How to feel better about your body after cancer
In this post, I explore what you can do to feel better about your body after cancer if you’re struggling to come to terms with it.
I share three ways to help you accept your body changes and feel better about your body after cancer.
Listen or read below:
Cancer and body image
This post is the second in a two-part series on cancer and body image. In Cancer and Body Image, I explored:
- The impact of cancer on body image.
- How to validate what you’re currently feeling about your body.
- Why positivity can be toxic, invalidating, and unhelpful!
- Real life experiences of clients dealing with cancer and body image concerns.
So, if you haven’t already read that post, I suggest you go to Cancer and Body Image before diving into this one.
How to feel better about your body after cancer
Recently, I’ve been working with some clients in recovery from cancer who are struggling with their body image.
They all want to accept their post cancer body, but find it difficult.
Through coaching, they’re discovering key strategies and perspectives to help them feel better about their body after cancer, and I’ve got three of those to share with you here:
Process your body grief
Body grief is the sense of loss you experience at no longer having the body you once had, and all the things you believed you could be, have or do with that body.
An important part of being able to practice acceptance for the body you’re in is to acknowledge how you feel about it now – to be brutally honest about that – to sit with the discomfort of how that feels.
So, if you feel that your body has let you down, or that it’s unattractive or weak, you need to acknowledge that. You need to experience the emotions this brings up.
It’s only when you can tolerate these feelings, that you can find acceptance on the other side of them.
Body grief is a natural part of cancer, so it’s important to allow it to take its natural cycle.
Denying the grief and layering forced positivity over it is toxic. While I’m all for healthy, balanced thinking, ‘positive thinking’ that totally denies reality is toxic and unhelpful.
I talk a lot more about body grief and how you can process it in the Body Grief Series.
How to move through body grief deals with how to process body grief.
Watch your language
While it’s important to allow space for your grief and voice negative thoughts and emotions, continued use of language that implies your body is ‘broken’ or a ‘failure’ won’t help you to feel better about your body after cancer treatment.
This kind of language long term leads to frustration and feelings of depression and anger.
However, I’m not suggesting that you use positive language that you don’t believe (hello, toxic positivity!).
But it is possible to acknowledge your reality whilst using balanced/neutral language that lends perspective to your situation.
So, instead of saying your body is broken, you might say, “My body has been through a tough time and it’s doing its best to heal”.
Or, if you feel that your body has been mutilated, you might say, “My body has been through life changing surgery, and it doesn’t look like it did before. I’m doing my best to accept these changes.”
These phrases are not denying reality, but they are finding a more neutral way to talk about your body, which is key to feeling better about it.
Beware the wellness trap
Diet and wellness culture try to convince us that the way we eat and move, and the supplements we take, have a direct (causal) impact on our health.
As a result, some cancer patients blame themselves for their diagnosis. I’ve seen this with clients who believe they wouldn’t have cancer if they were thinner or ate ‘cleaner’.
That’s when I know that diet and wellness culture shapes their beliefs about health and wellness. They’ve latched onto the (spurious) belief that we have total control over our health.
But logically, how can that be the case? There are no guarantees. You could do all the supposed ‘right’ things for your health and still get cancer (I’ve sadly seen this with friends).
The reality is that there are many, many determinants of health, not least our DNA – over which we have no control.
Wellness culture is just as sneaky as diet culture. It’s invested in you believing you can control your health because it sells supplements, smoothies, whatever!
So, be mindful of what you believe about health and wellness, because putting the blame on yourself won’t help your treatment go well or to feel better about your body after cancer.
If you’d like to explore this further, I’d recommend Christy Harrison’s book, “The Wellness Trap”.
So, that’s three strategies to help you feel better about your body after cancer. I’d love to hear which of these resonated most with you. Please leave a comment below.