I want to share with you something that has been helpful in my work with clients, as well as being profoundly helpful to me. A lot of my clients are trying to lose weight. This isn’t really surprising, as trying to lose weight is so common that it is practically an all-American pastime. A lot of us criticize our bodies and criticize ourselves for not having an “ideal body”. I’d like to turn that around and start loving ourselves—we can start by loving our cells.
It is a struggle to eat the SAD diet—that’s the acronym among “healthies” for the standard American diet—while trying to grow healthy and strong. In our culture, we are fed a constant barrage of media images that idealize an unrealistically super-thin woman (Martha Beck once referred to this as a “stick figure with boobs”) and an unrealistically super-cut man with a six-pack. All this while our population balloons to ever-greater BMIs—one of the areas in which the USA leads the world. This causes a lot of us to dislike our bodies and feel bad about ourselves as we don’t appear to “measure up.” The negative body image often leads to shame and hopelessness and a host of other negative feelings.
Having a negative body image is destructive. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with our bodies when that relationship is built on criticism and dislike. And it really isn’t fair to dislike our bodies. Here’s a different perspective on why this is so: Our bodies are made up of 50 trillion cells. Each cell lives for about seven years, and each has a certain kind of job to do in our bodies. Moreover, when those cells are taken out of the body and put in a Petri dish, they will move toward a sugar and away from a poison. In other words, our cells are alive, and they have some kind of intelligence, some consciousness. (For more on the consciousness of cells, read Bruce Lipton’s Biology of Belief).
Now, here’s how this is useful: we can shift the way we think about our bodies. We can learn to honor the cells that make up our bodies, the “50 trillion molecular geniuses” as Jill Bolte Taylor calls them in her most-popular TED talk. We shift from “being” our body to honoring it. This leads to a healthy level of detachment, and it is founded in truth. When we realize that we have a body, rather than mistakenly thinking that we are a body, everything shifts. Those tiny molecular geniuses work hard for us all day, every day. They deserve to have us say good things to say to them. They deserve to be loved an honored.
When we love our cells, we can better love ourselves. Making this shift in how we think of our bodies changes our whole relationship with our bodies. We move out of criticism into love. We love our cells, and begin to love ourselves and to appreciate all our various parts, certainly flawed but special anyway, that make us uniquely us. And that is a profound shift.