A Therapist's Body Image Journey

In a world where the idea of body positivity seems to be being talked about more frequently, why are so many of us still struggling to break free from diet culture? We continue to hop from diet to diet, worship at the church of the all mighty scale, count calories, and hope friends and family don’t invite us out because it might involve food that isn’t “on plan”.  I can certainly speak from experience and say that being trapped in this cycle of going from one diet to the next in the relentless search for weight loss is truly miserable. But for many of us, that isn’t enough to stop us from jumping on the band wagon of the next “wonder diet”. So why do we do it?  Why do we succumb over and over again to the newest diet trend our friends and coworkers can’t stop talking about? Or go back to our tried and true standby diet repeatedly?  (You know, that diet that you lost a bunch of weight on years ago that you keep giving “just one more try” even though it just doesn’t seem to work for you now like it did the first time).  Why do we put ourselves through this insanity? Research shows that diets just don’t work. In fact, you are much more likely to regain any weight you do lose, and end up weighing more than when you started your diet, then to experience any sort of sustained weight loss by dieting. But even so, we continue to focus on achieving our goal weights and wearing that smaller pant size.

Sadly, many of us still don’t seem to believe there is another way. In spite of the rising body positivity movement, many people still believe that in order to be considered attractive, be respected, be healthy, and just flat out be taken seriously in this world they need to be thin and it’s holding us back. Heck I can’t judge, I’m a therapist who specializes in working with people struggling with this stuff and still have days where I look in the mirror (or worse yet, a Facebook photo I’m tagged in-the horror!) And my mind instantly kicks into overdrive with negative self-talk and plans of my next diet.  That said, there are differences between how I handle these moments now and how I would have handled them years ago. I don’t weigh myself anymore, don’t track calories, and am listening to my body in terms of what I eat and how much. Instead of focusing on losing weight for some upcoming occasion (and they’ve happened. I was just a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding and am turning 30 in October), I am focusing on self-acceptance. 

What does that mean you ask? The idea of self-acceptance may sound corny, but I promise you it’s invaluable. A lot of the time this means reminding myself that I am a worthy human being just the way I am now, thinking about my strengths instead of my weaknesses, and not allowing myself to dwell on those negative thoughts when they come. Sometimes it means taking more time to take care of myself. This might mean going to bed early, meditating, taking a barre or yoga class, dancing in my living room, or taking a nice bath. Regardless of how I’m showing myself love, doing it helps to take me out of that negative mindset about how I look and into a calmer, happier, and more peaceful place.  Because I do these things consistently, the bad moments are much more often just moments rather than full days now, (although the days do still happen).  There are less tearful temper tantrums after stepping on the scale (like I said I just don’t use the stupid thing anymore). I can live my life without worrying about tracking my food, and I can enjoy spending time with my friends and family without worrying about whether the food at the restaurant we eat at or the meal they serve will be “on my plan”.

Sounds like a dream and if I read this years ago I probably would have been thinking “yeah right…you must be crazy” but it’s really how it’s happened for me and how I believe it can happen for other people too. I feel so much more free and at peace with myself, food, and my body and now I want to shout from the roof tops that it’s possible. Not just for me but for everyone. Is it easy? No way! Like I said I still have hard days but I’ve seen that if we focus on loving our bodies for all they do for us regardless of the size they happen to be at right now, rather than trying to force our bodies to live up to the current culturally accepted thin stereotype, wonderful things really do happen.