On Not Loving My Body

At this time of year, I feel caught between the media exhortations to diet and the feminist incitement to resist by “loving your body”, and I’m honestly not sure which rhetoric I find more triggering.

January is always a tough month.  Like most people, I put on a few pounds over the festive season and this is causing me a lot of mental distress.  I’m over my “safe” weight and my eating disorder is like a voice in my head, sometimes  lecturing me sternly, sometimes screaming at me to lose the weight NOW.  It can never wait; it always wants immediate gratification.

I’m feeling better this week, thank goodness, but last week was very, very difficult. I hated seeing myself in mirrors and I couldn’t bear to have anything pressing against my stomach in particular because it draws my attention to it.

The bombardment with adverts about dieting isn’t helping, but in some respects the feminist “love your body” rhetoric aggravates me more because it just isn’t that simple.  Women don’t have switches in their heads that they can use to turn off years, sometimes lifetimes, of conditioning.  I’m all for breaking conditioning, but it’s incredibly hard to do.  I mean, I can’t even remember a time when my Mum wasn’t on a diet and my Dad freaks out and stops eating if he puts on a pound.

But I think the fundamental problem here is the root of both incitements in the same mind/body dualism.  The insistance that you should control your body and love your body come from the same idea that your body is something separate to you.

If I “love” my body, my body seems to be something other than me, and I don’t find this helpful.

Also, if you don’t love you body (and I have to say I don’t), it’s easy to start feeling guilty for not being a “good” feminist and beating yourself up for continuing to have ambivalent feelings about your body. I don’t personally feel guilty about this as it happens, but I’ve noticed a fair bit of feminist self-berating on this score over the years.

For me, I find the most helpful thing to do is remind myself every day that “I am my body” and that I should give my body the same care that I give my mind. Just as I provide myself with entertainment and intellectual stimulation, so I provide myself with good food and appropriate levels of exercise.  Just being my body is enough work for me at the moment.

Crossposted to Things as They Are

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3 thoughts on “On Not Loving My Body

  1. I’m glad I came across this post, thank you so much for writing it.

    One thing that I feel about being a feminist is that I tell myself that whatever I’m doing is making me a good feminist, as long as I’m making decisions based on myself and not what other people are telling me.

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for subscribing.

    There are, of course, more sophisticated feminist takes on eating disorders – Susan Bordo for instance – but it’s this mainstream “Just get some self esteem” and “love your body” discourse that I find unhelpful for people who have eating disorders and body image issues.

    It’s not possible for me to love my body at this point and I don’t know if it ever will be. Like I say in the post, I’m still working on simply being in my body because I’ve been so disassociated from it for years.

  3. Emotional Truth & the Rhetoric of Love Your Body Day « Purple Prose

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