By Erin Gilbert, RDN, CSO, LDN
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, love is in the air. But let’s take some time to talk about a different kind of love– self-love. Practicing self-love is more than just face masks & bubble baths. In eating disorder recovery especially, practicing self-love can feel challenging & a choice one continuously has to make, rather than something that just comes naturally. It can take time & practice to foster a more positive & loving relationship with yourself, just like any skill you learn. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Nourish your body
One of the most important ways you can practice self-love is to take care of your body’s basic needs. This can mean getting adequate rest, practicing good hygiene & of course, fueling your body. Your body needs food for energy –although eating can feel like the opposite of what you want to do when the ED voice is loud or when having a tough body image day. It can be helpful to remember that these thoughts & feelings will pass. While eating may feel hard in the moment, it will ultimately bring you closer to your recovery goals. When eating feels difficult, it may be helpful to set meal reminder timers, share a meal with a friend, or have a family member check in for accountability.
2. Practice body gratitude
If you are having a tough body image day, it can be helpful to practice body gratitude– that is, reminding yourself of the things your body does that you are grateful for. Examples include expressing gratitude for legs that allow you to play soccer, for eyes that allow you to see a beautiful sunset, ears that allow you to listen to music you love…etc. You may not love your crooked nose, but maybe you love being able to smell flowers with it! When we remind ourselves of all that our body does, we can also remember that our body’s purpose extends far beyond aesthetics.
3. Do something you love (& do less of the things you don’t)
Bad body image days happen! However, fixating on perceived body flaws & engaging in negative self-talk definitely won’t make the day any better. While you wait for the negative feelings to pass, take the time to distract yourself with something you love! Read a book, go ice skating, try a new yoga pose –anything that brings you joy! Use your body for an activity that fills your cup with positivity, rather than leaving you feeling empty.
On that note, it is also helpful to identify & work to reduce behaviors that don’t bring you closer to self-love (like body checking, stepping on the scale, scrolling social media that perpetuate certain body ideals, etc).
4. Celebrate your wins!
Eating disorder recovery is tough work with many ups & downs. It can be a helpful practice to keep track of your “wins” – the progresses you make within your recovery. By journaling your wins, jotting them down in a note in your phone, or even keeping a “wins jar” (think: a jar with your wins written on pieces of paper) you can reflect on the great work you have done already & gain motivation to keep moving forward.
5. Use your supports when you need them
Working towards self-love doesn’t have to be something you do all by yourself! If you are struggling to implement some of the suggestions above & feeling urges to act in ways that bring you further away from recovery & self-love, we highly encourage you to utilize your support system for help. This may be a friend, spouse, family member, therapist, doctor or dietitian.
It takes time to cultivate self-love, but here at Balanced, our judgment-free dietitians are here to support you every step of the way. Get started with one of us here!