Welcome to our Bad Body Day Toolkit. We are ready to help.
And here's the thing. We ALL have bad body days. I mean, let's face it, this culture is really tough on bodies and really demanding about what we should all be doing to make them better. Bad Body Days are part of the ride, even when your primary focus is body trust and self-acceptance. Over the years we have come up with some wisdom to share, along with some tips and tricks, that can really help keep your Bad Body Day from turning into two or three or more (like the next diet). We think our toolkit will really help, it's certainly what we rely on ourselves.
We’ve created this short video, a more comprehensive written list of strategies for managing a bad body day, and some resources that you can come back to whenever you need to. We hope it helps. And, bottom line… you are so very worthy, vibrant, and amazing, right here, as you are now. We know this for sure.
Strategies for Managing a Bad Body Day
Have you ever noticed that you can go to bed at night feeling one way about your body, only to wake up the next morning and feel completely different?
This is something to get curious about because the size of our bodies doesn’t change in this period of time, but how we FEEL about our bodies does. If our body isn’t different, then what’s really going on?
Few people are immune from having “bad body” days. The culture we live in assigns moral (and health) value based on how our body presents to the world. We are socialized to ignore, suppress, or numb our feelings, especially the uncomfortable, messy or “unacceptable” ones. Living in a culture that reinforces weight stigma at every turn teaches us that we can and should control the size of our bodies and that failure to do so is a sign of weakness or poor character. Participating in diet culture changes our relationship with ourselves, our bodies, and food, and over time we lose access to the language to describe our emotional world and adopt the language of food and fat. So when uncomfortable feelings arise, our body becomes the scapegoat. Instead of feeling angry, we scrutinize our body. Instead of feeling anxious about the big deadline at work, we feel more body shame. Instead of feeling sad because we had a terrible fight with our partner, we think about a plan to change our body.
Seeing our own body as the problem lets the culture (and sometimes the people in our lives) off the hook. This practice can perpetuate the marginalization of bodies by reinforcing personal responsibility rhetoric instead of keeping our focus on cultural beliefs and structures that cause harm.
We can do this very differently. It feels important to highlight that someone who has a strong Body Trust practice is not immune to these experiences. In their healing work, they’ve developed resilience to shame and know how to skillfully navigate bad body days without becoming self destructive. Here are some strategies for you to consider. Some will resonate. Some will not...and that’s okay. Notice where YOU hear truth.
Tips For A Bad Body Day
Turn toward yourself with compassion and kindness. Bad body thoughts put you at a crossroad: you can choose to be compassionate and mindful or make yet another unsustainable plan rooted in shame. We suggest the former. Plans are always temporary fixes, even if your hope is that they will last forever.
Acknowledge that this feeling is temporary. How you feel about your body can change from moment to moment and this too shall pass. Individual emotions last, on average, 90 seconds in the body. Our obsessive thoughts about these feelings make them stick around a lot longer. And longer lasting moods and frames of mind can be influenced by daily life events, social factors such as news and working conditions, transitions, hormonal shifts, trauma history, illness, and more.
Remember that “fat” is not a feeling and get curious about what feelings may be coming up in your body. What would you be feeling if you weren’t so focused on your body? Are you angry, sad, scared or disgusted? Are you feeling grief, shame, indignation, envy, helplessness, confusion, vulnerability, apathy, excluded, insignificant? Lonely, tired, stressed, surprised, overwhelmed, anxious, bored? Something else? A combination of these? Can you locate the emotion in your body? Where do you feel it? What does it feel like? Does it have a shape? A color? Can you be with this emotion, allow it to rise like a wave, and let it move through you?
Click on image for larger view.
Emotional Word Wheel by Geoffrey Roberts
What else might be going on? Ask yourself: If I weren’t thinking about my body, what would I be thinking about or be struggling with? What is going on in my life to make me want to focus on my body today, in this moment? Did I have a bad dream? Is my period due? Am I exhausted or overwhelmed? Anxious about an upcoming conversation or deadline? What else might be going on here?
Find a mantra to repeat to yourself. “This is me. I am worthy because I breathe.” “This is my body, this is where I live.” “Every ounce is sacred.” “I am more than my body.” And one of our favorites, “This is temporary.” Say it over and over again in your head or out loud. Write it on post-it notes and stick it on every mirror in the house.
Have compassion for the ways you are still healing from experiences of your own body story. So many human experiences make us feel betrayed by our bodies. The traumas of oppression. Social constructs of gender, race, beauty, health, and weight. Chronic illness, infertility, and other health issues disrupt body trust and make acceptance difficult. Medical weight stigma, food insecurity, the ways our families of origin related to our body, and their own bodies, can have a big impact on us. These wounds can flare up and need tending to throughout our lifetimes. Sometimes, the question is: How do I soften when life invites me to harden? How do I not cling so tightly to something that I want so badly so that I can make space for healing? So I can see and experience it all with an open hand instead of a closed fist? Wanting things to be different than they are is one of the greatest sources of human suffering. Journaling about the difference between letting go and giving up fits in nicely here. And we love this loving kindness phrase from Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga:
May I greet my body with gentleness.
May I soften when life invites me to harden.
May I listen to my intuition with wisdom and trust it with ease.
May I appreciate my body a little more in this moment, just as it is.
Be aware of and avoid body checking behaviors. Standing in front of the mirror naked and scrutinizing yourself, weighing or taking measurements, feeling for bones/fatness and comparing your body to others are just a few of the ways people body check. And know this, if you are looking for flaws or problems, you will find them, no matter how your body shows up in the world! Change your clothes if they are uncomfortable. Minimize opportunities to pathologize or blame your body.
No fixin’, no fixin’, no fixin’! Avoid the desire to make a plan to change the size, shape or weight of your body. Notice thoughts like “Tomorrow I’ll starting going to the gym in the morning,” “I’m only going to eat salads today,” “I’ll skip dinner,” or “I’ve really got to stop eating sugar.” If right now, at this moment, you can’t live without a plan, then plan for radical, weight-neutral self-care (that’s self care for the sake of self care- not weight change).
Name the systems of oppression that were put into your consciousness and your body without your consent. So much of our work is externalizing and unlearning the oppression we’ve internalized. When we recognize and name the weight stigma, fatphobia, misogyny, patriarchy, ableism, white supremacy, and other forms of oppression that are operating within us and causing us to blame our bodies, we can externalize those forces, and put the blame where it belongs. There is incredible power in asking questions like, Who profits from my belief that my body is a problem? Who is making money off my shame? Who put that ceiling there?
Honor, normalize, feel, and express your anger. Anger is an emotion that alerts us to harm and injustice. When we don’t allow ourselves to be angry, that emotion stays trapped in our bodies, gets internalized, and can increase anxiety and self-blame. We absolutely can experience, feel, and express anger without resorting to aggression or harming others. Shake your fists at the wall, scream at the sky, punch a pillow, stamp your feet, give it to the earth, light a fire, write it out. Anger is power. Anger is fuel. Claim it.
Do what you can to deal with the real issue at hand and use your voice. Talk to someone or write it down. Ask to spend time with someone you trust. Try to set realistic expectations for yourself. Perfectionism rears its head when we are feeling most vulnerable and worn out. Minimize expectations, maximize nurturing.
What do you need right now? Keep your focus on compassionate, weight-neutral self-care practices. Ask yourself “what would feel good right now?” and if possible, honor your need. There is value in naming our needs whether or not they can be met. This may look like making food available, giving yourself permission to take it easy, going to bed when you feel tired, saying no (even if it inconveniences someone), or prioritizing pleasure.
Remember that tomorrow is a new day and it might not even take that long for the feeling to change.
Kindness is the way out. Always.
From Be Nourished...
Print Our Manifesto to return to on a regular basis as a source of encouragement.
Choose a Reclaiming Body Trust® Card Deck for daily inspiration.
Hang our Weight-Inclusive Zone Door Hanger up as a reminder to reduce body checking.
Spread the love with our Post-Its...in your home, dressing rooms, bathroom mirrors, beauty magazines, and more.
Place our Body Trust® is My Birthright Angel somewhere to help you stand your sacred ground.
Our No More Weighting: The Body Trust® E-course can be a great way to get support and find community while you explore your path to Body Trust.
Support for Chronic Illness...
When Healthy Isn’t An Option: How I Learned To Love My Chronically Ill Body by Jody Allard
On Illness, Belief, & Saying Yes by Andrea Gibson
In My Chronic Illness, I Found a Deeper Meaning by Elliott Kukla
Melissa Toler on Wild Mystic Woman Podcast: Opting Out Of Diet Culture & Reclaiming Our Wellness
Hilary & Dana on The Dear Sugars Podcast Trust Your Body
Sonya Renee Taylor on Food Psych Podcast How to Cultivate Radical Body Love
Sand Chang on Food Psych Podcast Disordered Eating & Gender Identity
Ijeoma Oluo on Food Psych Podcast How to Stop Pursuing Weight Loss
We hope the tips and resources in this toolkit are helpful to you. We encourage you to bookmark this page, as you will likely find yourself wanting to return for the reminders again and again and again. Remember you are so very much not alone on this path.
And do know, the healing is in the return!
Wishing you warmth and light,
Hilary & Dana