You don’t understand. People in your life may say that you’re beautiful or handsome, that they love you as you are, but when you look in the mirror, you only feel disgust at what you see. You can’t stand the way your waistband cuts into your stomach, or the feel of your flesh touching another part of your body. You compare your body to others’ and your mind decides yours loses every time.
The thought goes, “If I could just alter this and change that about my body, everything else would be okay.” Your body has become the war grounds on which every problem has the same solution—attain the ideal body and all will be right with the world. But, you’ve dieted or exercised and either nothing changes, it gets worse, or the change in body doesn’t seem to give that pay off that was expected, beyond a notice here or there.
You’ve avoided social situations because you worry that other people are judging your body as harshly as you do. You put your life on hold waiting for the day you’ll deem your body acceptable enough to feel good about yourself. You can’t seem to let in positive comments people make about you, but the self-defeating tape in your mind is on replay. You may be struggling with depression, hopelessness, or low self-esteem.
If this struggle sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many women and men struggle with body hatred, and the statistics have only been increasing over the decades.
So, Why Do People Hate Their Bodies?
It’s no surprise that media images portray body types disproportionately so that we start to think that 2% of the world’s body types are how everyone should look. There are thousands of diet and exercise products reinforcing the message that if you just lost weight, you would be happy. But if anyone is making your body wrong, including you, it’s not your body that that’s the problem. It’s the body-shaming message that is the problem.
If you’re mad at your body for getting hurt, for not being strong enough to fight bigger people, for naturally being born into an identity that is marginalized, for feeling pain, it’s time to stop and take stock at who the real enemy is. Your body gives you life, digests your food, gives you energy, and experiences emotions that give you information about your needs. If you’re in an adversarial stance with your body, you may want to investigate why that is. Because blaming your body only creates more pain.
Your Body Is Not the Bad Guy
There’s nothing wrong with health and taking care of our bodies, but is shaming our bodies really the way toward health? No! We can’t nurture health in our bodies through shame, pain, and struggle. Punishing ourselves through starvation, insults, and painful workout routines will only reinforce the messages of shame that we are ultimately trying to undo.
There is a way out of shame, but it’s not by altering our bodies through shaming messages and actions. The way out is to disconnect from shame and trust that we are all—self included—worthy of love as we are.
So, what if your body isn’t the problem and changing it isn’t the answer? What if hating your body doesn’t do anything for self-esteem, except make it worse, and may even contribute to further weight holding? There is more than simply feeling like we don’t add up.
The old adage, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” can stand true when we evaluate ourselves. We can find beauty in ourselves, even if we don’t see it initially. But, first we have to catch our minds judging and reframe.
Tips for Loving Your Body
Reframe body judgments. Don’t make your differences wrong. Here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating we advocate celebrate your body’s uniqueness the way you would find even the strangest quirks adorable in a new love. If you notice yourself saying something like “I have a fat [fill in the blank],” recognize first that, unless you’re talking about the macronutrient, fat is a judgment and stop. For example, you can reframe that statement as “I recognize I’m judging [blank] on my body because I want it to look differently so I can feel accepted, but I am acceptable as I am and choose to connect with something I value.”
Appreciate what your body does for you. Focus on what you have learned and have been able to do because of your unique body, its heritage, and experiences. Sometimes the experiences we least like have taught us the most valuable lessons. Although no one deserves to be traumatized, we can make choices about ourselves, and the meaning of life that represent what’s most important to us. The field of Dynamic Eating Psychology also teaches us the importance of listening to our bodies. Honor and observe its needs. Be thankful for what your body does for you and you may start to build a fondness for it.
Be unconditionally kind to your body.Even if your body isn’t performing the way you’d like it to, or it doesn’t look the way you expect it to, it’s doing its best to function every day. No matter what your opinion of it is, give it the food, water, sleep, and affection it needs and it will pay you back in kind with energy and vitality. Be there for your body and it will be there for you. After all, you’re one and the same.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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