Body image is a complex, multidimensional issue and it requires a multidimensional approach to repair. Here is a new body image activity I learnt this week to help you work towards feeling at ease and confident in your body.
Practical body image activity
The relationship between your body image and self-esteem is a powerful one.
You begin forming your perceptions of your bodies attractiveness, acceptability, and functionality in early childhood. Your body image continues to form as you age and receive feedback from family, friends, peers and society, etc.
It’s complex is because we live in a culture that first and foremost values a woman’s outer appearance, over their inner qualities. This means women will often base their self-worth on a number on the scale, the size of their clothes or what they see in the mirror.
As a consequence they feel compelled to spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to control their weight and shape, even though the research is clear. Intentional weight loss fails more than 95% of the time and ironically, leaves us heavier than when we started.
If for example, family members continually made disparaging comments about your weight and what you ate as a child. This may increase the risk of developing a deeply ingrained dissatisfaction with your body, no matter how thin you became.
Additionally, personality traits such as perfectionism and self-criticism can also influence the development of a negative body image.
There’s much we can do, but a good place to start is by critically evaluating the messages society sends us about valuing bodies.
From a young age, women aspire to Barbie-like measurements that are physiologically impossible without surgery and/or starvation.
In order for this narrative to change, you have to work really hard at it. It requires mindset changes, behaviour changes, and surrounding yourself with body positivity regularly. Sadly, you cannot think or wish your way to body acceptance.
I have seen how interventions aimed at fostering a sense of self that hinges on achievements and internal attributes, not just appearance, have helped my clients develop a more peaceful relationship with their bodies and food. Thereby, significantly improving their overall quality of life.
If you are concerned about your body image, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Is my perception of beauty distorted from years of media exposure that glorifies a very thin ideal that is unrealistic for most people to obtain in a healthy manner?
Do I find myself regularly criticising my own appearance?
With this in mind, I thought I would share with you a new body image activity that I have learnt from a mentor of mine – Marci Evans RD.
Marci describes our relationship with our bodies as “one of the MOST important relationships we attend to because we live with our bodies from birth until death”.
I’d like to invite you to do a body image activity
Step 1:Take a moment to reflect and make a list of the best relationships you have in your life. It can be with your partner, best friend, dog, colleague or anyone. But choose the one relationship you feel contains the most positive and essential aspects of a high functioning relationship.
Step 2:Identify as many characteristics that describe this relationship as possible. Try to give yourself several minutes to really reflect on this.
Step 3:Circle which of these characteristics also applies to your relationship with your body. For example, if you listed “trustworthy” in number 2, does that also apply to the relationship you have with your body?
Step 4:Underline one characteristic that doesn’t currently apply to your relationship with your body, but one that you would like it to.
Step 5:Do a practical activity tocultivate that characteristic and consider journaling about, talking about it with your counsellor, coach or a friend.
I am passionate about learning and growing in this area and hope that some of the ideas I’ve shared have been useful to you in some way! For more support to help you repair your body image take a look at my program Stop Punishing Start Nourishing here>>
Many women believe that their value in this world and self-worth is defined by their size, weight, shape, and appearance. How much body fat they have, their bra size, or their waist circumference. I was once one of those of women. Always defining my weight and self-worth by a number. If this sounds familiar, read on while I explain why the appearance of your body does not determine your worth.
Weight and Self-Worth
We’re led to believe from a young age that a woman’s appearance is the most important thing about them. Their currency is how they look.
Futhermore, they are told their happiness, relationships and success are based on a achieiving that number, or not. Yet, there are individuals with all of these things, living in larger bodies and individuals with none of them living in smaller bodies.
Moreover, what constitutes the “worth” of an individual is subjective because we don’t all value the same characteristics in people.
Not to mention, our cultural “ideals” of beauty has fluctuated throughout human existence. Looking stunningly different from one generation to the next.
So, how do we determine what makes a person beautiful?
There was once a time where living in a larger body was valued, as it reflected an individual was wealthy enough to feed themselves well. Even today, there are many cultures that value larger bodies as more appealing.
The tropical paradise of French Polynesia is known for celebrating yet another kind of beauty – that of the well-rounded female body. The Tahitian appreciation of ample body shape goes back to the traditional practice of ha’apori. Literally meaning “to fatten,” according to this ritual, young women were made to put on weight so as to be presented to the chief for beauty and fertility inspection.
However today, we as a culture and as a society, particualrly Western societies, have become obsessed with size. It’s become connected to our identity as women.
This obsession fuels societal pressures to appear a certain way and to have a certain body type, particularly among young women, stemming from a cultural construct of the “ideal” body.
However, wanting your “ideal weight” is not like seeking the Australian Dream. Where if you just work hard enough, you’ll get it.
No. We are heavily determined by our geneticsand unfortunately, we cannot change that.
We can pay for a lot of beauty products and plastic surgery to enhance, support, and beautify our looks and keep us feeling attractive in our culture, but there are limitations.
Products and surgery cannot change our hip size, height, change how our bodies use and store fat, give us genetically modified skin or change the length of our legs.
Products and surgery can enhance, not create self-esteem. But, we still keep on trying.
It’s important to be critical and ask, who decided that what we weigh determines our value?
This is something I ask my clients a lot. In order to heal and change our relationship with our bodies, we must start thinking outside the box and critcially thinking.
Asking, why do I feel this way about my body and myself?
Who said I should be a size x and weigh x amount?
Is it because we live in a thin is best and beautiful society?
Who profits from me feeling insecure about my body?
Do I feel energised, empowered and strong physically and mentally when I definine my self-worth by the size and shape of my body?
Is there really anything truly “wrong” with my body, or am I just unhappy that I can’t live up to the unrealistic standards of beauty?
Do I honestly have the genetics, time, money, resources and mental energy to devote attaining and then sustaining a certain weight and shape?
What else would be impacted in order to achieve my ideal weight?
We can decrease body dissatisfaction and harmful eating behaviours by increasing cognitive dissonancearound the “ideal body.”
Weight and self-worth
There is a reason “self-worth” has the word “self” in it. It is not worth determined by your friends, your family, your partner, your schoolmates, co-workers, or significant others.
It is your worth determined by you. And, who better to determine it.
Check-in and ask yourself, “is this based on facts about myself or is there a lot of outside noise contributing to how I feel about my body?”
Bringing the “self” back into “self-worth” means that the answer to this question is entirely up to you. Ask yourself what you value in the people you love and what you believe makes a person worthy.
Self-Worth = Self-Love
It goes without saying; we love what we value. The more we value the traits and characteristics that make us unique and worthy in our own eyes, the more we love the human we are.
The same is true of our bodies, the more we value them for the incredible machines they are and the life through which they carry us, the more we love them regardless of the number on a scale.
Embarking on a journey to reject societies ideas of weight-basedvalue and to determine what you believe makes you worthy will lead to positive and life-changing realisations, recovery from self-loathing and body hatred, and a future of self-love.
Just remember, If you do reach your goal of a lower body weight, that does not increase your value as a human. Likewise, if you fail to achieve your goal that does not decrease your value.
You are not your weight.
If this is somethin that you need support with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me here>>
I used to really hate my body. No matter how much weight I lost, it never felt good enough. In this post I delve into the exact strategies that I learned to stop hating my body, that enabled me to get out of my own way and get on with my life.
How to stop hating your body
The above photo was taken sometime in early 2013. I thought I was fat! Yes, fat.
I was trying to eat “clean” aka paleo.
I thought about food non-stop.
I was bingeing and purging.
I had an exercise addiction.
I was weighing myself a lot.
I often turned down invites out to eat.
Every time I binged, I felt guilty and worried about weight gain, so I purged and hated my body and myself even more.
Quite frankly, I was miserable.
It felt like I was trapped in body jail. My body and mind tormented me.
No matter how much I restricted my food and worked out – my body never looked the way I thought it should.
Thankfully, I can now see that my weight was never a problem. I was never fat.
Even though that’s how it looked and felt in my head every day for almost two decades. That’s what living with an eating disorder can do to your mind.
You don’t see yourself correctly. You forget women are supposed to have hips and curves.
It wasn’t until about three years ago that I realised what my body problem was.
I couldn’t accept myself as I was.
Our perfection and thin-obsessed society certainly don’t make it easy. Well-meaning comments by loved ones didn’t help either.
I also thought if I could just get my weight down to a certain number all of my problems would go away.
The hard truth was, even at my lowest weight I was never happy. Just two more kilograms. Just two more kilograms. I’ve got to get to the magic number.
Eventually, I hit rock bottom. I was physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted and could not keep living like this. I felt like I was slowly killing myself and wasting my life away.
Something had to change. It didn’t happen overnight. But with a whole lot of digging deep, lots of false starts and lots of help, I somehow came out the other side.
But now…? Now I accept my body the way it is. I feel neutral about my tummy rolls, cellulite, love handles, and rosacea on my face. I never thought I would feel this way about my body.
I now describe myself as happy and liberated! The feeling is so good that I’ve committed my life to help other women find peace with their bodies.
Accepting your body doesn’t happen overnight. If you’ve been hating your body for years (if not decades), it’s going to take a little or a lot of time to heal that relationship.
But it’s possible and worth it because when you accept and appreciate your body, you take better care of it and balanced eating and regular movement stops feeling hard and starts feeling easy. Here’s how I did it:
Three ways I learned to stop hating my body and feel confident and carefree in my own skin.
In no particular order…
1. Be realistic – You can’t go from body hate to body love overnight.
I get asked this question often and the answer is: it didn’t happen overnight, it took a lot of time, energy and effort. It’s not the answer I know women want to hear, after all, we are human and we love a quick fix.
Quick fixes don’t deliver life-long results. We all know that. They mostly deliver weight cycling (loss and gain) and an unhealthy relationship with food.
I invested in professional support.
I tried for years to do it myself by reading books, talking to friends, doing short do-it-yourself courses but nothing worked until I found the right help and support I needed to heal and transform my relationship with my weight and body image.
The good news is, big change is possible and your journey to body acceptance can start right now.
2. Do not compare your body with another woman’s
I call it – Compare and Despair!
“if only I looked like that” used to be a regular part of my vocabulary every time I left the house.
The comparison comes from our need to self-evaluate. How do I measure up to her? The reason why we compare is that we live in a competitive world and we undervalue ourselves.
Look at my big house.
Look at me working on location in the Maldives.
Look at my gorgeous family.
Look at my beach body.
Look at my “perfect” life.
It’s all so fake and materialistic but we all have major #FOMO (Fear of Missing Out!).
We are constantly thinking “how do I measure up?” It’s no wonder our default thinking is to constantly self-evaluate.
You throw a little insecurity into the mix and you have an issue ripe for the picking. I can’t tell you how many arguments with previous partners I’ve had because of my insecurities and comparing my body to another woman’s.
It’s the thief of joy, it’s exhausting and our partners hate it. I say this with the deepest compassion, please stop it, right now.
3. Stop the fat talk
Honestly, how far has berating and hating your body got you?
Maybe it kicked your butt into gear and motivated you for a few days or a few weeks. But if telling yourself you’re fat, ugly, and disgusting was going to get you the body of your dreams, it would have worked by now, right?
Negative self-talk about your body won’t make you healthy, happy or lighter, or help you love your body. Dissing it actually makes it harder to look after yourself properly, consistently.
If you’re out with your girlfriends and the topic of diets and weight keeps coming up, gently suggest you talk about something other than your bodies. There are literally millions of other interesting things you could be discussing, connecting and laughing about with your besties.
Many of my clients treat their pets with more respect than their own bodies – they feed them, give them their meds and vaccinations on time, take them out on walks, and are kind to them. I choose the word RESPECT as a launching point for working through body image issues. Treating your body with respect means treating it with dignity and meeting its basic needs. Read on while I delve into how you can begin to respect your body.
Start with body respect
When my clients first come to me, they either use food as a way to cope with their emotions or because they’re caught in a cycle of restricting and bingeing. For the most part, their present body shape is partly representative of the way they take care of themselves.
True, not all overeaters will gain weight. Just like not all dieters will binge. However, most do. Only approximately five percent of people who go on a diet to lose weight will keep that weight off longer than two to five years.
But weight aside, this unhealthy relationship with food and our bodies, is well, unhealthy. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
It’s soul-destroying and a life thief.
So how do we look after our bodies without going on a diet?
Health at Every Size (HAES) encourages respect for all bodies, a critical awareness of ourselves and of compassionate, attuned self-care. People may – or may not – lose weight as a result of improved self-care, but their health and well-being will surely benefit. The goals and outcomes of HAES include:
Self – and societal-acceptance for every body.
Truth in health care
A fair society
A healthy relationship with food
Trust in yourself and your body
When you respect your body, you are in partnership with it. You become grounded in your physical body and you’re able to benefit from all it has to offer you.
We are healing our relationship with food, our bodies, and ourselves. Just like when you’ve lost trust in any relationship in your life, it takes time to get it back. When it comes to body respect, this is reciprocal. Respect carries reciprocal energy. Your body will honour you when you honour it at all sizes.
However, you cannot heal your relationship with your body with a plan to make it into what the dominant culture thinks it “should” look like.
Body diversity is real. The more we try to fight it, the more anguish and struggle with food will ensue.
If you treat your body as a structure worthy of respect and it will respond in kind. Abuse or ignore it and it will break down in various ways until you learn the lesson of respect.
Keep this in mind:
You don’t have to love or even like every part of your body to respect it.
But, it is the beginning of making peace with your body and genetics.
It is a critical turning point in stopping dieting and becoming an intuitive eater.
It’s okay if you wish you were smaller.
It’s okay if you wish your tummy wasn’t so round.
It’s okay if you wish your thighs weren’t so dimpled.
These are all normal things to think and feel.
It’s important to hold space for what you wish was different and still respect and appreciate the body you have.
It doesn’t mean you aren’t doing a good enough job loving yourself and your body. It means you are human. It means you are a woman living in a world in which being thin is idolised.
With this in mind, I encourage you to think about “body love” a little differently:
You don’t need to love your body, but can you respect her? Shower and brush your teeth daily, eat some fruits and vegetables and go for a walk in the sunshine.
Can you appreciate her – for keeping you alive every single day? How many times does your heart beat each day to keep you alive?…the average person’s heart beats approx 108,000/day! Your heart works hard for you ♥
Can you show her kindness and compassion today? Take a rest when tired and tell yourself you’re doing the best you can in the moment. Stop and take a few deep breaths.
Remember ~ It’s okay to not love your body. It’s okay to wish things were different.
However, you can’t hate yourself into change (long-term), but you can respect your body into change.
I hope this helps you take the pressure off of yourself to “love your body”. Start with body respect.
Also, remember body respect is a practice. So much of what we desire to bring into our lives takes time and practice. Body respect is not a new plan, a gimmick, or a short-term solution. It’s a way to truly heal—an opportunity to focus on finding joy and pleasure again, as you turn your attention towards the parts of you that perhaps you lost sight of while dieting or trying to fix yourself.
It is an ever-evolving relationship that changes with our healing, our complicated lives, and as we age.
If you’re wanting the support and tools to begin a new relationship with your body, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me here>>
Women’s body image is so low in Australia that a survey revealed that seven out of 10 women have an “I hate my body” moment every single week. To prove just how damaging these beliefs can be, take a look at one of the most well-known eating disorder studies in the world. The effects of Western body image ideals on adolescent girls from Fiji were researched.
Before 1995, the Nadroga Province of Fiji had no access to television. Furthermore, traditional Fijian values showed a preference for women’s bodies to be thick, strong and a hearty appetite was encouraged. Slim women were seen as week.
Eating disorders were practically unheard of, with only one reported case of anorexia and moreover, dieting for weight loss was non-existent – until TV came along.
Within three years of television being broadcast from the USA, UK and NZ, 74% of teenage girls surveyed said they felt too fat or too big, and 15% reported self-induced vomiting in order to control their weight.
This study is a perfect snapshot of how damaging diet culture and the thin/beauty ideal can really be. These images had the power to cause so much pain in just three years, and in just one media format.
I hate my body
Given the many years or decades you have been exposed to diet culture and the media, is it any wonder that you feel the way you do about your body?
You are not the problem. Your body is not the problem. The problem is our thin obsessed culture. Moreover, you were not born hating your body. The Fijian girls didn’t hate their bodies until the image of the “ideal” body came along.
Even if it feels like a distant memory, there was a time when your body was not the enemy. Hating your body is something that you learn and it can be something that is unlearned.
And it starts by ditching diet culture.
How to stop hating your body
One practical way you can ditch diet culture (and stop hating your body) is to go on a social media detox.
I recently went on a social media break for a week. I completely stayed off all of my accounts and it made a massive difference in my mood and energy. I noticed I felt much more relaxed and I was also more productive and slept better. Probably because I wasn’t scrolling through Facebook in bed before I turned the lights off.
Social media can be quite toxic if we’re not mindful of what we’re digesting on a day-in-day-out basis. Most people only post what I call their “highlight reel”. Photos where they’re out having fun, looking amazing, surrounded by friends. Seeing enough of these photos can play on our natural human insecurities.
There’s some great research being done right now on how exposure to social media can affect our mental health. This constant exposure to everyone’s highlights makes us feel inadequate and consequently, many people go to extreme measures to keep up. This can obviously have very damaging effects on our physical and mental health.
So, try doing a social media detox for even just a couple of days and see how it changes your perspective of your body.
If you ditch diet culture and you’ll get your health, sanity and life back!
“You would think at 50 I wouldn’t be worried about my weight”. This comment speaks to why middle aged eating disorders are often cloaked in secrecy. In most people’s minds, an “eating disorder” conjures up images of thin, teenage girls. However, eating disorder demographics are changing. Over the past five to 10 years, we have seen a growing number of older women seeking treatment for eating disorders.
Middle aged eating disorders
Women in midlife and beyond, from all ethnic backgrounds, are struggling with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Some have experienced this since they were very young. Others have relapsed in midlife after a stressor such as a divorce, death of a loved one, or menopause. While others are experiencing an eating disorder for the first time in midlife.
Research indicates how misguided our generalisation about eating disorders is. A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that about 13 percent of women over 50 exhibit eating disorder symptoms. To put that in perspective: Breast cancer afflicts about 12 percent of women.
There was one common thread uniting most of the women in the study: Their illness was generally overlooked by doctors. While it seems unlikely that signs of an eating disorder would baffle doctors, the truth is, they can and do.
Women get a lot of positive feedback if they’ve lost weight or maintained a low weight, no matter how it’s achieved, so it goes unnoticed.
When many women enter a different chapter of life or encounter new hurdles—their sense of self can become disorganised.
The pressure for women is further compounded by societies mindset that it is not okay to age. There’s the whole 50 is the new 30 and 70 is the new 50 attitude. The burden to stay forever young and thin is intensifying.
Many women experiencing middle aged eating disorders won’t experience a dangerously low weight and that is key to understanding why eating disorders often go unnoticed. Anorexics aren’t always emaciated, and bulimics and binge eaters can be a healthy weight or even overweight. Furthermore, one of the classic symptoms of adolescent anorexia—loss of a period—doesn’t apply.
Accepting yourself at any age
With the increased recognition of eating disorders in middle aged women, treatment options are readily available and can be tailored to meet your unique needs.
If you or your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, remember that it is never too late to seek the help you need and begin your recovery journey.