(…and for those of you who are unclear why shifting your body image is CRITICAL for changing your relationship with food, including behaviors like “emotional eating” and binge-eating, please take a moment to read this & read this.)
Ya know how this whole “body image thing” is really a cultural and social problem that affects us by virtue of the fact that we’re social creatures who desire love and acceptance?
What I really mean here is that your negative body thoughts are not permanent birth defects — they are thinking patterns that you were trained into by your surrounding cultural influences,
cultural influences like…
the media you consume,
the friends you choose to hang out with,
the beliefs of the romantic partners you choose,
and often the beliefs of your family members (and to be clear, your food issues are not your mother’s fault— keep in mind that she was unknowingly driven by HER cultural influences, and on and on this unfortunate cycle goes).
I know some of you are rolling your eyes thinking “yeah, it’s really depressing — we live in a world that judges my body and the social ‘consequences’ of my weight are real — how the hell am I supposed to love myself knowing that?”
Well here’s the thing…
While parts of this weight-obsessed culture you experience are difficult to escape — for instance, you probably can’t avoid seeing the giant Weight Watchers billboard on the highway you take to work everyday — there are other cultural experiences that you DO have control over.
For instance, you have at least some control over…
The people you hang out with,
the media you consume,
and the conversations you choose to participate in.
And these things heavily influence your experience of the world — that is, the culture that literally creates your body image, both negative and positive.
Knowing this, my first “practical tip” for changing the way you view your own body,
is to take honest inventory of your cultural influences (i.e. the external surroundings which affect your body image on a day-to-day basis),
and assess which of them you might actually have the power to change.
What are you reading in your spare time?
Diet books that encourage your attempts at body manipulation in the name of vanity and/or “health?”
OR body positive literature? (e.g. Body Respect — Linda Bacon’s latest for women seeking a non-weight-stigmatizing approach to health).
What conversations are you engaging in with your friends, co-workers, etc.?
Are you indulging “diet talk” at the water cooler,
OR are you directing conversations towards more productive interests?
And perhaps most importantly…
Who are you spending your time with?
People who love to body-hate on you or themselves (e.g. “ughgh I gained so much weight over the holidays”) and/or obsessively talk about dieting or food in a morally-charged way (e.g. “I can’t believe I just ate that” / “I’m on a cleanse”).
OR PEOPLE WHO DON’T DO THAT SHIT.
Think about your answers. Take inventory. Make changes where appropriate. That’s practical tip #1.
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