Body Image Issues in America
Body image issues, the way we think our body looks to others, haunt us. Regardless of the number of self-acceptance quotes we’ve memorized or how many positive affirmations we recite, in the back of our minds, the looming negative thought is, “does this outfit make me look fat“? In addition, it seems that if we’re not happy with our body, we’re not happy with ourselves. Although fashion magazines have begun featuring articles about loving your curves, the fact is thin is still in.
In order to take control and change your negative body issues, you need to understand why you hate your body. In particular, what is the source of your negative thinking and more importantly, create strategies to overcome your negative thinking.
Body Image Issues: The 3-Step Guide to Better Self-Esteem
Step 1: Think Twice
Pick a day and write down all the negative things you say to yourself about your body. For example, “I’m so fat, I’m disgusting,” or “Why can’t I look like I did ten years ago?”
Then challenge each thought with three questions:
- Does the thought contribute to your stress? (Surely the ones above do.)
- Where does it come from? When you were young did your father say, “Aren’t you getting a little pudgy?” Was your mother obese and did that embarrass you? Was she hyper about her weight and self-critical when it crept up? Are you bombarded with images of women on TV and in movies who never seem to age?
- Is your thought a logical one? Okay, it may be accurate to say that you weigh more than is healthy for you or more than you’d like. But how about the emotional tags—disgusting, unlovable, old? Some people concentrate on hating their bodies because they can’t bear to deal with the real issues that are troubling them”, says Marianne Legato, MD, a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the author of Eve’s Rib. Whether or not that’s the case for you, there’s a huge leap of logic between overweight and disgusting. If you saw a woman your size, would you feel ill or think she should look the way she did ten years ago? “We don’t use the same kind of language about ourselves that we do about others.”
Step 2: Make New Rules
Try writing out this list and taping it somewhere you’ll see it all the time—your full-length mirror, perhaps, or your refrigerator or desk.
1. I will refrain from speaking disparagingly about my own body and weight, even during female-bonding moments. (“I can’t believe I ate all that,” “I look like a pig.”)
2. I will avoid making negative remarks about the appearance of others. (“She shouldn’t be wearing those pants,” “She’s porked out lately.”)
3. I will consider ending a relationship with any man or woman who causes me to feel terrible about my body or tries to control me with comments about my looks.
Step 3: Start Moving and Make Peace with Food
Overcoming Body Image Issues
If you want a shortcut to positive body image, start moving.
“Experience the absolute joy of trusting your body and the knowledge that it works beautifully with all your muscles fully developed,” urges M. Ellen Mahoney, MD, a breast cancer surgeon in Palo Alto, California.
Rather than changing what you eat, try to change your relationship with food. Take the following steps:
- Eating may be your way of rebelling, handling stress, squelching anger or finding comfort. Keeping a diary may help. Every time you put something in your mouth, record what you were doing before that moment and how you were feeling both physically and psychologically. After a week or two, look for patterns.
- Once you recognize what pushes your emotional hunger buttons, start devising alternate responses, like taking a walk around the block, listening to a relaxation tape or jumping into a hot shower.
- Make meals more social. Sit down to dinner with family, a friend, a partner—no TV, no reading material. Sharing a good, healthy meal is nourishing both physically and emotionally, leaving you fully satisfied.
Try to remember that food is what fuels your body and your dreams. Stop thinking of food as the enemy. Food is not the enemy. And the more you can stop beating yourself up for eating, the easier time you’ll have controlling your weight. Via oprah.com