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Healing Body Image in a Size-Obsessed Society

Posted on Aug 02, 2017 by Erin Risius, MA, LPC








“When I was a little girl, my mother was full of admonitions. She told me that you never commented on someone else’s body; it was too personal. It was rude. This adage, which I have always tried to follow, has little currency in our society. I have a friend who always greets you with “Hi, haven’t you lost weight?” It is her general-purpose hello. A newspaper interviewer walked into my hotel room and said to my husband, whom she had met exactly once five years before, “Hello, we met on the Cape. Haven’t you put on a few?” I find both the compliment and the intended insult equally rude. I cannot imagine greeting someone, “Goodness, don’t you have a long nose!” Yet comments on weight lost or gained seem to have become one of the standard opening gambits of our social games. Sometimes I think we have all gone insane.

 ---Excerpt from the article by Marge Piercy titled “Why Can’t We Love Ourselves a Little More as We Are?

 

Activist and poet, Marge Piercy, gives voice to an epidemic of weight obsession that contributes to body image issues, eating disorders, and unhealthy weight loss diets and programs in this country.  Approaches like H3’s, which focuses on positive behavior change for creating a healthier lifestyle, are often the whisper among the roar in a society that is striving for weight loss at any cost. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of this very long tunnel by way of individual and collective efforts in the media and fashion industries to begin dismantling the ‘thin ideal’ messaging and to illuminate the beauty that is found in all shapes and sizes.

 

A new documentary called Straight/Curve bravely challenges the media and fashion industries’ unrealistic and dangerous standards of beauty, and its mission is to have a more diverse representation of body images in the main stream.

 

And it’s about time.  

 

Dr. Oz Garcia, a pioneer in the field of nutrition and healthy aging and one of the interviewees on the documentary (not to be confused with the other famous Dr. Oz) states: “If there is an ideal person…it would be somebody that would weigh more than what is being promoted in the media. So, why don’t we get ‘ideal’ of the picture? Why don’t we say – what’s to your benefit…how do you feel, how are you performing, what does your bloodwork look like…?”

 

This mindset is often experienced here at H3 and it is liberating for our guests. The thought of “I need to fix myself” is replaced with the healthier mindset of “I choose to care for myself”. This shift in mindset makes a profound difference in sustaining healthier behaviors because the motivation is more meaningful and self-supportive. A guest recently said this to me: “Before coming to H3 I knew how to lose weight, but for the first time I know how to take care of myself.” Weeding through society’s messages around weight and weight loss isn’t easy, but it’s crucial for becoming our own advocate with our health and well-being.

 

What Can WE Do About It?

Not joining the common language of ‘weight talk’ when everyone around you is focused on weight loss body image, and dieting can feel like an uphill battle. However, embodying the change we want to see in the world (unless you like feeling shameful about your body) is an important first step.

 

1. Become aware of and challenge your own biases.

Ask yourself:

  • What qualities do you attribute to people of different sizes, and why?
  • Where did you receive your messaging?
  • Have you ever laughed at a fat joke or participated in thin-shaming?

 

The key here is to bring a curious mind to these questions to shine a light on your own perceptions and judgments of different body sizes. Bringing awareness to our assumptions about others helps to stop the cycle of auto-pilot with stereotyping.

 

 2. How do you talk to yourself about YOUR weight?

  • What does your self-talk sound like?
  • Is it accepting and compassionate or judging and critical?
  • How is your self-talk working – or not working for you?

 

Often self-criticism is used as a strategy to motivate change, but self-criticism is the detour, not the short cut we hope it will be for motivating change. In fact, this strategy tends to keep us stuck in unhealthy behaviors because it enhances feelings of shame and unworthiness.

 

Unplugging from the collective mindset around size and weight obsession takes a commitment to being different - to being outside the box of deeming our worth on how we look, rather than the ‘who’ of who we are on the inside. We’re human – we notice, we judge, we assume. But, we can also become curious and explore how we may be buying into the messaging, and then actively work on being different with one thought, and one situation at a time.


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