By Anna Church, MS, LMHCA
I would like to take a moment to discuss the way we talk about ourselves and our bodies. This time of year, in particular perhaps, we tend to have all sorts of labels and expectations on ourselves. Concerns about body size, weight, health, food, and related topics tend to arise. Instead of going down the path of popular or conventional trends of what health looks like or what we “should” like like, be doing, or eating, I would like to offer an alternate perspective.
There are two movements that have gained momentum in recent years: the body positive moment and the health at every size movement. What these movements have in common are that they both challenge the narrative that there is some absolute ideal body size that we are reaching for. Body movements send the message that you can celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of your body, find joy in your body, enjoy activity, and and enjoy eating no matter what size you are, what you weight, or what you look like. Below are some key takeaways that I have compiled to help challenge the conventional narrative that there is one “right” way to be or look.
What negative self-talk am I engaging in?
Pay attention to the adjectives and labels. How am I describing myself and others? Are these descriptions coming from a place of kindness and compassion or are they coming from a place of judgment? We tend to put labels on ourselves, our actions, and out food. These can be labels like good, bad, right, wrong, cheating, too big, etc. The way that we talk to ourselves matters. When we put negative labels on our food, our activity, ourselves then we start to view the whole of ourselves as negative. Negative labels lead to feelings of guilt and shame which perpetuates the cycle of unhealthy behaviors.
What expectations am I putting on myself or others?
What am I telling myself that I “should” be doing, that I “should” look like, or “should” be eating? Where do these expectations come from? Are they realistic? Is there a way I can be kinder or gentler with myself and others? When we put arbitrary expectations on ourselves then we feel like we are not matching up to an ideal and then we feel like we are already failing. Try challenging these expectations but looking for and celebrating the positive qualities and actions that we already have. And using gentler and kinder language when you feel like you are not meeting a goal.
What am I not doing because I think I can’t until I reach some sort of marker?
When we hold ourselves to unrealistic standards sometimes additional barriers are placed. I have heard people make statements such as “I will go to the gym after I lose 50 pounds, I do not want to be the only big person in the gym” or “I can’t wear that bathing suit because I am too fat, I won’t look good in it. No one wants to see a fat person in a bathing suit.” What really is stopping you from doing the activity you want to do? Who cares if someone does not like the way you look, if you want to do it go ahead! Celebrate diversity. Find the beauty and uniqueness in every body.
Try practicing compassionate self-care.
Compassionate self care means tuning into yourself and what you need. One way is to engage in activities that you enjoy. How does your body feel after you move it? Find the joy in activity and moving you body. If you enjoy dancing? Dance away! If you enjoy swimming, swim to your hearts content! If you enjoy walking, take that walk! Give yourself permission to be flexible and tune into yourself and what you need. How am I feeling? Am I tired, sore, in pain, restless, hungry, energetic? These will give you clues to what you need. Perhaps it is time to rest, go on a walk, take a bubble bath, or eat that delicious meal that you have been craving.
So during this holiday season, and beyond, I challenge you to practice self compassion, find joy in movement, and look for the beauty in yourself.
Links for further reading, information, and resources: https://www.thebodypositive.org/