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?

 

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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.

 

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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?”

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: Losing Weight Naturally

“When you do start to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full after years of being on one scheme or another, you will most likely go down a size or several sizes.

Unless you have been eating drastically less than your body needs for years, your weight should stabilise at its natural set point, which will be lower than what you’ve achieved through dieting and bingeing”.

Susie Orbach, “On Eating”

When clients first seek help for their emotion-driven overeating issues, they often think if they can sort out their weight, everything else will be OK.

In this way, therapy can be seen as another weight-loss initiative.  There’s sometimes a sense of disappointment that we’re not focusing on weight during sessions and, as a result of this, some clients assume I’m anti-weight loss.

Continue reading “Expert Insight: Losing Weight Naturally”

What Mask Do You Wear?

As I was showing her into the room for the start of her session last week, a client asked “how are you?”.  I launched into an extensive account of what was going on in my life, including my concerns about my cat’s digestive issues and my feelings about Brexit.  Half an hour later, she got to talk about her stuff.

Of course, this didn’t happen.

Although I strive to be authentic and transparent in my responses to clients, it would be highly inappropriate and unethical for me to talk about myself in this way.

I simply replied “I’m fine, thanks”. Continue reading “What Mask Do You Wear?”

Food for Thought: The Risk of Authenticity

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real.  The choice to be honest.  The choice to let our true selves be seen”. – Brené Brown

It’s a lovely idea, isn’t it?  We have the choice on a daily basis to be genuinely who we are.  It’s often what we yearn for – to have the courage to be ourselves, regardless of what other people think.

But…

What if.

What if people don’t like us?

What if people tell us we’re wrong?

What if we risk being ourselves and we get hurt?

Continue reading “Food for Thought: The Risk of Authenticity”