Body Love is Learned

by Glenys Oyston, RD;

I work with women who have dieted for years and years, and along with developing disordered eating, now have fractured relationships with their bodies. But guess what? Body dissatisfaction is learned, and if you can learn it, you can unlearn it too. 

Dieting is a way that many of us try to improve how we feel about our bodies. Trying to lose weight is tempting because it offers us a direct path to societal acceptance, and therefore, we hope, to self-acceptance. Sadly, this path comes with a major caveat: most weight loss attempts are temporary at best.  

So, we know that diets are not actually the path to body love. Then what is? 

As I tell my clients, achieving body acceptance is work. Hard work. But unlike the work of dieting, eventually, you learn something fruitful and sustainable. Many of us start out with some learned notions that only one type of body is beautiful or acceptable. This is incorrect, and we know this from looking at other modern-day societies where larger bodies are seen as beautiful. Body preferences are learned and arbitrary 

Start with normalizing bodies of different sizes and shapes by seeking out positive images of larger people. I found fat fashion blogs the best resource for this. FabUplus Magazine is also an excellent resource. I was in the middle of a bad-body-week when my last issue came and by the final page, I feeling fabulous and ready to rock something sparkly.  

Then it’s time to normalize your body to you. Spend some time in front of the mirror trying to see yourself without judgment. Start with body parts that are more neutral for you (like wrists; does anyone really hate their wrists?!) and move on from there. Challenge negative thoughts and find positive thoughts to replace them.  

Whatever you do to feel better about your body, do it often. You’re retraining your brain after years of anti-body messages, so doing this frequently is a necessity.  

You’ve only got one body for your whole life; learn to appreciate it and you’ll find that body love is possible. 


Glenys Oyston is a registered dietitian and eating coach who teaches people to eat without drama. Find her at
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