In most of my sessions, I take time to ask about what my client’s goals are. It follows that because I am an eating disorder therapist, that many, if not most, of my clients say that they really want feel comfortable in their bodies.
This typically takes time to unpack. I ask about what being comfortable means to my clients, what this would look like, and what this would feel like. And usually we don’t talk about this just in the first session. I find that most people stare back at me when I ask them more about it, and say “I’m just not comfortable now, and I want to be comfortable.” They expect me to know what they mean.
And, I DO know what they mean. As a recovered therapist myself, I too experienced years of feeling uncomfortable, in pain, or completely disconnected from my own body. Because we live in a society that continues to warn us about weight gain and continues to advocate weight loss by any means necessary, it’s hard to imagine that many people actually feel totally comfortable in their bodies at all times.
The problem is not that we all want to be comfortable in our bodies. Instead, it’s that the tools we have been given, including diets, exercise plans, apps that monitor food intake, you name it… serve to disconnect us from our bodies rather than help us actually LIVE in our bodies.
You cannot be comfortable when you are disconnected. There is no comfort in self-hate. There is no comfort in constantly beating yourself up.
And, of course I take that back a teensy bit. Many of my clients have found comfort in their disordered eating patterns. Disordered eating is familiar and keeps things (seemingly) in control. And yet as soon as something goes awry, be it the diet, an emotion, or a trigger, the discomfort, panic, and even disgust/self hate comes FLOODING in. So, that’s not real comfortable either.
Instead, I see meeting the goal of being “comfortable” in your body as a bit paradoxical. In order to be comfortable, I believe the first step is being willing to be uncomfortable. In order to feel in charge and at peace, you may consider being willing to begin to experience and feel what your body actually feels.
It means experiencing your body, right here right now, no matter what your size or shape.
There is no body weight, body shape, or body size that anyone arrives at that suddenly makes them feel “comfortable.” If you have dieted your way there, you are likely pretty hungry/deprived, which doesn’t sound very comfortable to me. If you have spent hours and hours at the gym sculpting those muscles, you’ve likely missed out on important relationships or other fun things, which also doesn’t sound very comfortable. You may be constantly sore, constantly thinking about food, or your body may be breaking down. All not very comfortable.
And again, I say the above with a caveat. Weight stigma is SO INCREDIBLY REAL. I understand that our messed up culture somehow cannot seem to create airline seats that fit a variety of sizes. Chair arms that dig into your sides is not comfortable. People saying hurtful comments about your size is not comfortable. Having to pay more for clothing because many stores don’t sell your size is not comfortable.
And yet, the problem is not you nor your body.
In order to feel more comfortable, you may consider pausing and recognizing that your clothes feel too tight right now, and (money permitting) buy a few pieces that are soft and fit well, rather than vowing to lose weight! In order to feel more comfortable you may consider being willing to feel anxiety or fear as you eat a nourishing and delicious meal. In order to feel more comfortable you may consider apologizing to yourself for all of the mean comments you’ve said about your body, and take the “risk” of saying something nice. In order to feel more comfortable, you may consider feeling your anger about how society actually treats fat people, and do some advocacy work. You may consider moving your body in a way that feels absolutely joyful rather than punishing yourself or for weight loss. You may consider having a really good cry because you’ve had a hard week. You may consider patting yourself on the back for simply surviving a really shitty time. You may consider speaking up and telling your family member that no, they don’t need to comment on your weight or your body.
There’s no right plan or formula that helps us feel comfortable in our bodies. We never “arrive” at feeling comfortable for ever and ever for the rest of our lives. It’s a practice of coming back to being willing to feel the discomfort, being willing to take care of ourselves as best we can in that moment given the constraints, and being kind kind kind to ourselves.
As a final thought, I recognize that traumatic, oppressive, and stigmatizing experiences, can make it not only difficult but actually impossible for people to connect with their bodies. Feeling your feelings, including the pain of trauma, is not always a good, helpful, or even accessible option. Making a choice to continue distracting, avoid those experiences, and help yourself as best you can is also a major self-care win. You and only you get to decide when it is safe enough to begin to move in the direction of experiencing.
Sending love to you all.