Body Kindness

Transform Your Health from the Inside Out--and Never Say Diet Again


By Rebecca Scritchfield

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Create a healthier and happier life by treating yourself with compassion rather than shame.

Imagine a graph with two lines. One indicates happiness, the other tracks how you feel about your body. If you’re like millions of people, the lines do not intersect. But what if they did?

This practical, inspirational, and visually lively book shows you the way to a sense of well-being attained by understanding how to love, connect, and care for yourself—and that includes your mind as well as your body.

Body Kindness is based on four principles.
WHAT YOU DO: the choices you make about food, exercise, sleep, and more
HOW YOU FEEL: befriending your emotions and standing up to the unhelpful voice in your head
WHO YOU ARE: goal-setting based on your personal values
WHERE YOU BELONG: body-loving support from people and communities that help you create a meaningful life

With mind and body exercises to keep your energy spiraling up and prompts to help you identify what YOU really want and care about, Body Kindness helps you let go of things you can't control and embrace the things you can by finding the workable, daily steps that fit you best. It's the anti-diet book that leads to a more joyful and meaningful life.


Part One

What You Do

Body Kindness Is a Choice

Chapter 1

Choosing Body Kindness

The Path to Transforming Your Health


Each positive choice you make is a little investment in your health and happiness. When you use the power of choice, you can change how you feel in order to influence the next decision you make. Choices have a way of building on one another, giving you more energy to take care of what's important and helping you avoid choice traps—situations that can sabotage your decision-making. Body kindness choices should fit your personality and help you feel good. Thankfully, body kindness isn't about making perfect choices all the time. It's about connecting with your body to make loving and caring decisions that eventually take over your life in the form of enjoyable habits.

Body Kindness Pillars

Make the Choice That Matters Most

Love: Do what you love. Choices that fit your interests, personality, and preferences are good choices and they are the best way to express self-love.

Connect: Connect to your body. Be flexible enough to change your decisions based on how you feel, what you think your body needs, and what matters to you most.

Care: Every health choice you make, big and small, is evidence that you care about improving your well-being.

Set Up Your Body Kindness “Comfort Zone”

Think about the term “body kindness” and create your own definition with examples of what it means to you. Use the manifesto as a guide to think about the ways in which you want to practice body kindness more consistently.

With your definition in hand, you have a starting point for decision-making. Now, start tearing down obstacles. Detox yourself from dieting and appearance-focused influences that don't make you feel good or don't help you cultivate a better life. Break up with your old ways and set up a clean slate for body kindness. It's like a colonic for your mind—except this one is free and it works!

Spiral Up

Think about the power of choice. Notice how choices have the potential to lift you up, energize you, and make you feel great. Also notice how some choices don't seem to deliver lasting rewards that are meaningful to you.

The Body Kindness Cleanse

Break up with your scale. Write a note to your scale, saying something along the lines of “I love myself more than you. You're the manipulative frenemy I never wanted.” Tape the note on your scale. Store your scale away. Or skip the letter and take a hammer to your scale. (Stress release is a bonus!) Donating it to Goodwill is another option.

Cleanse yourself from “diet talk.” This includes conversations with friends and family, and avoiding certain websites, social media, articles, TV shows, etc. Unsubscribe from emails that make you feel bad about yourself and clutter your psyche. Put magazines in the recycling bin or donate them to the nail salon.

Put away the diet plans. Trash or donate anything that resembles a weight loss program. Forget about those calorie-counting, low-carb, fat-free diet books. This stuff does not help you be kind to your body. Replace them with recipes and meals you enjoy.

Banish diet foods. Get rid of anything that has been altered to look like a “health food.” Double-fiber cookies, spray butter, those low-carb “miracle noodles” that reek of rotten fish—say good-bye to all of them. Replace them with a variety of wholesome foods you crave.

Hide your calorie trackers. Our accuracy for estimating calorie intake stinks, and it's a major distraction from sensing your body's natural ways of regulating what you eat.

Shift energy with sage smudging. Burning sage—aka smudging—is an ancient practice to get rid of negative energy. You can smudge yourself, your house, your kitchen, or any sacred space that needs to be rid of diet demons. You can also pray, give a blessing, or ask someone to do it for you. These rituals can boost motivation and confidence as you start fresh.

24 hours of health & happiness

you can be healthier and happier in just one day

Make Better Choices Instantly

Saying choices matter feels like I'm stating the obvious. But despite what we may know, we don't always make helpful choices. Just choosing to practice body kindness is already sending you down a more joyful path. Getting started can be as simple as finding opportunities to change, tweak, or tinker with your choice options. When it comes to decision-making leading to habits, the easier the choice, the better. (Your brain is pretty lazy and prefers to conserve its thinking energy.) But you have to find the ways you can work with your brain to make the choices you really want.

Most of the time you know when you're not being kind to your body, because you feel it. Quiet down and listen, and you may hear your inner caregiver. She's probably saying something like, “Hey, it feels pretty crappy when you stay up late binge-watching Scandal episodes.” But old habits die hard, and you may need some reinforcement to better understand how powerful the simplest choices can be. One way to do this is to ask yourself the universal body kindness question: “Is this helping to create a better life for myself?” You don't need a perfect plan to start asking questions and raising your awareness about all the opportunities you have to practice body kindness. The change begins as soon as you start making different choices, and in some cases, it really is that simple for you to be on the body kindness path. Let easy be easy.

Choosing Happiness: The Strongest Way to Healthy Habits

Two mind-blowing happiness facts: You have much more control over your happiness than you think, and the things you think will make you happier probably won't. Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, has found 40 percent of happiness can be cultivated by daily choices. More money or time, weight loss, youthful looks, and even parenthood or overcoming a major illness have been shown to have little to no long-term effect on happiness in research studies. These life circumstances represent only 10 percent of what makes you happy. The remaining 50 percent is your genetic happiness set point.

These statistics were life-changing for me. When I began to study positive psychology, I was already fully committed in my career to helping people enjoy a better life by building healthful habits, and I thought to myself, “Is it really that simple? Could I help my clients become happier just by helping them make daily choices that would bring them more joy and satisfaction?” On the flip side, I wondered, “Would adopting a healthier lifestyle be quicker, easier, and more effective if my clients were happier?” When I dug further into research, the answer I got was a resounding YES! In fact, I figured out that feeling good, being kind to your body, and being happy are all equally important for long-lasting change. Here's why it works:

Happy people tend to value kindness, gratitude, compassion, spirituality, and optimism. This mindset applies both to their relationships with other people and to themselves, increasing the likelihood they will make new habits stick.

Happy people have more positive emotions. They notice the “good stuff” when it's happening and they savor it.

Happy people set meaningful goals by allowing their values to guide ideas and decisions they feel deeply committed to.

Happy people are more resilient. They can bounce back from adversity when it arises and are less likely to sabotage their goals when emotionally distressed.

Happy people celebrate improvement and don't expect perfection. The satisfaction they feel allows them to enjoy the journey as they get even closer to their goals.

Body Kindness Choices Build Upward Spirals

Positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, first used the term “upward spiral” as a metaphor for growing happiness, based on evidence that well-being is optimized by gradually building positive emotions one by one, on top of one another. This is similar to the way negative experiences seem to create a downward emotional spiral. For example, a disappointment can make you feel sad and make the workday seem longer, traffic seem worse, and negative feelings multiply, closing you up emotionally and making you feel like you're alone on Woe-Is-Me Island. Fredrickson teaches that upward spirals can do the opposite. Positive experiences open you up, broaden your perspective, and expand your curiosity as each positive emotion you feel builds on those before it, growing your happiness state.

I believe that you can exponentially grow your health and happiness by layering body kindness choices on one another. The upward spiral you create pulls energy into your life, and your positive thoughts, feelings, and choices fuel one another and keep this powerful energy spiraling up. With this mindset, food, exercise, sleep, downtime, and other decisions are energy giving, not expending. You transfer accrued energy to the people and things you care deeply about and enhance your life in the process, becoming the best version of yourself. If you feel your energy levels depleting, you can make restorative choices.

The beautiful thing about upward spirals is you don't need a lot of time or energy to get them going. You can make a decision—or just have a thought—that grows your upward spiral or changes the trajectory of a downward spiral in an instant. If you get caught in a downward spiral, make the easiest body kindness choice you can think of and start spiraling up again from there. You can literally say, “Wait, this day isn't going the way I wanted it to. What's one small thing I can do right now to be kind to my body?” Then do it. For example, if you're sitting at your desk getting lost on social media when you should be finishing a project, the first step is to catch yourself in the act, and then do one thing that changes the course of your energy. Get up and do ten jumping jacks, pour yourself a glass of water, or just say “Stop, I don't really want this right now.” If you're in the midst of a difficult phone call that's making you feel crappy, finish the call while doing laps around the house. If you've already pulled out the ice cream, you can still stop and wait to enjoy it another time when you're not so hotheaded. You'll receive a powerful emotional boost each time you connect to your body and make a choice that is more caring and helpful in the moment.

How do you know when you're in a downward spiral? If you find yourself caught in a pattern of choices that you feel bad about, something isn't right. Check in with your thoughts and feelings. Take a few minutes to rewind your day—without judgment—and notice what happened that led up to your mood. No matter where you are in a downward spiral, the moment you notice what's happening is the best time to flip it upward. I've had daylong downward spirals I didn't notice until right before bed that I tracked back to my first thoughts and feelings of the day. Recognizing that I needed some serious nurturing, I'd pour a cup of tea, write in my journal, take a bath, or do something that felt like a little hug. These choices lead to better feelings, better choices, and better days.

Spiral Up

Plan Upward Spirals

Open up your journal and draw curved lines in the shape of a funnel or tornado, with the smallest line at the bottom of the page. Each line above it should get bigger, with the largest line at the top of the funnel. Using this design, start at the bottom and write one body kindness decision that makes you feel good. Write down what you do and how you usually feel. Then add another body kindness choice and feeling to it, and so on, going up the spiral. “When I [self-care choice], it makes me feel [emotion].” Continue all the way up your spiral, building one positive choice and feeling on top of the other. As you start to imagine all this goodness, think about how it impacts other important areas of your life. Write down any phrases that come up in your mind, such as “My creativity comes alive,” “I'm more optimistic,” or “I'm a better friend.” By reflecting on the ways you can spiral up, you will become more aware of opportunities to make choices that are right for you.

7 Ways to Start Your Day Spiraling Up

What you do first in the day can set your mood, boost your energy, and get that upward spiral going.

If you don't have a morning ritual you love, try one of these seven ideas or create your own. Practice the daily rituals for a month to see for yourself if they help you start—and stay—positive.

1Strike a “power pose.” Stand in front of the mirror, smile, and raise your arms over your head like Wonder Woman. Say something positive like, “I am strong!” or “I will be kind to my body today!” three times. Change up the poses in between if you feel like it. The book Presence by Amy Cuddy, PhD, suggests that the power pose flips a switch in your brain from negative thinking to positive thinking. Your body stances can literally change your mind.

2Take some deep breaths. Find your favorite comfortable spot to sit, then close your eyes. Inhale deeply, allowing your chest and abdomen to expand. Imagine the day's new, fresh sunlight filling each of your cells. As you exhale completely and fully, imagine yourself cleansing within, creating space for whatever the day brings. Release anything from yesterday and prepare for a new day. Focused breathing elicits a relaxation response, impacting your heart, brain, digestive system, and immunity, which is an ideal way to start the day!

3Spread gratitude. Thank your daily helpers—your childcare provider, the bus driver, your barista—for their hard work. Make a new friend while you're in line for coffee. Say good morning to a stranger. Surprise the person behind you by buying his coffee. Human connections make everyone feel good.

4Ten minutes of stillness. Snuggle with your partner or your pet, or just relax by yourself. Breathe calmly and notice things. When you practice directing your mind in a relaxed state, you strengthen your awareness capabilities, which can save you from downward spirals.

5Inversion therapy. Doing a headstand, handstand, or forward bend, or even hanging your head off the side of your bed gives an invigorating, healthy head rush. Get up slowly!

6Let the sun shine in. Eat breakfast by a window or outside for a boost in your brain's serotonin level, which is linked with improved mood. Listen to the birds chirping or other signs of an energetic, living world just outside your door.

7Seek to be inspired. Start each morning with a quote or meditation that sets the tone for your day. The power of our thoughts leads to physical manifestations. Spend a few moments clearly deciding how you wish to shape your day, and then act as if your intention has already come true.

Spiral Up

Upgrade Your Choices to Fit You Better

Write a list of body kindness habits and activities, including new ones you would like to form. Do what you think you'll enjoy, not what you think you must do to be healthy or worthy. Some categories to consider are: food and eating habits, fitness, sleep, and fun and leisure time.

For each activity, write at least one benefit it gives you, and write down how you tend to feel about it using one of these phrases:

*  It's natural and fits my personality.

*  It's enjoyable and fits my personality.

*  It's important to me even if I'm not enjoying it. It fits my personality, but I could find other enjoyable activities or ways to make it more enjoyable.

*  I'd feel guilty if I didn't do it. It's not a good fit for me and not likely to boost my mood or happiness, or to become a habit.

*  I'm doing it to please or impress someone. It's not a good fit for me and not likely to boost my mood or happiness, or to become a habit.

Put Your Personality into Your Choices

Filling your days with choices that help you experience body kindness through love, connection, and caring for yourself will grow into a life of habits you truly love. One of my favorite things about the freedom from diet rules is that my preferences matter. I get to say what I like and what I don't and I can't be wrong.

Sometimes people feel like the best choice is always the healthiest option, but when it comes to body kindness, the best choice is the one that suits you, that motivates and satisfies you. You don't have to settle for anything less.

Body kindness strategies should feel natural and enjoyable and speak to your interests and goals. When you take these things into consideration, you'll care more and try harder to keep up a habit, even when it's not easy.

Using the list of upward spirals you created, brainstorm how you might step up your pleasure and satisfaction. Ask yourself: “How can I make this more fun? How can I make sure I do this more often? How can I work around any obstacles that prevent this from becoming a habit?”

Here's one example: You're trying to go to bed an hour earlier to get more sleep, but you find yourself staying up to watch TV. You rated going to bed as It's important to me even if I'm not enjoying it. What practical actions can you take that would make it more appealing to turn off the TV and go to bed? Maybe a soothing bedtime ritual like a scented bath, or just making sure you always have something good to read on your bedside table?

If you rated any of the upward spiral activities as I'm doing it more for someone else, this deserves a closer look. It's one thing to take care of yourself because you want to be healthy for your children or loved ones. It's another thing to make choices based on trying to please other people. You can use loved ones as positive motivators to keep you going, but forcing yourself to do things because others are nagging you is not your path to body kindness.

By now you should have a list of habits you'd like to enhance or grow, and a sense of how certain choices fit your personality and preferences. Your mission is to let go of choices that don't suit you and replace them with new options that do. Looking over the notes you've made in your journal, create a simple body kindness to-do list based on any ideas you came up with and start putting them into action. Pick the easiest change and do it first—right now if you can. Early, instant success fuels motivation. Track your choices for a day or a week. Note how making more feel-good choices impacts your energy levels and mood. You may notice when you track your choices that you're starting to create upward spirals intuitively. Use the information you collect in your journal for inspiring more motivation going forward. You will notice a lot more about what's working and what's not when you're tracking your choices.

Stop, Scan, and Plan

Make more caring choices by stopping to notice how much you are (or aren't) enjoying yourself. It might bring about the awareness that you really are experiencing pleasure. Take a second to savor it, and you'll boost your mood! Or you might stop and scan and notice that you aren't enjoying what you're doing at all. If you're at work and you notice you're taking lots of trips to the candy dish, you might stop, scan, and say, “I love chocolate, but I'm not even slowing down to taste it. I'm stressed!” Your plan may be “Stop eating the candy, pour a cup of tea, and hold off on sweets until later.”

Your Smallest Effort Is Actually a Very Big Deal

Sometimes it feels like our little day-to-day decisions don't make a big difference when it comes to our long-term goals. But if you want to transform the way you think about your health, then every one of these moments represents the beginning of change and the opportunity for pleasant experiences. Looking at your daily decisions through the body kindness lens will create the foundation for your new, lifelong habits. And the littlest decisions should be the easiest to make. “Does this bring me joy?” “What's the body kindness thing to do?” “How can I take better care of myself in this moment?”

The amount of work your brain has to do to make a choice and take action is its activation energy. Psychologists recommend you keep the brainpower expenditure low and avoid hemming and hawing over any decision that doesn't have major consequences. You can end up low on activation energy, and then making choices becomes more difficult. If you get stuck, ask yourself, “What's the least I can do?” And do it. Put one carrot on the plate, take a two-minute walk or three deep breaths when you feel emotionally charged. These are the kinds of tiny decisions you can make all day to keep your energy spirals moving in an upward direction. You can always take it further and challenge yourself more. By giving yourself less mountain to climb and more molehill, your brain will say, “Thank you for not being so difficult today!” and you'll make more body kindness choices.

What do you do when there are choices you know you should make, but you just don't feel like it? Everyone avoids; some people avoid more often than others. It can be a frustrating barrier to creating new habits. I have a couple of mental tricks I use when I have a hard time committing to a self-care decision. Consider how you will feel after you do it versus after you don't do it. Another one is to talk yourself into the first five minutes—and then you can quit if it's really that bad. You'll find that the hardest part was getting started, and you're often motivated to finish what you start.

Thalia is probably the most ambivalent and reluctant client I've worked with since starting in private practice ten years ago. When she came to my office for the first time, she was unhappy with her weight and had been binge eating after years of diets. Thalia had experienced some high highs and low lows in her life, from days in the spotlight as a professional opera singer to dark moments of depression when she contemplated ending her life.

Thankfully, with the help of a therapist, Thalia and I worked together to uncover the bright light that years of struggle had buried within her. In fact, against all odds Thalia recovered from binge eating while pursuing a PhD and working full-time. Over a two-year period, we discovered that she had undiagnosed ADHD, which took a significant toll on her confidence and her ability to follow through with healthful choices.

Thalia could easily get tripped up when it came to all the details of grocery shopping, meal planning, and food preparation. She needed help setting simple, realistic goals and following through on them. She also needed to build self-compassion. She was so nasty to herself—always criticizing, bullying, and shaming. Any small success was met with a sharp “not good enough” retort. Thalia often struggled with the downward spiral effect of poor choices. Staying up late to unwind in front of the TV led to poor sleep, which led to being tired, which led to skipping the workout (if it had even been planned) and saying “screw it, let's get pizza for lunch!” There were times I thought she was going to give up and walk away. But she never did, and I took it as a sign she was much stronger than she gave herself credit for.

Thalia's first big upward spiral came when we set the modest goal of fifteen minutes a day of joyful movement—it didn't matter what kind of movement, any movement would count as having met the goal for that day, whether it was a few laps in the pool or a stroll around the block. By freeing herself from all the heavy expectations of her past, Thalia began to realize she had many reasons to loathe exercise. It was how she punished herself for poor eating. And it was what she did to try to change her body, not take care of it. The turning point came when she began to see these negative thoughts and feelings as self-sabotaging beliefs she needed to walk away from. Being kind to her body meant these misguided “motivations” for exercise would be part of her past, not her destiny. Finally, she could let go of self-defeating behaviors and take back control of her life with small, consistent choices that were important to her.

Inspired by the success of this approach, Thalia's next small step was getting back into yoga. But this one held a lot of emotional turmoil for Thalia, and it wasn't easy to overcome the mean voice in her head saying, “You had a great practice ten years ago; now look at you.” Determined to remain open to opportunities for growth, she finally said “just this one class.” The instructor was very encouraging and invited her to a class the next day, and Thalia went! Thalia had known all along that her choices matter. She needed to say yes to one small choice and experience the upward spirals that resulted. There have been bumps in the road and setbacks along the way, but now Thalia knows that when a challenge arises she just has to do the next right thing and she will keep moving in the right direction.


  • “simple and true" —New York Times Book Review

    “[Scritchfield] provides fantastic tips for transforming your mental and physical health… a must-read."—TheHuffington Post

    “[A] rousing guide to better health… Scritchfield’s work boils down complex behavioral science ideas into accessible self-improvement strategies.” —Publishers Weekly

    “If you are ready to stop torturing yourself with diets and self-criticism and start nourishing your body and mind with healthy choices that help you reach your true potential, consider this wonderful book your road map. Scritchfield provides inspiration and real-life strategies in a fun and friendly style, with lots of helpful graphic tools."
    Ellie Krieger, MS, RD, host of Ellie’s Real Good Food on public television and award-winning cookbook author

    “For all of us who’ve been caught up in punishing cycles of busyness, perfectionism, crazy cleanses, deprivation, too much work, joyless to-do lists, and too little sleep, Rebecca Scritchfield’s Body Kindness offers a refreshing antidote. In this common-sense, warm, and eminently practical guide backed by science and story, Scritchfield shows how taking time to pause and set our own internal compasses is the first step toward overcoming deeply held cultural expectations and transforming our lives.”
    Brigid Schulte, award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time

    "As a firm believer in the power of body positivity, I'm thrilled and impressed by Rebecca Scritchfield's amazing tips for manifesting a joyful, healthy outlook on life, and for honoring the body you have right now."
    Jessamyn Stanley, instructor, blogger, author of Every Body Yoga

    “If you want to change, start by acknowledging your strength. And then read this book to walk your way into a life that feels as good inside as it does outside.”
    Julie Smolyansky, CEO, Lifeway Foods, and documentary film producer

    “With clarity and compassion, Scritchfield tells us what we desperately need to know: Diet culture pretends to be about health, but actually makes us sick. We end up obsessing over our bodies and forget about our souls. Eating and exercise turn into chores, and self-worth gets dictated by the number on a scale. For anyone who’s been poisoned by superficial diet plans and strict food rules, this book is the perfect antidote. Read it if you’re ready to stop dieting and start loving yourself and your life!”
    Alan Levinovitz, PhD, author of The Gluten Lie
    “What a pleasure to read such a sensible, self-loving book about improving one’s health. Rebecca Scritchfield’s Body Kindness method honors body diversity—for real! She’s not scamming her readers with bogus weight-loss promises. Her weight-neutral, compassionate, and practical approach to health allows people to make joyful, long-lasting changes in their self-care practices.”
    Connie Sobczak, author of Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and Quiet That Critical Voice!) and cofounder, The Body Positive
    “Say good-bye to body-shaming and dieting. Body Kindness is a refreshing and timely book, which describes how health begins by being kind with self-care actions. Written in a friendly tone (as if you are talking to one of your best girlfriends), by a dietitian, who has overcome her own war with her body. Readers will enjoy the stories, infographics, and the many helpful action steps to make peace with food, body, and mind—once and for all!”
    Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, coauthor of Intuitive Eating and The Intuitive Eating Workbook
    “It is just not possible to hate yourself to health. Body Kindness is a comprehensive, compassionate, and honest user’s manual that guides you to nourish, move, care for, and yes, accept your body now.”
    Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat
    “Put down that diet book and smash your scale—they don’t help you get healthy! Rebecca has taught me that the best thing I could do for my health is to take care of my body and stop fighting it.”
    Bernie Salazar, MEd, At-Home Winner, The Biggest Loser, season 5

On Sale
Dec 27, 2016
Page Count
224 pages

Rebecca Scritchfield

Rebecca Scritchfield

About the Author

Rebecca Scritchfield is a well-being coach, registered dietitian nutritionist, and certified health and fitness specialist. Through her weight-neutral Body Kindness practice, she helps people create a better life with workable, interesting self-care goals. She has influenced millions through her writing, podcast, and appearances in over 100 media outlets including NBC Nightly News, CNN, the Today show, the Washington Post, O Magazine, Health, Shape, and many others. She lives in Washington, DC.


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