This is typically something you will not hear from someone who works in my field. Personal trainers have been profitting off of the negative self-image of others for a long time. Promising that when you lose 20lbs or you have a more shapely butt that you will just start to ooze confidence.
Unfortunately, a change in the number on the scale is unlikely to unravel your whole self-belief system you have held for the majority of your life. If you view your body negatively, the way you see yourself is not going to change just because you lose weight. The way you carry yourself is not going to change just because you lose weight.
As someone whose weight has varied from its heaviest at 220lbs and at its lightest 135lbs, I can tell you that even at the times in my life when I was my leanest I was never satisfied with how my body looked. I was in what a lot of people consider to be “great shape” and still I had no confidence – I was painfully shy and the idea of wearing shorts in public would send me into a frenzy of tears and panic. I would constantly compare myself to other women – especially models and actresses – and try to validate myself by making my body and my overall look similar to them.
Nowadays, I maintain a fairly consistent bodyweight, and although I am not at my leanest – I am probably the healthiest I have ever been mentally and physically. I am strong and mobile and I can do things I was not even able to do as a child – such as handbalancing. I now maintain eye contact with people when I am talking to them, I don’t speak quietly or mumble anymore, and I am no longer petrified of wearing shorts in public. And even though I am not what society considers traditionally beautiful – I am happy with my body: how it looks and all the wonderful things it does. And this confidence has trickled into all aspects of my life.
But I know not everyone feels this way about their bodies. We have it hard, as women society tells us that if we are not “conventionally beautiful” à la Victoria Secret Angel than we are not valued. By no means am I saying that looking like a supermodel is wrong, however there are maybe 5 people in the world that look like Victoria Secret Angels and there are 3.5 billion women being told to look like that and being told that they are not worthy or valued based on how they look right now. And this is a HUGE PROBLEM.
We, the people, come in a variety of shapes, colours, sizes, ages, ability, and body compositions and we should never feel guilty or ashamed of being ourselves nor for simply being in our bodies. The sooner we acknowledge and accept that, the sooner we can heal our broken relationships with our bodies and develop a stronger and more positive self-image. We can ask for better representation of our diverse bodies by voting with our dollars with the products purchase, by purchasing from companies that showcase our diversity. Hopefully over time we will achieve better representation of our physical diversity and this will normalize all bodies.
Outside of asking society to change the narrow representation of the female body there are things we can do ourselves. We must first start by accepting our bodies and loving them. We can do this by:
- doing things that make our bodies feel good; moving, eating, resting, sleeping, laughing, dancing, singing, exercising in ways that we enjoy, etc.
- wearing clothing that is comfortable and makes us feel good
- surrounding ourselves with positive people
- keeping an inventory of the things we like about ourselves and our bodies
- being grateful for all the wonderful things our bodies can do such as breathing, healing, running, etc.
- protesting messages and media that are non-inclusive with regards to our bodies
- calling people out for body policing and shutting down body policing
I also strongly believe an integral part of developing healthy body-image also begins by detaching our value as human beings to our looks. I am not saying it is wrong to want to change the way you look – however knowing that are valued outside of your looks is highly important. We are whole people – with skills, abilities, and smarts that can contribute to the world in so many positive ways outside of our looks. Taking the time to acknowledge, develop, and use our non-aesthetic assets will allow you to positively impact the world and in turn reward us with confidence and happiness that conforming our bodies to a societal iron maiden never could.
When we start to claim our presence as whole people, we remember that we are not hollow shells meant earn our place in the world by pleasing the eyes of others. Only once we have accepted our bodies as they are can we begin to love them and act from a place of compassion and treat ourselves with respect and love we deseve. Maybe then we will fully acknowledge that losing weight does not cure negative body image.
Our remedy for negative body image starts with how we think and how we act. We need to act in line with how we want to feel and stand together to manifest the changes necessary to make us feel more positively about our bodies. We owe it to ourselves to take the steps towards feeling comfortable, safe, and confident in our bodies, and we are the only people who can make that happen.
I know I am ready for women to feel normal, happy, confident, and proud of their bodies.