Therapist Julie A. Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, helps you think differently about your body so you can love and appreciate the body you have today!
I’ve asked the question “What would you most like to change about yourself?” to hundreds of women and it’s not surprising that the most common responses were about changing physical appearance – losing weight, getting in shape. Negative body image plagues the majority of American women and we spend billions of dollars yearly on diet and beauty products attempting to change our bodies.
Let’s challenge the “outside in” approach to changing our bodies and approach body image from the “inside out.” By changing how you see your body, what you think about your body, you can change how you feel about and feel in your body. It is possible to love the body you have today without losing a pound!
There are many reasons why women are so dissatisfied with their physical bodies.
• Unrealistic cultural ideal for thinness.
• Digitally altered media images lead to false sense of beauty.
• Female body has become objectified.
• Physical appearance has become the central source of many women’s sense of self-worth.
• Body can be the “scapegoat” of negative emotions or relationship problems.
Current research tells us that negative body image is rampant and becoming more common in young adults and youth.
• 1 in 5 women struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating.
• 90% of normal weight female college students long to be thinner.
• Almost 80 per cent of pre-adolescent children are unhappy with their bodies.
• Normal weight boys and girls as young as 11 are unhappy with their size and want to be thinner.
• Negative body image puts you at risk for developing eating disorders, and other mental and physical health problems.
How to Love Your Body
1. Accept Your Body “breed’
Think of your basic body shape and size as you would a dog breed. You wouldn’t dream of punishing your Saint Bernard for not being as lean as a Greyhound, or your Chihuahua for not being as tall a Great Dane. Research suggests that our current cultural ideal for women’s bodies is attainable by less than 5% of the population. While there are parts of your bodies that you can alter through healthy lifestyle changes, many aspects like height, frame, and shape are genetic. Work with your body “breed”, not against it.
2. View your body as an instrument, not just an ornament
Your body is a tool for life. It’s easy to lose focus of what our bodies can do living in a culture that overvalues women’s external appearance. Take time to reflect on the amazing ways your body serves you each day and allows you to see, touch, feel, express, hear, walk, breath, create, and think. Never let the form of your body overshadow the amazing functions.
3. Get critical about the media messages
Talk back to the TV (or magazine, or billboard…). Say out loud how ridiculous the messages are that you are bombarded with hundreds of times per day. Keep in mind that advertisements are intended to make us feel that we “need” to buy products or services – clothing, make-up, diet plan, clothing, surgery – in order to be happy and satisfied with our physical selves. Studies suggest that merely viewing idealized images in fashion magazines, TV programs, & advertisements negatively impacts your body image.
4. Do your history homework
The notion of the ideal female body is a fluid concept and varies depending on historical context and
the culture in which you reside. No matter what your shape or size you can bet that at some point in history it was the ideal. Renoir’s paintings in the late 1800’s represented very voluptuous women as beautiful works of art. Marilyn Monroe’s curvy size 14 considered the epitome of beauty in the 1950’s is a far cry from the boyish figured supermodel Twiggy in the 1960’s. Taking a step into history can help maintain a perspective that allows you to love the body you have.
5. Focus on health, not size or shape
Instead of focusing on changing your shape or size, focus on taking good care of your body. Ironically, change usually occurs when we accept and nurture ourselves in our current state, not when we put ourselves down. You only have the body you have today and it looks the way it looks right now. If there is something about your body you’d like to change (that is possible to change), you’re more likely to experience success if you are coming from a place of love and acceptance, rather than rejection.
Licensed Therapist Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, LLC specializes in women’s mental health, marriage counseling, & family therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com to learn more about counseling services, workshops, classes. Visit www.juliehanks.com for more inspiration on how to improve your life and your relationships!