Expert Insight: Choosing Body Appreciation over Body Loathing

“Advertising for many commercial goods functions by cultivating our body insecurity or hatred in order to sell products.  If we all believed we were attractive as we are, for example, we would have little need for most commercial beauty products.  Women in particular are taught that their self-worth is determined by how well they match the cultural standard of beauty.  Most of us therefore feel inadequate and that we can never measure up.  And it seems as if advertisers have recently realized that they were so busy exploiting women’s insecurities, they’d forgotten half the population. So now they’re doing their best to make men feel equally horrible about themselves.  Buying into these images doesn’t benefit anyone but the advertisers”.

– Linda Bacon & Lucy Aphramor, “Body Respect”.

A few years ago, when I was facilitating a workshop on emotion-driven overeating, I was talking about not buying into “the cultural standard of beauty” that Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor describe.  One of the participants became quite angry and said something like “it’s all very well to say that but this is how the world works”.

Her point was that the pressure – especially on women, but increasingly on men – to be thin and attractive is real and, essentially, we have no choice but to conform. I understand her frustration.  I get it.  I agree the pressure is very, very real.

But I don’t agree we have to conform.

Not conforming doesn’t mean you give up on yourself – in fact, quite the opposite.

It means you stop beating up your body and begin to appreciate all that it does for you.  It means you’re more attuned to its needs. It means you’re more likely to invest in your health and well-being.  It means you want to do the very best for your body because you believe it’s of value.

After all, what we value and appreciate we want to look after.

Not conforming to the pressures placed upon us is, therefore, an act of empowerment and self-care.

Personally, it helps me to remember this when my body-shaming inner bully is dripping poison in my ear about how I don’t look “right” or “good enough”.  It wants me to loathe my body because it doesn’t measure up.

I remind myself I have a choice.

I choose deliberately and consciously not to conform.

How about you?

 

***

 

Click here to read a great article about the history of the “ideal woman” by Jaqueline Howard of CNN.  It includes a really wonderful animation by Anna Ginsburg which depicts the ideals imposed on women’s bodies through the ages.  It’s only just over 2½ minutes long and well-worth viewing.

 

***

 

Additional questions for this month’s eatonomy group on Saturday 29th June can now be found on the News page.

Why Should We Be Ashamed of Our Bodies?

You’re sitting in a café having coffee with a friend. Every few minutes you surreptitiously tug at your top so it doesn’t cling to the contour of your stomach.

You receive an invitation to your school reunion.  You’d love to go but feel you can’t because you’ve put on weight and you worry about what people will think.

You regularly scan your body in a full-length mirror, thinking “God, look at my thighs/belly/insert other body part here”.  When you’ve examined all your “defects”, you mutter a conclusive “ugh” before walking away from your reflection in disgust.

Continue reading “Why Should We Be Ashamed of Our Bodies?”

Food for Thought: Coming to Our Senses

“There is deep wisdom within our very flesh, if only we can come to our senses and feel it”. – Elizabeth A. Behnke

How could someone allow themselves to put on so much weight? Why can’t they just come to their senses?  This – and much worse – is often what people who aren’t thin fear others are thinking about them.  To be fair, it sometimes is what people think if they’ve never had any kind of overeating issue themselves.

I know from personal experience how easy it is to put on a lot of weight without even knowing.  Hard as it might be for some people to believe, it’s not difficult to put on 5 stone or more without really noticing.

Continue reading “Food for Thought: Coming to Our Senses”

Gentle Reminder: The Discomfort of Comfort

You reach for food to soothe yourself, to comfort yourself, to make everything better just for a moment.

But what happens when that moment is over?

The discomfort kicks in.

You feel over-full.  You feel sick.  You hate yourself.

What was intended to be comforting has to turned into a maelstrom of physical and emotional discomfort.

Why have I done this to myself yet again, you ask.  Why?

Continue reading “Gentle Reminder: The Discomfort of Comfort”

Expert Insight: The Self-Care Gender Gap

“One gender-related theme that stood out was related to caretaking.  Every woman in the study, but none of the men, reported putting others before themselves…

Tina was a compulsive eater who used food as a way to practise self-care.  During the second interview, she began to realise how taking care of others led her to eat: “I had no down time.  I had no time for myself and I think I was using food more than I had been to take the edge off and medicate myself, reward myself, treat myself”.

– Patricia Goodspeed Grant, “Social and Emotional Origins of Comfort Eating”*

Continue reading “Expert Insight: The Self-Care Gender Gap”

How Do You Prove to Yourself That You Care?

Self-care – that old chestnut.  Right now, it feels like we can’t move for people telling us we should care about ourselves.

It’s great in theory, but what about in practice?

Many of us yearn for healthy self-esteem.  We think “if I lose weight that will make me feel better about myself” but, while it might make us feel better physically, it doesn’t increase how much we care about ourselves.

Continue reading “How Do You Prove to Yourself That You Care?”

Food for Thought: Unlocking Self-Compassion

“I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent.  They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line.  Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be”.

– Kristen Neff

That self-critical voice has such authority, doesn’t it?  We think “if I just strive to be the person it tells me I should be, then one day I’ll be OK”.

But that day will never come.

The day will never come when that negative voice in our head says “well done, you’re worthy, now you deserve to look after yourself”. Its sole motivation is to make us feel not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not successful enough, not enough, not enough, not enough…

Continue reading “Food for Thought: Unlocking Self-Compassion”