Body Compassion – What Is It and How Do We Start a Practice?

Life is already complicated, why restrict yourself? She wanted to create a platform for open discussion on nutrition and wellness topics, considering all the information circulating around these days. Was she always interested in nutrition? No. In the not so long ago past she worked in the fashion industry and hated it. (Joke to herself: She got a B.S in Fashion Merchandising…get it?) She decided to make a change, go back to school and became involved in food policy and public health. Update: She loves what she does and wants to share as much as possible. Check out her work and learn more here.

Body compassion is the practice of cultivating a kind and understanding attitude towards one’s body. It focuses on bringing attention to our own feelings and emotions, and recognizing that our body is a part of us, not something separate from ourselves. 

Body compassion also involves acceptance of the body for what it is – not what we think it should be or how it looks to others.

Body shaming can make us feel guilty or embarrassed about our body, and that can be deeply damaging. It can make you hate yourself, leading to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. Body shaming very commonly can turn into the restrict-binge eating cycle, because people believe that restriction is the way to change their body shape, even though those restrictive diets have an 83% failure rate.

However, when we practice body compassion, it encourages self-acceptance and encourages us to be kinder. You are able to break out of the cycle of negativity. The practice encourages us to recognize our worth as an individual rather than just focusing on physical appearance.

How Do We Practice Body Compassion?

A lady meditating in sunlight.

Body compassion starts with reflecting self-kindness and self-care. It is a practice of becoming more aware of what our body needs, and taking steps to meet those needs. Especially for anyone who struggles with body image issues, or even self-esteem issues, developing body compassion is an important practice. 

It encourages us to be kinder and more understanding towards ourselves, rather than relying on unrealistic standards of beauty set by the media or the society. It also helps us recognize our worth and value as individuals, instead of just focusing on physical appearance. Practicing body compassion can lead to increased confidence and self-acceptance, a healthier relationship with food, improved body image, and more overall happiness.

Take Small Steps at First

It is important to remember that developing body compassion is a process and it won’t happen overnight. We can start by taking small steps, such as speaking kindly to ourselves when we look in the mirror or engaging in physical activities that make us feel good.

Love Your Body – No Matter What Shape We’re In

Body compassion begins with awareness. It is important to pay attention to how you talk about your body. Believing that our bodies are not “good enough” – that they must be changed in order to be accepted can be damaging. We have to unlearn this belief that’s perpetuated by diet culture and unrealistic social standards, and recognize that all bodies are beautiful, regardless of size or shape.

Recognize Feelings and Emotions

We can start to practice body compassion by recognizing our own feelings and emotions about our body, without judgment or criticism. Bring attention to your physical sensations – the way your body feels when you move it or when you’re still – without attaching a “positive” or “negative” label. Just feel the vibe. Treat your body with respect and care while focusing on positive.

Avoid negative self-talk and comparing ourselves to other people. Instead, focus on what your body can do for you: the things that bring you joy, pleasure, and satisfaction. Try out yoga or meditation that help us connect with our body and cultivate a feeling of self-love, even just breathing slowly or the simplest yoga poses, our body movement is an amazing concoction of nature and gives us those good feelings. Other activities that bring you joy and make you feel good about yourself can also include anything from going for a walk in nature to trying out a new hobby.

Acknowledge Negative Thoughts:

Another step to practicing body compassion is acknowledging our negative thoughts about ourselves and our bodies.

We need to recognize that these thoughts are only a reflection of external beliefs that we’ve internalized and made our own, and they’re not necessarily true. Once we can do this, it becomes easier to replace those negative thoughts with more positive and accepting ones.

Focus on Function:

Rather than focusing on how our body looks, try to focus on what it can do. Reminding ourselves that our body is capable of amazing feats and small miracles everyday (even just standing upright is a miracle in the animal kingdom) and focus on all the ways it allows us to experience life.

This can be anything from running a marathon to simply enjoying the feeling of your feet on the ground.

Recognize That Our Bodies Are Not Static – Bodies Change:

It’s important to remind ourselves that our bodies are ever-changing and evolving. Bodies change through the natural course of life, and this should be celebrated, not shamed.

Furthermore, our bodies are capable of amazing things—they allow us to experience life from bearing kids, work and still having energy to enjoy what life has to offer.

3 woman with posters representing body positivity.

How Can We Create Our Body Compassion Practice?

A body compassion practice can be as simple and involve setting aside some time per day or week to commit yourself to this form of healing. It may involve meditation, journaling, and affirmations. We can also start by focusing on our breathing – taking slow deep breaths and noticing how our body feels in each moment. Additionally, engaging in activities that bring us joy is a powerful way to cultivate body kindness. Below is some inspiration for what your body compassion practice may look like.

Making Rituals

Making rituals and committing to them can be an important part of your body compassion practice. This can involve taking some time each day to do something that brings you joy, like listening to your favorite music or going for a walk in nature. Examples of rituals you can include in your routine include:

Journaling: Journaling is a good way to engage with your body and cultivate self-compassion. Write down any thoughts or feelings you have about your body and be sure to include positive affirmations, alongside honest reflections. Once you’ve written down thoughts, taking that extra little moment to ask yourself how what you wrote makes you feel can be a great avenue to exploring what will give you the most compassion for your body.

Affirmations: Positive affirmations are a powerful way to create a more compassionate relationship with our body. Write down some statements that remind you of how amazing your body is and say them out loud every morning when you wake up or before you go to bed.

Regular Mindfulness Practice: Engaging in joyful activities fosters body kindness. Examples include walks, yoga, stretching, hot baths, reading, or swimming. Taking regular moments for these activities is key. Daily practice is ideal, but starting with small, weekly steps, like every Sunday or Friday, is also beneficial. This helps establish a meaningful routine. After each mindfulness session, reflect on the positive changes and feelings experienced. These observations can guide and reinforce the practice, making it enjoyable and less chore-like.

Write a Letter to Your Body

Writing a letter to your body is another way to cultivate an attitude of self-compassion and appreciation. This can be done in the form of a journaling or even just jotting down some thoughts on a piece of paper. Write about anything that comes to mind – from acknowledging your own feelings and emotions towards your body, to expressing gratitude for all it does for you. Remember – all thoughts that feel true are worthy of writing, suspend any disbelief, and just find the pen or keyboard connecting with your heart. 

Examples may include:

A love letter to your body, expressing appreciation and gratitude. Express acceptance for your body, and let go of any negative thoughts you have about yourself. Love letters to your body can be a powerful way to cultivate appreciation and acceptance for our bodies.

An apology letter to your body, recognizing any mistreatment or neglect. That means acknowledge any pain or discomfort your body has experienced and send healing energy to it. It may sound different, but when you look at your own writing, about your own body, you’ll likely have a feeling that helps you see your values, and lead you to an awareness of the ways you can be kind and compassionate to your body.

Explore Your Intentions

Take some time to reflect on why you want to cultivate a body acceptance practice. What are your intentions for this journey? What are your feelings around embodiment? Exploring our intentions can help us better understand our motivations and feelings towards practicing body kindness. It also enables us to better understand the benefits of practicing body-kindness in order to stay committed to our practice. You can delve into these questions to for better understanding:

  • What does embodiment mean to you?
  • What are the barriers between you and encompassing your body?
  • What does self-compassion mean to you?
  • Can you recall a time, maybe in childhood, when you felt carefree of how people see you and you were at peace within your body? Does the feeling differ from the way you feel now?
  • Do you have any role model who embodies body kindness that you can look to for guidance? What do you appreciate about them, and how can you use the resources to your own body?
  • Are you feeling appreciation or gratitude for your body that you’ve not felt previously?

Exploring these questions can help us gain insight into our own experiences, and take steps towards cultivating body compassion.

Bottom Line

Body compassion is an important practice for especially for anyone and every one, especially those who struggle with body image or self-esteem issues. It encourages us to be kinder and more understanding towards ourselves, rather than relying on unrealistic standards of beauty set by the media or society. Practicing body kindness can help us break out of the cycle of negativity and low self-esteem, and instead recognize our worth.