Leading a healthy lifestyle is not all about food and physical activity.  Emotional health is just as important.  This can mean taking care of our body in other ways such as managing stress, balancing work/home life and personal time, staying positive, forgiving ourselves, not depriving ourselves of enjoyment, or even just acknowledging our emotions (ex: I feel good about myself; I am angry; I feel supported; I am sad).  Emotional health checks in on our well-being and not just our diet, physical health, or mental health.  Most importantly, it’s treating our body with respect and practicing self-love.  In other words, being kind to our body.  

I recently read the book “Body Kindness” by Rebecca Stritchfield.  She is a Registered Dietitian who sheds some light on how and why we may not be kind to our body which can directly impact our emotional health.  You may be thinking, “what does it mean to be kind to our bodies? I feed it, I move it, I hydrate it – am I not doing this right?”   

Let’s start by thinking how we talk to ourselves about ourselves.  Would you talk to someone the way you talk to yourself?  Are you more concerned about your body’s size or shape rather than your healthful eating habits?  Now think about your food choices.  Do you label food as “good” or “bad?”  Do you make rigid rules around what you can or can’t eat causing a fear of food?  For example, only organic foods are healthy; I don’t like salmon, but I eat it because it’s good for me; this is expensive so it must be healthy.  Are there entire food groups that have been eliminated from your diet potentially resulting in not getting adequate nutrients to heal and nurture your body?  These types of behaviors are just a few examples of not being kind to ourselves in both a physical and emotional way. 

So, how do you set up your own body kindness standards?  This isn’t something that someone else can do for you.  The first step?  Determine your why.  Why should I be kind to myself?  Is it for your emotional and physical health to support you through treatment and beyond?  Is it so you can be happy and healthy for your family, grandchildren, friends, or for your work/career?  Make yourself a priority.  Regularly thinking of ways to improve yourself isn’t being selfish.  You deserve it.  Practicing body kindness is just that – a practice.  You will find that you need to work at it.  The more positive energy you put into it, the more positive energy you will generate.   

Here are some final thoughts that may be helpful as you begin your journey to body kindness: 

  • Start with small goals.  Choose one new vegetable or one new recipe to try each week.  Walk for 30 minutes three days a week.  Meditate for 10 minutes every day. 
  • Practice convivial eating.  This means enjoying meals with company and creating an inviting environment for your meal.  Maybe sit down for a family dinner at least 3 nights per week or set the table with flowers.   
  • Move away from diet culture and unrealistic body images.  Focus instead on a healthy lifestyle and nurturing your emotional health. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Lean on your family, friends, or the Unite for HER community. 
  • Find something to be grateful for every day. 
  • Do something for yourself every day.  Take a bath, keep a gratitude journal, read, cook with family/friends, plant an herb garden, have some tea, volunteer, practice spirituality, do something nice for someone, take a nap, practice deep breathing, clean out a closet and donate, try a new exercise, call an old friend.