How to, for once and for all, make peace with your body

If you are dissatisfied with your body, you are not alone. Body dissatisfaction is felt by millions of people in the United States—dissatisfaction directed toward both our own bodies and the less than perfect bodies of others. In one survey, 59% of young girls expressed dissatisfaction with their body shape and 66%  expressed the desire to lose weight; disturbingly, older women are also increasingly being diagnosed with eating disorders.In a survey of over 4,000 women by Good Housekeeping, 87% of women reported having been on a diet to change their size or shape.  Only 6% said they are "happy with their bodies."  An astounding 14% said they would be willing to take 1-5 years off their lifespan if they could have their ideal body.  Other findings from the study:

  • 60% of women surveyed say the way they feel about themselves is largely influenced by their size or shape.
  • 69% feel that being in a larger body is unhealthy
  • 74% have a list of "good" and "bad" foods and behaviors in their head.
  • 11% would give up sex in exchange for their ideal body

While having self-doubts is a normal part of being human, if our self-evaluation is primarily dependent on our superficial appearance, our size or shape, that can lead to shame, negative self-talk, suffering and the use of extreme and harmful behaviors to reach the ever-elusive thin ideal.

Is the goal of being thin and the time and energy it takes up in your life really THE most important thing?

It's clear that body size is the most important thing in life to many people, particularly women.  The politically correct reason given by many women these days is that "I just want to be healthy."  In the study by GH, 51% said that being thin or losing weight is a good way to be healthier.  This is a hard belief to challenge because it confuses weight (thinness) with good health and fatness with bad health.  

We unwittingly pass on our own biases to our children.

Just as many of the women I work with in The Anchor Program tell me that they were put on their first diet by their mother, continuing to focus on such exacting and unachievable standards for health, beauty or self-worth is something that you can pass from generation to generation, setting up your children and their children to suffer over this issue as well.  While parents may feel they are helping their children, in fact if you examine the impact of diet culture in your own life, you may realize how much yo-yo dieting, food obsessions, body dissatisfaction have cost you.  Why would the cost to your daughters and sons be any less?  

In a book by Summer Brooks, she writes that the most important things you can do to help your children is: 1) help them develop the belief that who they are as humans is not dependent on their appearance, size or eating behaviors and 2) support your child in finding a way of eating with joy, using their body cues to direct them to what is nourishing for them.

It's understandable that in our fat-phobic society, those in larger bodies want to be thinner.

From a social justice standpoint, living in a larger body in our diet obsessed, fat-phobic society is a trial.  Everywhere you look diet culture exhorts you to lose weight.  As well, many physicians have also bought into the thin=healthy myth.  What is true is that most people who have struggled with their size most of their lives will probably not find the "perfect diet" or be able to reach a "thin ideal."  So what can you do?

If you are able to accept yourself - just as you are; if you are able to allow yourself to feel valuable and worthy, no matter your size; if you are able to surround yourself with supportive people, including supportive people in the medical profession, would you be happier?  Because what it gets down to is what's your priority in life?  Is it to be happy, productive and healthy or is it to be thin (at all costs).

Decisions made from body hatred are often doomed to fail.
You choose, it's your body.  If you choose to change how you eat, do so after you've come to at least feeling neutral about your body.  Don't do it because you hate your body.  Whatever you do, spend the time (and therapy) needed to care about yourself no matter your size.  Take time to begin to see yourself as the worthy, unique individual you are - no matter your size.  Take care of yourself - no matter your size.

If you can't change it, change your attitude.   ~Maya Angelou

It seems to me that the most important accomplishment you can have is to be / become more authentic.  To be authentic is to be fully expressive.  What would it take for you to focus away from the number on the scale and instead to change your attitude and put your focus on expressing to the fullest extent possible who you are in the world?  How would that change your life for the better?

All the best,

Dr. Carolyn

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