Do you ever feel disconnected from your body? Like the two of you are separate entities? Or more like enemies?
In college, I used to have many moments when my body would feel foreign. My body just didn’t feel like my own, and I’d walk around in a haze. These feelings were especially palpable on the nights I’d overeat, when I felt like I was outside my body. When I knew I was ingesting tons of calories and crap but somehow, at the time, I felt so detached that I didn’t care. Now thinking about it, I was too focused on soothing the pain.
Other times, I’d tense up, feel overwhelmed and want to run — run right out of my body. I felt suffocated by what I interpreted as layers and layers of fat.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
If you’ve ever felt this way or just wanted to feel more comfortable in your own skin, here are several suggestions for reconnecting with your body.
1. Do yoga. I enjoy many different kinds of exercise, but I’ve found that no other physical activity has connected me to my body like yoga. Yoga forces me to slow down, to be in the present, to treat my body gently and to truly feel my body (if that makes sense).
I also think that yoga teaches us to be kinder to our bodies – instead of viewing them as adversaries, punching bags or unworthy entities we need to mold and manipulate.
Here’s an article from Yoga Journal on how yoga can make us feel happy in our own skin, and better appreciate our bodies. My favorite part of the article is when a yoga teacher talks about our amazing feet (yes, feet!).
“My instructor would start the class talking about what an amazing structure the foot is, how it roots us to the earth. Then she would guide a self-massage of the foot and encourage us to revel in each sensation,” Starr recalls. “She asked us to be conscious of how it felt to walk down the street, where our weight hit, how it shifted, and to recognize the small miracle of walking. All of that allowed me to think of my body not as something that needed to be changed or that had to be punished but as a vessel that could carry me through anything.”
2. Notice your body. Golda Poretsky, who owns and operates Body Love Wellness, shared a great tip in her Weightless interview on loving our bodies, and I think it’s especially helpful for reconnecting with them, too.
…The next time you take a shower or put on body lotion, do it really slowly. Do it at least three times as slowly as you normally would. Pay attention to what you’re doing, the way your skin feels as you touch it, the type of pressure that you like, the way your muscles soften or contract in response, the way your skin changes color ever so slightly. You can do this wordlessly, or just say a word or two, like “beautiful” or “love” or even hum a bit. This is going to feel so different than your usual shower or lotion application session. Notice how your body feels as you move throughout the day. Often, you’ll feel sexier, more relaxed, etc. It’s a beautiful way to instill body love right into your body.
3. Communicate with your body. Get into your body’s mind. What I mean by that is consider what your body goes through every time you start and end a diet or any time you bash it. One way to talk to your body is by writing a letter. I’m seriously in love with this letter that Sally McGraw of Already Pretty wrote to her body. An excerpt:
You have kept me safe from major illness and injury my whole life. Despite coming from a family that boasts both poor genetics and poor lifestyle choices, you have managed to preserve me from any sort of dire health situation. And despite spectacular clumsiness, you’ve bounced back from every tumble and scrape. In fact, you seem to possess an almost superhuman ability to adapt – to the point that I need to stock and rotate 3 types of deodorant lest you become immune within a matter of weeks and make me stink to high heaven. You also go to great lengths to heal. You are so determined to keep me safe that you actually produce an overabundance of scar tissue. You have kept me healthy and strong for 31 years.
And I have repaid you with indifference.
You have reacted with resilience to every diet and exercise regimen that has been inflicted upon you. From junk food and laziness, to South Beach and perfunctory gym visits, to Lean Cuisines and frenzied biking, you have adapted and shifted and transformed. You have slimmed down, gained muscle mass, reverted to squish, and everything in between.
And I have repaid you with revulsion.
Towards the end, she makes a promise to her body, something you might consider doing, too. She writes:
I hope to remain in conversation with you, and I hope to keep learning. And in learning, I hope to accept. And in acceptance, I hope to eventually hack out a path toward love.
4. Remember that you are whole. Remember that you aren’t your inner thighs or your less-than muscular middle. In an interview on Weightless, eating disorder survivor and advocate Kendra Sebellius talks about the connection and empowerment she felt when she stopped seeing herself as separate parts.
In treatment I was forced to look in the mirror naked – which at the time was terrifying. But the more I did it, the more I saw myself as a whole person.
I focus on seeing my body as a whole unit, versus chopping up who I am based on arms, thighs, neck, stomach, face, etc.
5. Take a breather. Stop whatever you’re doing and listen. Ask yourself: What am I feeling? Am I anxious, angry, annoyed, exhausted? Years ago, what I interpreted as a disgusting body overwhelmed by fat was really a body — and mind — overwhelmed by sad and frustrated feelings.
Also, ask yourself what your body needs right now. When you don’t listen to your body and what it requires that’s when you feel most disconnected. Attending to your body’s needs helps you reconnect to it. When you listen to your body, you acknowledge it, you give it a voice. Nourishing your body with food when it’s hungry, taking a few deep breaths because you feel your body tensing up are all ways to feel closer to your body and reconnect with it.
Have you felt squirmy and tense in your own skin? What helps you feel better? What helps you connect to your body?