There are two paths. Body Hate. Body Love.
There is no in-between, justifications or talking yourself into maybes. Maybe I like the color of my eyes, but my legs are too short. Or, maybe I like the way my body moves, just not the muscles or the jiggle.
Can you parse out your relationship with your body like that and still have a “healthy body image?”
Sometimes there really are all or nothing situations. The gray areas only serve to distract from how you truly feel. But, when the painful reality of how much body hate you live with on a daily basis stares you in the face it’s time to make a real commitment to change.
Two Paths: hate or love.
Why you hate your body.
The path of hate is an easy one. You can continue the negative thoughts and feelings about your body and you will find a lot of company there and there’s always emotional eating to soothe the pain – temporarily. In fact, it’s expected that you will join in the negative body talk. For many people, it’s a bonding experience to share your pain of dissatisfaction with your body.
Self-deprecating humor about your body is a way of saying, ‘yep, we’re in the same boat, I don’t like my self either!’
You can continue to agree with the multitude of magazines, social media posts, radio and TV commercials, billboards, etc., that tell you your body could be better and the way to make body hate better is through diet and exercise. The logic follows that if you do this then you will love yourself and your life will magically fall into place.
Okay maybe they don’t say the last bit, but for lots of people, that’s the wish.
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You might think, yes, if this person, can make it happen so can I. This plan will finally get me there!
Do this and you will receive lots of other good things. Sometimes it’s even presented that you don’t deserve good things in your life, that you aren’t worthy if your body is less than some arbitrary definition of acceptable.
Many times these messages are followed by competing messages that show delicious looking foods that will bring fun and happiness into your life, so you follow the trigger and assure yourself once again that this is the last emotional eating episode.
Mindset and body love.
From a mindset perspective, this type of thinking falls into the fixed category. You’re looking outside of yourself to change the way you feel and the relationship you have with yourself.
Carol Dweck, a Stanford researcher who studies mindset has shown that people who have a growth mindset are better able to take risks, challenge their fixed mindset beliefs willing to identify fixed mindset triggers and learn from them. This means that when you approach life from a growth mindset you’re willing to evolve and incorporate new ways of being with yourself even when something doesn’t work.
When applied to transforming body hate to love is that you must be willing to look clearly at your thoughts and feelings as well as the conversations you have about body image and identify the triggers that keep you fixed in the state of hate.
You need to be willing to stop paying attention to the information that isn’t helping and although it may be uncomfortable, try a different way.
Just think of how much time and energy you’ve put into keeping things the same. Searching for an answer in something that worked for someone else instead of listening to yourself, paying attention to your body in a way that you will get the information you need to become who you need to be.
How to grow your body love.
The path of love is much more difficult.
The path of love takes time.
The reward is transformation from the inside out. What I can promise you is that if you take the path of love you will get frustrated, you will doubt you’re on the correct road, you will make mistakes. These are all to be expected and welcomed because this is where change grows into new ways of being with yourself.
Transformational change results in a life shift that is nearly impossible to reverse. The changes become part of who you are.
Why do we often take the path of hate when love is so much better?
The path of hate has many people you can join up with. There is lots of advice and support to stay in the struggle and stay the same, keep up the battle and live in discontent with your body. It’s familiar and the reinforcement you receive is all around.
One reason is that old stories you tell yourself need somewhere to go. You need to stash the discomfort to get relief. All the better if you can put the blame outside of yourself.
Body stories are like other lore. They are passed down from your parents, teachers, coaches, culture, etc. and kids will either rebel or adopt these beliefs as their own.
Many studies have looked at family relationship patterns (here, here, here) and their influence on body image. What we know is that, especially in mother – daughter relationships the unhappier the mother is with her body there are an increased body image and eating problems in the child. Without intervention, this relationship pattern continues into adulthood.
The research has also shown that when the parents have a positive relationship with their bodies it provides insulation from body image issues and diet messages that bombard us in daily life.
It’s a big culturally acceptable bath of yuck that, most women, at one point or another, will jump into and never get out of.
The struggle is how to have a healthy loving relationship with your body.
Maybe you would like to lose or gain weight, find an exercise plan that you enjoy, make some changes to the way you eat, etc. and generally feel better in your own body. That’s great! You can do so and protect yourself from the influence of a fixed mindset focused on what others think you’re doing wrong and instead do what’s right for you.
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Your body story influences your day to day life, so make it supportive!
Here are 3 ways to help you get started.
The first step is to pay attention to the little things you say to yourself or the comments you make to others about your body and/or eating habits.
1. Challenge yourself with supportive questions.
What is my intention and how does this affect me by giving voice to it?
Is this thought or feeling leading me to health and well-being?
Does this help me become who I need to be or does it keep me standing still?
It’s helpful to have some alternative statements at the ready.
2. Reframe your story, every because argument has at least two sides.
You’re the one who decides which direction to go. Sometimes it seems that if it’s something you’ve always thought or heard for many years then it must be true.
But is it? People can change at any point in their lives. Sometimes it takes very little effort and other times it can seem like you’re moving with lead weights strapped to your ankles. You need to keep moving anyway.
When change happens slowly, allow yourself to acknowledge all of the tiny victories because they will add up to the change you want to happen.
When change happens quickly, remember all of the time, thought, planning and action you have put into making it a reality.
Both fast and slow changes need to be honored – with an abundance of love.
When you feel better and your self-esteem is high you’re more likely to make healthful decisions. Positive begets positive. This is why the path of love, although more difficult to navigate at first will become easier and you will experience more freedom and a greater sense of yourself in the process.
3. You can choose love over hate at any time.
You can change your thoughts and they will support transforming body hate.
Here are some alternative statements to get you started:
I hate my body.
Alternative: I’m nurturing a loving relationship with my body.
My ______ is too fat/thin.
Alternative: My body is just as it needs to be right now and I am evolving.
My ______ say’s I’m ______.
Alternative: I choose my relationship with my body and nurture myself with love.
I feel fat!
Alternative: I have many feelings and there’s more to feeling fat.
I can’t eat ______.
Alternative: I choose foods that nurture my mind, body and heart.
I need to work off those calories!
Alternative: I am integrating all food choices into my lifestyle and I move with peace.
My body doesn’t like me.
Alternative: I am getting to know another side of my relationship with my body with self-compassion.
I feel gross like this.
Alternative: I am changing and sometimes I will feel uncomfortable and it will pass.
I’m just not attractive.
Alternative: I am growing in my appreciation of my beauty in all aspects of myself.
I wish I had ______.
Alternative: I have all that I need right now and know that I may change in the future.
I just don’t feel like myself anymore.
Alternative: I am focusing on being present right now and learning what I need to connect with myself in new ways.
Use this list as a starting point to become more aware of your internal conversation. Use the awareness to shape statements to provide you with the information you need to support yourself, to trust yourself that you can change the relationship and be comfortable in your own body.
Choosing body love instead of body hate is a wonderful transformative process. You will learn much about yourself and it won’t always be easy. In the long run, you will thank yourself many times for the peaceful relationship you create.