Yesterday, I shared 5 body image perspectives and practices to ditch in 2013. Here are 5 more destructive beliefs and behaviors to let go of in the new year.
6. Ditch this belief: Loving your body — and yourself — means giving up. There’s another damaging belief in our society that once you accept yourself in all your beautiful glory, you’ll also become complacent and “let yourself go.” (I cringe when I hear this phrase.) You’ll somehow love yourself so much that you’ll abandon your health. (Yep, doesn’t make sense to me either.)
Self-loathing doesn’t lead to self-care. It leads to more self-loathing, heartache and depression. A positive body image does mean prioritizing your health. When you respect and love yourself, you want to honor your needs: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Please don’t ever be afraid of loving your body — and yourself — at any shape, size, weight, or whatever. Loving your body doesn’t have negative consequences. But hating it does.
7. Ditch this belief: Being perfect about having a positive body image. Perfectionism is a funny thing. It latches onto anything, even to the behaviors and beliefs that are super positive. And then it twists and distorts. It turns the desire for a positive body image into an all day, every day positivity fest. In other words, you start believing, like I have, that you must have a positive body image at. all. times.
But that’s not a reality. Sometimes, the thin ideal sinks in (among other things), and you take a few steps back. The key is to remember that like anything, your body image will have ups and downs. That’s OK. I think the best thing we can do during the downs is to be compassionate and continue practicing nourishing self-care.
8. Ditch this practice: Letting guilt about eating certain foods consume you. Whether we’ve ditched the diet mentality, many of us still experience guilt after eating certain foods. As I described in another post, it’s a “gnawing, palpable, feel-it-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach unease.” And it makes enjoying eating difficult.
For starters, remember that you have nothing to feel guilty about. I know this is a novel idea in a society that equates dessert with sin. But you don’t. As NYC therapist and author Susan Schulherr told me, “Unless we’re stealing our food from starving orphans, it’s really hard to make the case that what we put in our mouths is a moral issue. Ditto for rating ourselves ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for what we’ve eaten.”
She explained that the thoughts surrounding guilt are not facts; they’re a habit that we can break.
Feeling guilty about high-calorie foods, or fats or sweets, is a habituated response…the habituated thought is going to come up whether we like it or not. So the trick is to recognize it for what it is: a habit, not a truth.
As I say to my clients, you may not be able to stop the thought or related feelings from popping up spontaneously, but you don’t have to set out the tea service and invite them to stay. Once we recognize we’re in the guilty feelings, the step toward change is to interrupt them rather than to let them romp at will in our psyches.
If guilt pops up when you’re trying to enjoy a food treat in peace, you need to take that step back and respond with your own version of “Oh, of course, there’s that guilt stuff again. It makes me feel like I’m being bad, but I’m actually not.”
She also suggested substituting statements that are healthier — and actually true. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m so bad, I ate X,” you can say:
- I don’t have to earn the right to enjoy what I eat.
- What I eat has nothing to do with being good or worthy.
If the guilt feels too powerful, consider working through it with a therapist.
9. Ditch this practice: Waiting to do anything good, interesting, fun, exciting or ____ until you lose weight. I used to think that I didn’t deserve to enjoy life until I lost weight. I also believed that everything had to stop until the scale showed the right number. So armed with the idea that weight loss was a requirement for improving anything in my life, I stayed stuck and paralyzed in a sea of body bashing.
There are no prerequisites for living a joyous life, other than listening to your needs, wants and wishes. Whatever you want to do, do it. Don’t wait until you’ve lost X pounds. Don’t wait to travel, to enjoy the warm sand between your toes. Don’t wait to buy a beautiful piece of clothing. Don’t wait to take sweeter care of yourself. Don’t wait to laugh more.
Mara developed a list of powerful questions we can ask ourselves to create a life we’re ecstatic about living. Weight loss not required.
10. Ditch this practice: Apologizing for your appearance. While we don’t explicitly say “I’m sorry I don’t fit society’s ideal of beauty,” many of us live and breathe this statement just the same. We embody it through our actions and behaviors, through the way we relate to ourselves and others. I wrote about this last spring:
Maybe you dress differently because you don’t want to offend anyone with your shape or size. I used to do that. I used to worry that I was too big to wear certain colors — like white — or certain cuts — like form-fitting dresses, shorter shorts and bikinis.
Maybe you don’t go to the gym because you’re worried about taking up space on the machines (or in the classes). I used to worry that because I wasn’t very active, I was stealing someone else’s spot. You know, someone else who was actually fit and not an impostor like me.
Maybe you try a variety of things to lose weight like dieting and pounding the pavement because you don’t want to upset someone — society, a spouse, a family member.
Maybe you apologize by bashing your body in front of others or curbing your portions when you’re out.
Maybe you apologize by never saying no, and letting others cross your boundaries and walk all over you. I used to think that because I wasn’t very pretty or thin, I didn’t deserve respect.
Unless you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, you have nothing to apologize for. As I wrote in that post, “I’ve realized over the years that I’m the only one who lives my life. And I get to pick just how to live it — with enjoyment and self-respect, without shame and without guilt.”
I hope your 2013 is filled with joy, compassion and nourishing self-care.