“My friend took photos of us together the other day and showed them to me on her phone. And all I could see were my fat arms. Now all I want to do is diet and exercise to make them look better, ugh!”
Body dissatisfaction is widespread among women in western countries. So much so that it’s almost considered normal, right? We chat with our friends over coffee about our body woes. She complains about her too-flabby tummy, we complain about our dimply thighs. We bond over our mutual dislike for our bodies.
And if it seems pretty common, that’s because it is.
One Swiss study found among 1,000 adult women, aged 30–74 years, that while 73% fell into the normal weight category (and just 27% were outside the normal weight category), some 71% of those women still expressed a desire to be thinner.
And among women aged 65 years and older, 65% were categorized as normal weight, but 62% reported a longing to lose weight.
While in another study, involving 1,800 women aged 50 years and older. Nearly 64% of those women reported experiencing thoughts about their weight on a daily basis and 62% said their weight and shape negatively affected their lives at times. 71% reported being dissatisfied with their weight.
But here’s the thing….
I saw this post on Facebook that was a total mic drop. There was an image of Staff Sergeant Johnny Joey Jones.
Johnny was a United States Marine Corp bomb technician who stepped on an IED (an improvised explosive device) in Afghanistan and lost both of his legs.
So in the photo, Johnny, a double amputee, is standing there in a pair of shorts wearing his prosthetic legs. And alongside is this quote from him:
It’s all about perspective right?
So what has all this got to do with healthy eating and living?
I remember as clear as day when I was doing my intuitive eating training with Evelyn Tribole, co-author of the book Intuitive Eating. Evelyn explained to us that when we are dissatisfied with our body and dislike it, we block our ability to tune in to it’s messages.
In other words, when you ignore and treat your body with contempt, you also ignore and treat with contempt all the helpful messages it sends to you about hunger, fullness and what your body needs to feel energised and happy.
People with higher levels of self-compassion have fewer body concerns. Basically, those who are less judgemental about themselves, are less likely to be preoccupied with their body and feel like their body is ruining their life.
And here’s what we know about dieting – dieters perceive more problems with their body than non-dieters. We also know that dieters have lower levels of self-compassion than non-dieters.
Now, when all the signs point to Rome, what does that mean?
It’s time to put aside the diet-mentality of criticising and belittling your body. Maybe it’s not exactly the body you want. But it is your ‘here and now’ body. And it needs to be loved and cared for.
Respond compassionately to yourself with some kind words whenever they start up on you.
And if you’re having a challenging body day – shout out three things that you value about yourself that have nothing to do with your body.
Shout out three things that you are grateful for. Give thanks to God for those things. Focus on those things.
When we are grateful for our body and take care of it carefully and kindly, we’re more likely to tune in and actually here it’s messages to us. To hear hunger and fullness, to hear its messages about which foods make us feel healthy and energised, and which foods leave us feeling sluggish and awful. Then we can learn to eat in a way that energises and nourishes our body without any guilt.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.