Bodyism Part 3

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Unboxing Bodyism, Part Three

“God help you if you are a phoenix

And you dare to rise up from the ash

A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy

While you are just flying past,

“So squint your eyes and look a bit closer

I'm not between you and your ambition

I am a poster girl with no poster

I am 32 flavors and then some,

I am beyond your peripheral vision,’

so you might as well turn your head,

’cuz one day you’re gonna get hungry,

and eat all the words you just said.”

(Dianne Reeves’ version of Ani diFranco’s “32 Flavors”)


What if you were free to make decisions about your health, your food, your exercise and your body without any semblance of shame? What if you made your decisions based solely on the results that you did and did not want in that particular moment? What if each of those decisions included the results you wanted physically, psychologically, relationally, spiritually and emotionally, even when it meant that sometimes you chose what was important in one domain over what was important in the others?

What if you could just be a human, and celebrate the body you have in this moment, even if you decide to work toward changing it?

Once we extract shame from our thinking, we can make better informed and balanced, unboxed choices about our bodies and what we want to do with them. If shame is telling us that we are unacceptable with our bodies in their current condition, unlearning that shame lie is the first order of business. Otherwise, it will ultimately thwart every effort we make, for very healthy reasons.

Many of us are afraid to eschew shame because the part of us believes we are dooming ourselves to being forever unacceptable. The entire equation is off. The state of our bodies does not determine our worth. If we can internalize that truth, we will see and refuse the shame others project onto us.

Acceptance and Change

Our bodies are in the shape they are in because they have been doing their level best to keep us alive in the middle of all that has been thrown at them through the duration of our lives. They are badass! They deserve adoration and praise, regardless of how they line up with what we have been taught we should look like.

If the current state of our survivor bodies is holding us back from the way we want to live, we can choose to make changes to obtain the lifestyle we want. Perhaps our muscles haven’t been used much and they are not strong enough to go for the hike we want to take. Maybe the weight we are carrying overtaxes our joints and makes moving around in our day painful. Maybe we just feel sexier in a body that is more toned and we would prefer embodying that aspect of our personalities. These are choices based on want to, not “have to in order to be acceptable.”

I had a guest blogger, Jenny Lane, cover this point beautifully in July of 2022. Read it here.


One of the insidious byproducts of shame-based learning is that it prompts us to make choices based on what we perceive that we can get away with in that moment, rather than what we ultimately want and don’t want. This can land us in a dizzying, and sometimes torturous inner dialogue. Using an example from food choices, it might sound something like this:

I really want (the thing that isn’t my healthiest physical choice.) I mean, I deserve it right? And besides, one of these isn’t a big deal. It’s just one. Ok, I’m going to eat it, but I’m going to make sure no one sees me eat it, and I’ll hide the evidence. But wait… no… GAH! I’m so weak-willed. Breathe. Drink water. Wait five minutes to see if it passes. I really want the thing. If I just eat the thing I can stop thinking about the thing. Most of all I just want this swirl to stop! Geez! I have the willpower of a toddler! Well, I ate one. Now I want all of them. CRAP! I suck.

Have you ever experienced some iteration of this inner dialogue, (whether over food or something else?)

Those Three Brains

There is so much more to us than our linear thoughts! Sometimes, our linear minds are convinced that we would be healthier and happier in a smaller size, or in a larger size. And yet somehow our efforts to that end fail. Sometimes we don’t get the results we want because we haven’t yet figured out what our unique bodies need. In a world where people make a great deal of money off of our temporarily successful but long-term unsuccessful attempts, it can be extremely complicated to discern our healthiest way of eating and moving. As noted last week, even our doctors can sometimes be dangerously unhelpful in this quest.

Taking shame out of the equation leaves us with much more helpful data to consider. Then, to better understand all of what we want, well beyond our linear intentions, I do a process I call “biolocation” based on interoception. Think back to one of those torturous decision points. Notice the physical sensations that happen as you think about your choices. Notice places of tension, swirl, jitteriness, or whatever else might be there. Notice without interpreting. Now ask yourself what that sensation is telling you.

Biolocation in Action

It takes a little practice, but these body sensations are a very useful window into the rest of what we want. Imagine for instance that when you think about going to a gym, you feel a tightness in your chest. Think about that somewhat literally. If the muscles around your heart and lungs are hard, they are creating a protective shield for those vital functions. What are you feeling a need to protect yourself against?

Perhaps your experiences at gyms in the past has felt like a shame fest, and all of those mirrors around the equipment make it worse. Your “heart” toward yourself needs to be protected. It isn’t wrong! How can you either block the mirrors out of your awareness, or exercise in places that don’t have mirrors? That’s good intel, isn’t it? And what about your lungs? Is something telling you there’s no “breathing room” in this plan? What’s that about? Do you feel like there is room to be yourself, just as you are, in your current workout intention? If not, use that info well and get creative about places and ways you can strengthen and empower your body that are much more accepting and positive.


See it? Your body isn’t fighting you; It’s trying to help you see all of the considerations. “White knuckling” to force yourself to do something that goes against your body wisdom is ultimately a losing proposition. If you are going to meet your intention, two of these three things will need to happen:

  1. You will work through the genuine emotional/psychological obstacles and truly be in a good place with this plan,
  2. You will scale back your pace, and give yourself grace for lower expectations as you build to what you want to see happen,
  3. You will find a different approach that meets your holistic needs better.

Let’s be whole people and seek whole-person wellness. There are a gajillion sociological reasons why we have been steeped in Bodyism. Righting those wrongs is well out of my paygrade. However, we can unlearn it for ourselves and invite others to do the same! You are “32 flavors and then some.” Unbox the lies and celebrate every flavor of you!


For those of you who would like more structured support in unlearning Bodyism, I will be offering 6-session, 12-week virtual “Unboxing Bodyism” coaching groups in the very near future. If you or anyone else you know is interested in participating, drop me a line. I’ll get you on the list. More details to come!