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?”

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”

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?”

Gentle Reminder: You’re Not Who You Think You Are

Do you ever feel like a walking contradiction?

Does it feel as though you hold conflicting beliefs about yourself simultaneously?

It’s not unusual to have paradoxes within us.  The tension they create is often what brings us to counselling.

Clients frequently share with me what they think about themselves – “I’m greedy”, “I’m lazy”, “no one likes me”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m a failure”.

Sometimes when they’re in the middle of describing themselves negatively, they do something quite astonishing.

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Expert Insight: Questions of Identity

“In my work with women who experience despair and conflict in their relation to food, I have found that in the first hour they talk about eating.  By the second or third hour they tell me they feel confused and do not know what to do with their lives.  They have little sense of who they are or what they believe.  They are lost, empty, restless, confused and dissatisfied.  They are struggling with all the questions of identity their mothers also faced”.

Kim Chernin, “The Hungry Self”

In many ways, little has changed since Kim Chernin’s book was first published over 30 years ago.

In my work with clients with overeating issues today, I’d say the majority are struggling with questions of identity.  They also feel lost, empty, restless, confused and dissatisfied.  If food is an escape, it’s the discomfort of these feelings they’re often attempting to escape from.

Continue reading “Expert Insight: Questions of Identity”