Rethink Your Body Image
The last week of February is one of the most important weeks out of the entire year for me. Why? Because it’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA). I have spent the majority of my professional life working to bring awareness to the devastating consequences of disordered eating, and to share the message that real, lasting recovery is possible. Not easy, at all, but possible. You or someone you love may be struggling with an eating disorder right now. You or someone you love may not have a full-blown eating disorder, but fear of food, worry about weight gain, and constant self-criticism may control your thoughts. I believe that all of us, regardless of the severity of our own struggles with our eating habits, can benefit from rethinking our own body image.
Your body image is the mental picture that you have of your appearance. Ironically, this self-picture is often determined only in part by how the body actually looks and feels. Women and men, young girls and even young boys, are constantly bombarded with a cultural standard that expects body perfection and connects our value as a person with how we “measure up” to this unattainable physical “perfection”.
However, you can learn to rethink your body image. A healthy body image doesn’t mean loving everything about your body every minute of the day – that isn’t realistic either. A healthy body image is accepting where you are today and not putting a hold on life until you reach a certain number on the scale or size of clothing. You can learn to gradually support, appreciate and respect your body for what it is and can do today and for what it is capable of becoming. Try one or more of the following activities to begin the “rethinking” process:
WRITE YOURSELF A LETTER
- Write a letter to your body, or body part(s), telling it how you feel and the struggles you have with your image of your body. Be honest, be specific, and don’t hold back.
- Now, pretend your body or body part writes a letter back to you, reacting to your feelings and expectations. You might be surprised at its response when you remind yourself of all that your body does for you every second of the day, and how painful it is to be despised and misunderstood.
THINK OF SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT
- List every quality you admire and respect about this person.
- Note the character qualities that are attainable at ANY weight.
- Realize that quality of character is not dependent on a number on a scale or a size of clothing. You might be surprised that the character traits you most admire have nothing to do with body perfection.
These exercises are just that – exercises – for your mind and your thoughts. The benefit of exercise comes from repetition, day after day, week after week. The change doesn’t occur overnight, but every repetition builds a stronger mind and more realistic thoughts about your own body image. Don’t let the cultural ideal of perfection steal the joy you can find in each day, regardless of what you weigh.