Embrace the Body You Have

measure-waistline

Only 9% of adult women surveyed by PEOPLE magazine

are completely satisfied with their bodies.

Does that statistic resonate with you? Would you like to be more satisfied with your body? I know you are hoping to find answers here to transform your body to the one you dream of owning. Instead I’m exploring how we can embrace the bodies we have by changing our perspective.

Take a look at how off our perspectives can be.  A popular study* found that both men and women overestimate the size of their bodies.  In fact, “women overestimate the size of their hips by 16% and the size of their waist by 25%, yet the same women were able to correctly guess the width of a box!”  To me, this is a perception problem.

Why do we have to fit into a box? Being a petite woman of 5 feet tall, one of the first things people say when they meet me is, “wow, you are so small.” I used to respond with sarcasm, embarrassment, or negative comments.

We all come in different shapes and sizes. I can focus on what I don’t have, that is height, length, and clothes that fit without tailoring. Or, I can focus on the positives about my size. I can move through crowds of people with stealth speed. I can pass for the college discount at the movie theater. It’s not all rose-colored glasses, but it’s not all thorn bushes either. This is my size, why not embrace it?

Just like people come in all shapes and sizes, so does body image.  Sam, a 40-year-old man, finds himself disgusted with his looks.  His well-intentioned wife suggested he’d be happier if he lost some weight.  But Sam, who already focuses most of his attention on what others think of him, feels hopeless about ever feeling more positive about himself.  To avoid these feelings, he stays up late numbing himself with food.

Then, there is 16-year-old Rebecca who can’t stand to look at herself in the mirror.  She thinks she’d be happier if only she were thinner, had trendy clothes, and a fresh hairstyle.  Rebecca wants to look like the actresses on TV and models in magazines, so she starts skipping meals.

If only Rebecca knew what models go through to look perfect.  Watch this Dove video. Notice how many ways this woman’s appearance is altered to fit into the beauty box we have created.

But many of us have body image issues that aren’t so extreme.  No matter where you fall on this continuum, over-focusing on your appearance as the path to happiness is a very narrow road to travel.  Instead of picking apart your appearance, how do you begin to embrace the body you have?  The answer lies in changing your perspective about your body and food in general.  So how can we change our perspective?

Develop a more neutral body image:

Avoid all or nothing thinking.  Having differences makes you unique, not bad.  People are made up of both positive and negative features, inside and out.  One feature or trait isn’t more powerful than the others.  All of these traits make up who you are.

Recognize emotional eating:

Research has found that food temporarily reduces our stress response.  It may be brief, but it is enough to reinforce that high or numb feeling.  Often, when people recognize that they’re eating to avoid unpleasant feelings, they’re able to accept or tolerate those feelings and find another way to deal with them besides using food.

Get more factual about food:

Food is not a soul mate or long-lost friend.  Nor is food your enemy.  Food is fuel for your body.  If you’re unsure how to pick foods for your activity level, consult a nutritionist in your area.  They can offer ideas on how to spread out the fuel (calories) among the different grades of fuel (food groups).

Now, it’s your turn. I want to hear your perspective. How do you begin enjoying who you are, both inside and out? Share what helps you have a more accurate perception of yourself, your body, and food.

*Dolan, Bridget et al. (1987).  “Body image distortion in non-eating disordered women and men.”  Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 31 (4).

Photo Credits: D. Sharon Pruitt

3 responses to “Embrace the Body You Have

  1. Junk food to me is any food that is in a box or comes from a restaraunt. Not all restraunts serve junk but the majority do. Making vegetables and fruits the biggest portion of my diet has helped me lose a lot of weight.

  2. I personally enjoy all the food groups. It sounds like you think of food as fuel, and are trying to find the right foods for your body. I think different folks do well on different food/fuel. I think of it as a different grade of food. Thanks for sharing your perspective and what works for you.

  3. The Dove video brought me to several others. I’ve always wondered why models don’t look like real people. Now I know – they have been photoshopped.

    My family is addicted to junk food. The faster the better.

    I like to cook, but can’t seem to leave the sweets alone. The more time I spend at my computer, the heavier I get.