I have a happy relationship with my body because I listen to it, is the short answer.
The longer answer is:
1) My body is not me. Me lives inside my body, which means that any frustration I have with it is at the same level as frustration with a pair of jeans or a car. It is unconnected to my sense of self. Making it “prettier” does not make me a better person. Something happening to make it “uglier” (like when I have to tour with big bald spots) does not make me a worse person.
2) My body has two jobs. To physically do the things I’d like it to do and to take good care of the brain it carries around, so the brain is working at full capacity as often as possible.
3) I know what my body feels like when it’s doing those jobs. And I’m unwilling to settle for anything less. If I feel tired, achy, irritable, out of shape — I will do my utmost to hunt down the culprit and fix it. I listen and I trust that my body wants to work well. Even if it’s a tiny thing like orange juice: I know that if I drink a huge glass of it without any food, my blood sugar will soar and then crash. That’s not working at full capacity! Fix, fix, fix. An earnest and wide-eyed priest friend of the family once told me I moved faster than anyone he had ever met. I like that. It’s how I get things done. I don’t want anything to get in the way of that.
4) I heard a story (I don’t know if it’s true) about an old woman who climbed banana trees every day of her life. When asked how she could still climb trees now that she was old, she answered, “because I’ve never stopped.” I believe in that. I move my body because I want it to keep moving. I’m not good with scheduled exercise because I despise routine, but I hike and run around with dogs and other things that feel purposeful. It helps me sleep, too. I’m not gifted at sleeping.
5) Yes, I have food intolerances & allergies (chemical preservatives). It involved a lot of hospitals and nearly getting internal organs removed before we figured it out. Actually, a lot of people don’t really do well with the two major preservatives (sodium benzoate & potassium sorbate), but they put it down to after-meal fatigue or IBS. I strongly recommend that all teens suffering from depression take a hard look at their diet as a part of the puzzle. Many, many mild food intolerances have fatigue and depression as a side effect, and our bodies are not generally (unlike what I believed as a teen) wired to be unhappy or sluggish. Elimination diets will help you find out what allows you to run well.
6) So what do I eat? A lot of butter. I love butter. A lot of chocolate. Avocados. Bread. Meat. I have to make pretty much everything from scratch now, but it’s not that bad once you get the hang of it. People get annoyed that they can’t take me out to dinner, but I don’t miss it. I prefer business meetings to be held at SPCAs anyway.
7) My body has a sort of sub-job, which is to look on the outside the way I feel on the inside. It’s less important than the other jobs, and isn’t about “pretty” so much as “Maggie.” I like to be known. Let’s see what I can do with this body I’ve been given to show what it’s carrying around.
Maggie is awesome. This is such a balanced way to look at your relationship to your body — and to what you put in it and how that might affect your sense of well-being.