Just a few days ago I had a regular bimonthly appointment with a long-time eating disorder client. She has struggled with poor body image most of her life. While it’s not true of everyone who has an eating disorder or disordered eating (although very common), negative thoughts about her body are her biggest trigger to use eating disorder behaviors. As we discussed this she said, “You know, I’ve decided that the most beautiful women I know are the ones who are confident. No matter what they look like, if they embrace who they are, I find them so beautiful. I want to be like that.” For her, this was a real break through and the conviction with which she said it brought tears to my eyes.
I’ve worked with many women (and some men) of all different shapes and sizes and have yet to find one who is satisfied with their body. No matter how small or thin or toned or muscular we get, we can always find something to pick apart. When does it end? When does our focus switch from body and weight obsession to celebrating all our body can do, listening to it, providing it with what it needs and then using it as a vehicle to live a full and happy life? The good news is: YOU decide. The real game changer is when people realize that their body is a result of dieting and weight obsession rather than a lack of self-control and willpower. When we get out of our own way, our body can move towards health.
We often think that confidence comes after we change, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Full acceptance is what brings confidence. Further, acceptance doesn’t mean we don’t want things to change, we just accept where we are knowing that it’s right where we should be. As we fully embrace the present, we can make wise decisions that lead to a better tomorrow. Better tomorrows don’t come by sitting in regret of the past or rejecting the present.
This is the month we celebrate love. In addition to showing affection for loved ones, I would invite you to celebrate all you love about yourself. It is astonishing to me how many of us talk so negatively about ourselves, often not even realizing it. I’ve come to know that love heals. I’ve seen it work miracles! Can you show up and support yourself? Can you replace negative thoughts with positive ones to retrain your brain towards health and wellness? It doesn’t need to feel self-centered or egotistical (those are actually rooted in insecurity), it just feels peaceful. You (yes YOU) deserve that - I encourage you to try.
One note: if loving your body feels too hard or impossible (which is very common), don't aim for that. Instead, body respect may feel more realistic. Respecting the body you live in is how you gain confidence in it and acceptance for it.
So your mission, if you choose to accept it: make a list of 5 things you like about yourself and put it somewhere you can see it. When you catch yourself in negative self-talk, remind yourself of something on that list. I would love to hear about it!
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD