In her book Eating Mindfully, Susan Albers, PsyD, suggests making a list of personal food myths, “the behaviors you believe you ‘should’ be doing.”
For instance, one food myth is that sugar is bad, and you shouldn’t eat sweets. Another is that you shouldn’t eat after 7 p.m.
In addition to food myths, many of us also hold body myths.
For instance, I used to think:
I didn’t deserve to like my body unless I became thin, which I equated to having a flat stomach.
I couldn’t wear certain things because I didn’t “have the body for it.”
I had to hate my body if I ever wanted to lose weight.
I had to lose weight.
I had to lose weight and change my body in order to be happy and loved.
That’s just a snapshot.
Maybe your body beliefs are similar: I can’t go above X amount of pounds. I have to work out 5 times a week. I have to lose weight for my wedding.
I have to weigh myself every week. My legs should be thinner if I’m ever going to wear shorts.
The problem, among many, with these beliefs is that we view them as facts. Indisputable, duh-of-course-this-is-100-percent-right facts.
We wear these beliefs like tattoos on our bodies. Imprints imbedded in our skin. Truths that take up space on our very limbs.
We don’t question these beliefs. We let them drive our lives, our actions, our moods, our views of ourselves.
And, yet, they’re not facts.
They’re fables. Falsehoods. Ads. Perpetuated by the diet industry and anyone else who benefits from our desire to change our looks. Or possibly the biting words of a bully.
Or possibly the stories told by loved ones who’d heard the same stories from their loved ones.
Simply generations of assumptions. Which might’ve gotten misinterpreted over the years, a real-life game of telephone.
Explore those long-held beliefs about your body, which maybe, just maybe, are not so accurate, after all.
Or, maybe, even if you still see them as truths, can you loosen your grip? Can you allow some flexibility? A bend in a few of those beliefs?
What I’ve realized is that my long-held beliefs about my body and how it should look and what I had to do in order to get to that place were harmful. Period.
There was zero benefit. I felt terrible about myself, which led to crappy self-care. I hyper-focused on weight, at the expense of my well-being.
I wasn’t particularly active. I wasn’t particularly fun to be around, especially when food was involved.
All those restrictive beliefs and rules did not create a healthy or happy existence.
So when thinking about our beliefs, I think it’s important to not only explore their validity but also their effects.
Is this belief improving your life? Is it improving how you see yourself? Is it contributing to your well-being or dismantling it?
What body myths are you clinging to? What might happen if you finally let go?
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Last reviewed: 3 Mar 2014