How to move through body grief

Move through body grief

If you’re struggling with distress and discomfort on your body acceptance journey, you’re not alone.

The grief that inevitably pops up when you stop chasing the elusive perfect body can be painful.

So, in this post, I explore:

  • Why you can’t bypass grief if you want to stop hating your body
  • The key mistake clients make about body acceptance
  • Why discomfort is an important part of your healing journey
  • A three-step process to help you move through body grief

Listen or read below:

Want to know more about body grief?

This post is the third, and final post in a series on body grief.

In Body grief – how to let go of the ‘perfect’ body, I explain what body grief means, and in How to navigate the 5 stages of body grief, I explore the five stages of body grief in detail.

So, if you haven’t already seen these, I suggest you check them out before diving into this post.

Moving on from body hate

If you want to move away from body hate, you must move through body grief.

Clients often expect to arrive at body acceptance without feeling any discomfort along the way.

Unfortunately, this isn’t possible because there’s no destination called ‘body acceptance’.

Body acceptance is a daily practice that you must keep practising.

You’re not going to arrive at a magical place where you never feel any discomfort about your body again – that’s just not realistic.

You must move through body grief when practising acceptance.

What it means to move through body grief

So, what does it mean to move through body grief?

Well, let’s look at an example…

You’re fed up hating your body

Say that you’re fed up hating your body. You’ve tried every diet or other means to fix what you don’t like about your body, but you still don’t feel any better about yourself.

So, you decide you want to stop chasing the ideal beauty standard, accept the body you’re in, and get on with living your life.

You don’t want to be constantly stressing about how your body looks and what other people think about it.

So far, so good! But…

A side effect of acceptance is body grief

But, a natural side effect of giving up on the fantasy of the perfect body is body grief – a sense of sorrow at the loss of the body you dreamed of, and the life you thought you’d have because of it.

And because body grief is easily triggered by diet, beauty, and fitspo culture, as you practice body acceptance and move through body grief, you might experience:

  • Feeling you’ve lost control of your body
  • The fear of what other people will think of your body now
  • Missing the validation you used to get from having a smaller or younger body
  • Discomfort at seeing yourself in pictures and mirrors
  • Needing to justify your body to others

Because these experiences are distressing, you may be tempted to go back to diets or other ways to change your body to get rid of the discomfort. Sound familiar?

Moving through body grief is uncomfortable

I see this with clients all the time. The main reason they struggle to move through body grief is they mistake acceptance for meaning they’ll like their looks.

And, when the grief is uncomfortable, they feel like they’re doing something wrong.

The reality is that acceptance is acknowledging your reality, even if it doesn’t feel nice.

Practising acceptance requires you to move through body grief – to fully experience the discomfort without denying it or trying to fix it.

If you think about someone who is suffering a bereavement, you wouldn’t try to deny their experience or fix their grief because there is nothing you can do to fix it.

It’s the same with body grief. You must allow the pain in so you can find relief.

Sitting with the discomfort allows distress and shame in. Despite what you might fear, these feelings won’t last forever. They dissipate only when you allow them in and stop trying to ‘fix’ them.

How to move through body grief

So how can you sit with your distress and move through body grief rather than trying to fix or deny it?

I’ve got a three-step process for you to try. You can use a journal to work through these steps, or talk it through with a friend or someone you trust:

1. Notice the grief

What grief are you experiencing with your body right now? For example, maybe you heard some friends talking about how much weight they lost on their latest diet, and you’re worried that you’ve lost control of your body and what others will think of you.

2. What’s the worst part about this grief?

For example, is it a flood of negative thoughts, or images, an uncomfortable physical sensation, a sense of disconnection from yourself, or feelings of deep shame? What’s the worst thing about it for you?

3. What do you most need right now?

What will help you to express and sit with the grief? For example, a good cry, cuddling a loved one or pet, talking to a friend or family member, grounding yourself in nature to help allow your feelings in?

Remember, it may not feel comfortable to sit with the feelings, and that’s okay. The goal with this process is to be okay with NOT being okay.

Even though this process won’t feel comfortable, at the end of it, you may notice a sense of relief from acknowledging and expressing your distress.

Denying difficult feelings about your body only pushes you back towards body hate, so it’s vital that you find ways to move through body grief as you continue to practice body acceptance.

I’d love to hear how you found this process, so please leave a comment below.

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