"Are you back to your pre baby weight yet?" she asked me innocently as I sit nursing my 6 month old son. I just created life and the most interesting thing you could ask me is how much I weigh? Sadly, this question is not uncommon in the culture we live in today. For most of us, we grow up in a diet obsessed world that views our weight, size and shape as indicators of health, happiness and success. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding sets us up for disordered eating, eating disorders and poor relationships with our bodies.
If there is one thing I am passionate about in this world it is helping women step out of the unrealistic expectations diet culture throws at us and into healing their relationship with themselves. If you're someone who struggles with a poor body image, you're most definitely not alone. Diet culture teaches us that we are not good enough as we are, we need to fit a barbie like mold and we must change our bodies at whatever cost needed. This is why the diet industry is a $60 billion market. However, the magic happens when we begin to challenge those ideas and fight back against the distorted views diet culture teaches us.
Healing our relationship with our body is something that is a continuous process. It doesn't happen in a 3 week program and there isn't some self love destination that we arrive at one day. It's a relationship that we need to continuously nourish and pour into. We wouldn't expect a friendship to last if we were continuously mean and not putting any effort into nurturing it, right? Why would it be any different with our bodies?
So, how do we begin to heal our relationship with our bodies? First lets explore what IS a positive body image.
A positive body image is:
- Accepting all bodies come in different shapes and sizes
- Challenging the idea of perfection
- Finding worth in things outside of your looks, shape and size
- Respecting and trusting your bodies needs
- Able to challenge negative body thoughts and beliefs
So how can we begin to work towards a positive body image? Here's my five tips below.
- Get curious about Diet Culture
We must get curious about diet culture, where we see it and how it effects us. These are the programs that get us "ready for summer!". These are the strict diets that tell us what we can and can't eat and when we're allowed to eat it. These are the "weight loss" programs, the "6 pack abs" and the "bounce back after baby" plans. We also see diet culture in the stigma of thin=good and larger bodied=bad. Our worth is not defined by our weight, the size of our jeans or the shape of our body. We cannot tell the health of a person by the way that they look.
2. Explore your own beliefs and where they came from
Take time to explore your own thought patterns and beliefs. It might help to keep a thought log during your day and find a therapist, coach or trusted friend you can explore these with. Where did your beliefs come from? What purpose have they served for you? Is there validity and truth to them or are they beliefs that you are able to challenge and unpack?
3. Go through your social media
Begin unfollowing accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, like you need to change who you are or like you're not doing enough. Social media can be a great thing and it can also be dangerous. It's like playing with fire. Keeping good boundaries for yourself such as who you follow and how much time you spend on it can help keep it a positive tool.
4. Offer your body respect
You don't need to love your body in order to respect it and take care of it. Respecting your body means appreciating it for all of the great things it does for you. Respecting it also looks like listening to and trusting your bodies needs and what its trying to tell you. Focusing on what your body can DO over how your body looks can help begin this process.
5. Choose kindness
In the simplest terms, be kind. Begin noticing the negative things you are thinking to yourself and offer compassion instead. A great exercise to practice is the criticizer, the criticized and the compassionate observer. When you have a negative thought say it out loud. This is the criticizer. Next follow it up with the person being criticized. Begin to challenge those negative beliefs out loud. Lastly, practice speaking from a place of compassion. Saying it out loud can begin to put things into perspective and offer you a chance to challenge your thoughts.
Our body image will never heal by changing what our body looks like. We need to do the inside work. It's hard, messy and doesn't fit into a pretty marketing strategy. But it is SO worth it.
I am always rooting for you.
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