It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. – Geneen Roth
Raise your hand if you’ve ever:
- Lied about your weight
- Hated a body part
- Wouldn’t be seen in a swim suit
- Wanted to lose 10 pounds
- Hated your shape
- Talked critically about your body
- Wished you had someone else’s body type
If you answered yes to three or more of those questions, you’re probably not comfortable in your own skin! Look at some startling statistics:
- At age thirteen, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen.
- Girls have higher body dissatisfaction scores than boys on all measures.
- It is estimated that 40-50% of American women are trying to lose weight at any point in time.
- Approximately one million boys and men struggle with eating disorders.
- A 1995 study found that three minutes spent looking at models in a fashion magazine caused 70% of women to feel depressed, guilty, and ashamed.
- Nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2007. Women had nearly 10.6 million cosmetic procedures, 91% percent of the total.
- An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males
Why so much self-loathing when it comes to our bodies? It complicated. But here’s what you can do to keep body dissatisfaction at bay and actually learn how to start accepting your body.
Practice a non-judgmental stance
Judgments serve no purpose except to keep us miserable and stuck. They also reinforce our feelings of inadequacy and they never lead to change. The first step is to notice how often you find yourself judging your body. Then replace judging accusatory statements with words of acceptance.
Judgmental Statement: I hate my thighs they’re so fat.
Non-Judgment Statement: Hating my thighs means hating myself, and it will do nothing to change them. I am learning to love and accept my thighs
Watch what you tell yourself
Judging words are harsh. To help yourself notice them, place a rubber band on your wrist. Each time you find yourself saying something harsh about your body, snap the rubber band against your wrist –hard. This will do two things: help you notice the frequency of self-criticism, and remind you to replace your negative self-talk with positive counterstatements
Judgmental Statement: I hate how I look. I wish I looked like Susie. Stop. Snap the rubber band.
Replace the critical thought with a non-judgmental statement: I’m not built like Susie. Comparing myself to others always makes me upset, and I chose not to upset myself. I have lots of good qualities too.
Practice being grateful
Gratitude doesn’t come naturally so we have to be intentional about cultivating it.
We can do that with a simple mirror exercise. Stand in front of the mirror in your underwear for five minutes. Notice how you feel as you look at your body. If you’re tempted to be critical about a body part, find something to be grateful about for that part.
Judgmental Statement: I hate my arms.
Non-Judgmental Counterstatement: I am grateful I have arms to hold my children. I am grateful that I am healthy. I am grateful I can work with my arms.
Try Yoga or Meditation
Exercise makes us feel better. It also releases endorphins in the brain, the chemicals that make us happy. Meditation helps slow us down and allows us to pay attention to what’s going on inside
In the end, only one thing is necessary to help us get comfortable in our own skin. Acceptance.
If you’re complaining about your body, grumbling about how you can’t lose weight, binging and purging, or starving yourself to be perfect; you’re fighting the wrong battle. The battle you need to fight is learning to accept yourself as you are.
Acceptance starts with living in the moment.
A reality check can help you realize that all the time and energy you’re putting into getting a better body (dieting, exercising, obsessing, and berating yourself) won’t change anything on the inside.
You may look better, but you still may not like who you are. Put your energy into work that will payoff. The results will be life changing.
Then, allow yourself the freedom to be defined by more than your body image. You are fearfully and wonderfully made—rejoice!