our participants. It’s called Body Neutrality™ and it is a way past the feeling that being positive about our bodies feels phony, far-fetched or even something we don’t want to do because it feels like we’re settling.
In essence, body neutrality helps us decrease negative self-talk about our bodies. It’s about focusing on what your body does for you, or what you appreciate about your body, rather than what it looks like. It doesn’t create miracle mindset changes overnight but, like an atrophied muscle, when you cut off the negative self-talk’s oxygen supply, it starts to shrink. It’s the reducing of the negativity that really makes the difference, maybe even more than inserting the positivity. Because the less negative we are, the more we can move into action.
Moving from body hate to body neutrality isn’t a complicated process. Which is fortunate because the more you practice it, the faster it can get you where you want to go.
Start by acknowledging that the negative self-talk is there. One of the best ways to find out how you talk to yourself is to stand in front of a mirror and listen. Write down what you say. If your self-talk is mostly negative, remember that moving away from body hate is a process, not an event. That means you may need to take baby steps, and if you want to go all the way to body positivity, think of Body Neutrality as a rest stop along the way.
When you hear the negative self-talk, breathe as a way to create space so you can move from reaction to response. You’re giving yourself time to think by doing this.
Validate the body hate. Say, “I know you and although you might be trying to help me, I’m going to do it a different way.” By doing this, you’re practicing self-compassion while moving intentionally in another direction.
Practice progressive affirmations, starting with body neutral ones and growing into body positive ones as you feel ready. If you never make it to positive, you’ve still accomplished a lot just by removing the negative because negative keeps you stuck.
Excerpted from the forthcoming book Eating Happy: A Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Emotional Overeating by Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD and Darla Breckenridge, MS. © 2014, Green Mountain at Fox Run. Hudnall is president and co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, the women’s healthy weight retreat in Vermont that pioneered the non-diet approach to healthy weights in 1973.