I have to admit, despite being an anti-diet feminist therapist, I’ve been terrified to write an article about dieting. People really like their diets. If you have a way of eating and relating to food that makes you feel great about yourself and your life, more power to you!
Many folks don’t have that good luck, though. I talk to women on a near-daily basis who’ve tried everything only to end up feelings discouraged and miserable. There’s a growing movement celebrating diversity in body shapes and sizes- you truly can be healthy, hot, and happy at any size. I am so grateful that people are finally recognizing this. But some folks take it too far, seeing a desire for change to be “wrong.”
It’s not wrong to want your body to be different. I pluck my eyebrows (admittedly not often enough!) because I prefer the way that looks to “right out of the box” Abby. If I could have a sweet color-faded mermaid hairdo without the upkeep, I’d go for it. If I could magically be three inches taller, I’d consider it. But we don’t really attach the same value and expectations to height or foot size as we do to thinness, do we?
Here’s where I might differ from the body-positive movement: You don’t have to force it. Forcing a “love your body” mentality isn’t always feasible for many women, especially after years of consuming media telling you that you should look a certain way. It can be nearly impossible if you are suffering from a chronic illness, struggling to get pregnant, or otherwise in a position where you body just isn’t *doing* what you want. Loving your body is an admirable goal, and absolutely possible in the long-term, but possibly not realistic today.
So if you find yourself wanting to be thinner, take a breath. You are okay exactly as you are- not just physically, but emotionally.
Ok, But I Really Do Want to Feel Good in My Body
Amazing! And I want that for you too- it’s your freaking birthright. I just don’t want you to feel so much pressure to get it right at this moment.
I usually encourage clients to become aware of the way bodies and diets are talked about in our culture- both on a national or international scale and in your workplaces and families. What kind of discussion feels good? What kind of discussion makes you feel inadequate or ashamed? Bringing attention to the messages that come our way is a great first step toward not internalizing them.
I also find that body confidence goes hand-in-hand with the relationships in your life: Are you able to communicate and honor your needs? Do you feel empowered to take up space, make noise, and generally kick ass? Exploring those themes in therapy can help you get comfy in your skin.
The Magic Question
What would need to happen in your inner world so that you could love your body exactly as it is, right now? If your body never changed, how would you need to alter your thoughts, feelings, self-talk and environment to feel gorgeous and confident?
If you choose to engage in any kind of diet, workout plan, or appearance alteration, can you go into it with that attitude?
I encourage you to keep these questions in mind whenever body image issues come up. And if they’re coming up pretty frequently, hit me up. Let’s see what we can do to help you overcome them.