Over 85% of American women wish they were thinner, a recent study found. And these were women aged from their 20’s to their 80’s!
So those struggles you’re having with your weight and your body? They’re nothing unusual.
Almost every woman you meet on the street is struggling with her body image.
She doesn’t like what she sees when she looks in the mirror either. Just like you.
And just like me too (some days).
Our Bodies Will Change And That’s Normal
Right now as I type this to you, I’m thinking about all my different before and after bodies.
- Before and after giving birth to children.
- Before and after the diets.
- Before and after the antidepressants.
- Before and after becoming an intuitive eater.
Nothing ever stays the same. I’m not the same person I was 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago. Not on the outside, and definitely not on the inside.
I struggle just like you some days. Like, I’m annoyed right now that I might have to replace my wardrobe (again), because I’m gaining weight while taking antidepressants.
But I’m so grateful that the antidepressants have finally shut up the anxiety in my head, and helped me climb out of the black hole of depression.
I feel like me again, only I don’t fit my clothes. And I like those clothes.
And I wonder if people who know me are thinking “Boy! She’s let herself go!” Thinking that my weight gain is accidental. Maybe I’m pigging out on too much chocolate? Or maybe I’m just a bad nutritionist?! What are they thinking? And why do I care what they think?
The thing is, my weight gain is a very intentional decision to put my mental health first.
I feel more whole and more happier than I have done for years!
But diet culture (I call it The Diet Lie), would have me believe that I’ve failed.
Which is why I’m hear writing this message to you, because I want you to put your mental health first too and learn how to find peace with your weight. And here’s how to do it:
Tip 1: Ignore Diet Culture’s Message To Hate Your Body
What kind of sad-ass world is this, that a woman in her 80’s, her twilight years, feels the need to diet and lose weight?
By that stage we’ve grown into a fully grown woman, given birth to children, weathered decades of a blasted menstrual cycle, gone through menopause, and are hoping to slide gently into our twilight years.
But no, diet culture still wants to remind us that we women should be thin. Sigh.
All around us the messages are spun and repeated – lose weight, get thinner, toned arms, flat tummy, abs, thinner thighs.
But not too thin, mind you!
Make sure you have some meat on your bones.
Our entire culture seems to have a vested interest in how much we weigh and what size jeans we wear.
Only it’s no-one’s business, but yours, what you weigh and what size clothes you wear.
Each of us is a different body shape naturally. Some are bigger, some smaller. Some tall, some short. Some wear size 9 shoes, some wear size 6.
And we have our own natural weight set point, or range, that we settle into naturally when we eat in a way that honours our hunger and fullness.
No-one else can possibly know what size you naturally are.
And nor should they try to tell you.
If you want to know how to find peace with your weight – the first step is ignoring the messages from around you – in the media, on social media, from workmates, from friends, from family – about your body size and weight.
All that matters is that you know you are eating intuitively and doing your best to honour your body’s signals, while also enjoying satisfying food.
TIP: Ignore diet culture. End of. Don’t follow diet-centric pages and people on social media. Declutter your life of everything diet and weight-obsessed and throw out the bathroom scale while you’re at it.
Tip 2: Grow Your Self-Compassion Muscle
Dieting gradually erodes confidence and self-trust according to two psychologists who conducted a major review back in 1991, looking at over 300 research studies on dieting. Eek!
More recent studies have built on those findings – revealing that levels of body shame and internalisation of media appearance ideals are higher for dieters.
And elsewhere, studies have found a link between having greater body image concerns and body preoccupation, and lower levels of self-compassion.
So what the heck does this all mean? That people with lower levels of self-compassion actually have more problems with their body image and are more preoccupied with how their body looks.
In other words: the problem is not HOW you look, it’s your low levels of self-compassion that are getting you down. 🙁
To find peace with your weight, you need to develop more self-compassion. It’s as simple as that. As long as you’re being mean to yourself, things are never going to improve.
So what exactly is self-compassion?
Self-compassion is extending compassion to yourself, in the same way you would a friend or a loved, when you’re having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.
It’s having a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of ourself, and a hope or desire to help ourself.
It’s easy to mix this up with self-kindness, but self-compassion is actually MORE than just being kind to ourself.
Psychologist Kristin Neff is a world expert on self-compassion and she defines it as having three core components:
• Firstly, self-kindness
• Secondly, an understanding of our common humanity
• And thirdly, mindfulness.
TIP: Check out how much self-compassion you have, using Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion Test right here. How did you do? Do you need to develop more self-compassion? Read up more on self-compassion and how to develop some more right here.
Tip 3: Respect Your Body
It’s time to stop the body bashing! Instead recognise that your body deserves to be fed, to be treated with dignity, to be dressed comfortably, and to be touched and treated with respect.
Principle 8 in Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works is “Respect Your Body”. This means accepting your genetic blueprint. Just as someone who wears a size 9 shoe, wouldn’t try to fit into a size 6 shoe, it is just as futile for us to try and downsize our natural bodies to a small unnatural size.
So why respect it? You don’t need to love your body to treat it with respect. And I realise that you might find it a step TOO big to aim to love your body right now.
It’s going to take time to transform your relationship with your body. So right now aim to respect your body first.
TIP: How do you respect your body? Here’s a bunch of helpful solutions from Intuitive Eating on how to do that:
- Wear comfortable clothes that fit; it’s your clothes job to fit your body, not your body’s job to fit the clothes.
- Stop trash-talking about your body; if you haven’t got anything nice or respectful to say, then say nothing at all.
- Quit measuring and weighing yourself.
- Stop body-checking; pinching your thighs, or waist to see how big the fat roll is. Just stop it and leave your body alone.
- Don’t join in on fat-talk with other people.
- Respect body-diversity.
- Do nice things for your body – massage, pampering, nice body cremes, treat your body extra-special.
Tip 4: Celebrate Your Inner Being! You Are More Than A Body
Seriously. You are SO much more than your outer shell.
Your friends and family love you for what’s inside.
So on those days when you’re really struggling to find peace with your weight, try this.
Remind yourself of three awesome things about you, that are not related to your body.
Maybe you have an amazing sense of humour, or you’re kind, amazing at your job, or you’re a fabulous baker of cookies!
Just celebrate the OTHER stuff. Three things. Not body related. Because you’re more than a body.
TIP: Celebrate three non-body related things about yourself when you’re feeling down. Shout them out. Write them down. Remind yourself about all the awesome things you are, that are NOT body-related.
So to wrap up…. the truth is, I still occasionally struggle with my body image. But those days are getting fewer and fewer. And I see those struggles for what they really are… not proof that there is something WRONG with my body. But rather, proof that there is something WRONG with a culture that fixates and fantasises about downsizing bodies at the expense of everything (including mental health).
You can do this, you can find peace with your weight and your body. Just start now with one tip at a time.