webpchecker

Embrace body in all its forms for self care

Body dissatisfaction and eating challenges are on the rise, affecting every sector of our population, from our youth to our elderly, but with an alarming increase among teens, young adults and children of increasingly younger ages.

We’ve reached a point in history where nearly every person is in some way affected by society’s heightened focus on beauty images, health and weight.

– Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, co-founders of The Body Positive.

Almost half of American children between first and third grade want to be thinner, half of 9- and 10-year-old girls are dieting, and 58.6% of girls and 29.2% of boys are actively dieting. More than half of teenage girls and nearly a third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives according to the Redefining Wellness Project.

What’s creating this heartbreaking reality?

The younger generation has learned to hate their bodies and “diet” from our culture — from us.

 

Redefining Wellness reports that “75% of American women surveyed endorse unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies,” and “Americans spend over $60 billion on dieting and diet products each year” even though “95% of diets fail and most of us will regain the lost weight in 1-5 years.”

Kids model adult behavior — how we react to ourselves in a family photo, how we approach “good nutrition” going on and off “diets” to maintain or shrink our bodies, how we talk negatively about our bodies as they change, age — making them fear they won’t be loved unless they possess an “ideal” body. Sadly, this is normal, everyday adult conversation.

We can do better. We have the power to create the necessary cultural shift to save the next generation from negative body image as a root cause of many unhealthy behaviors with food and exercise.

 

You can learn to live peacefully and healthfully in your body by becoming competent in the five core skills of the Be Body Positive Model.

The model teaches us to:

♡ Reclaim health ♡ Practice intuitive self-care ♡ Cultivate self-love ♡ Declare our own authentic beauty ♡ Build community

ONE: Begin with the foundation of this work: Reclaiming your health.

Reduce suffering and heal from body dissatisfaction by challenging the ingrained societal and familial messages that say wellness is dependent on your weight.

Learn to identify and reject the billion-dollar diet industry that drives and profits off of body shame. If you’re not thin (enough) or if you gain weight for any reason, diet culture promotes “wellness” plans to achieve “health,” aka thinness, albeit temporary. Eventually you regain the weight, often more as a protective mechanism against future self-imposed famines. And then you start again, because it “worked” before, right? Truth bomb: All dieting is yo-yo dieting.

Maybe you’ve been able to maintain your body size, but at what cost? Has your forever diet led to obsessive behaviors with food and/or exercise?

To reclaim health, ditch diets and the limited view of health that equates your weight to your wellness.

♡ Want more inspiration and love to listen to podcasts?

Check out my latest interview: The Anti-Diet and Body Respect Movement – Episode 43 of the Love Your Enthusiasm podcast.

TWO: The next step to becoming body positive competent is to strengthen your intuitive self-care skills.

Improve your health by listening for and responding to your unique body’s needs with eating, exercise and all aspects of your life.

The outside advice from “experts” telling you what’s best for your body may not be right for you. What? No gluten-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free food plan to follow? With no food rules you may feel lost at first because you’ve become disassociated from your body, like it’s an object, just a machine to be fed and moved.

Instead, intuitive self-care teaches you to get back inside your body. With practice you’ll gain confidence to be the expert of your own body and health.

THREE: The third body competency skill is building a self-love practice.

Self-love is about cultivating kindness, respect and compassion for yourself and your perfectly imperfect human body. It’s a deep knowing that you are valuable and worthy regardless of your body’s size or appearance. And research shows that it leads to improved self-care — the intuitive kind, that is.

Furthermore, self-love is protective against your inner mean voice that hijacks your brain when you don’t like what you see in the mirror. Instead of pushing away your negative body talk, a self-love practice teaches you to turn toward the discomfort and meet it head on with compassion, giving you permission to be human and reject ideals.

 

FOUR: Next, you have permission to be entirely yourself and declare your authentic beauty.

Instead of feeling ashamed, fighting and fixing your “flawed” parts, respect body diversity and honor that your body is expected to change through each developmental stage of life.

“Finding beauty in aging, growing, and in being different means beauty is no longer something static we try to attain, but rather a part of our lived, changing experience,” body positive leader, Sarah Lewin says.

This wisdom, like self-love, also leads to true self-care, because you let go of striving to meet society’s definition of beauty.

We radiate beauty in many ways that have nothing to do with our appearance. For example, my beauty is my laugh, my passion for the body positive movement, the giddiness I feel when surfing a wave and my singing silly commercial jingles out of tune.

“Seeing our beauty is not an exercise in vanity — it’s a necessary component of good physical and emotional health,” Sobczak says.

FIVE: And finally, one of the easiest ways to reclaim your health, practice intuitive self-care and self-love and see your own beauty is in a supportive body positive community.

Together let’s promote awareness and education to reject our culture’s perfectionist body ideals that have led to the alarming increase in body dissatisfaction and unhealthy behaviors with food and exercise.

Join me in creating a Be Body Positive community — for the health of our kids, for every body.

The Before and After of Hating Your Body

Taryn Brumfitt posted a before-and- after photo of herself on Facebook.

But with a twist.

Instead of the conventional “before” photo, where you’re sad and miserable and your body is viewed as “undesirable,” Brumfitt first posted her body-building competition photo, posing in a silver bikini and high heels.

Next she posted a photo of her natural woman’s body — relaxed, smiling, sitting sideways on a stool, nude — her body the shape it settled to when she was no longer trying to control it.

The after photo was her “liberated” body, when she let go of unrealistic body ideals, the belief that her appearance equaled her self-worth and that well-being has a certain look.

Yet it took some time to have the courage to post a photo like that.

It started with her in tears slumped on her bathroom floor in despair. She felt exhausted, resentful, and hated her body after having her third child.

Stressed over “getting her body back” and feeling judged for “letting herself go,” Brumfitt set out to fix her “broken” body.

At first she considered cosmetic surgery. But she worried about the message that choice would send to her daughter and turned to fitness instead. She signed up for a body-building competition, and after months of intense training and restrictive eating she attained what culture considers the “perfect” body.

“I would go to the beach with my children to eat fish and chips, and I would pull out my Tupperware container of boiled chicken and vegetables — not much fun for a lover of food like me,” Brumfitt said in a Greatist.com article.

The “picture of health” on the outside, Brumfitt felt miserable inside. The amount of sacrifice, time and obsession wasn’t worth it. She realized that if she had to restrict, overexercise and punish herself to maintain that body type, her body wasn’t meant to be at that weight.

After listening to her competitors’ fears about gaining weight after the competition, Brumfitt was ready to take the stand for healthy body image that changed the course of her life.

The Facebook photos went viral, receiving 3.6 million clicks overnight, and she received over 7,000 emails from people all over the world sharing their stories of eating disorders and body image challenges.

Seeing she had the power to create a greater impact on our global body-hating epidemic, Brumfitt founded the Body Image Movement and produced “Embrace,” a social-change documentary film examining body image struggles.

You too can embrace

Maybe you’re one of the 91% of women dissatisfied with her body, seeking that elusive perfect “after” photo, beating yourself up over what you see in the mirror and every morsel of food you eat.

Culturally we’ve been conditioned to believe we can love our bodies only when they’re in “perfect” condition.

But “bodies aren’t meant to stay the same,” says body positive social media influencer Megan Jane Crabbe on Instagram.

“Bodies are supposed to grow and change and carry the signs of our life on them,” Crabbe said.

It’s normal for a body to change through the natural stages of life: puberty, childbirth, menopause, (or “manopause” for the gentlemen) and a multitude of other reasons, including illness and injury.

“How can the signs of having lived be anything other than beautiful?” Crabbe said. “Our changing, growing, aging bodies are extraordinary, and we deserve to inhabit them without shame.”

Self-love, not body hate

You’re not going to just wake up one morning and love your body.

“It’s like a muscle that grows and it grows over time,” Brumfitt said in a BusinessChicks.com article, “and it’s something you’ve got to give a lot of love and a lot of energy to, but it’s so worth it.

“When it comes to health,” she said, “you can’t look after something that you don’t love.”

Self-care not self-control

Embracing your body doesn’t mean you don’t care for your body. It’s not “letting yourself go.” It’s not promoting “obesity” or “mediocrity” in your health.

It advocates self-care, not self-control. But how do you tell the difference?

Are your behaviors driven by the feeling you “need” to or “should” control your body? Are they creating stress? Do your actions feel punitive?

Or do your behaviors feel nourishing, building, relaxing — true self-care?

What foods feel nourishing to you right now? Sometimes enjoying a slice of cake with your best friend nourishes you beyond the ingredients. What kind of movement feels good to you today? Maybe rest is more nourishing.

Self-care is subjective. It’s about what feels right and good for you, now.

For Brumfitt, some days self-care is yoga. Some days it’s deadlifting 240 pounds. Some days it’s playing with her kids at the beach, running marathons, writing or hiking.

See the difference?

Be part of the revolution

The Body Image Movement is a judgment-free zone.

The movement instead stands for: celebrating our bodies for all that they can do, have done and will do; body diversity in the media and advertising; acknowledging that aging is a privilege; and health at every size.

It’s not profit before people, excessive Photoshopping in the media, the notion that weight determines your health, the objectification of women.

You have a choice about how you spend your life. You can live at war with your body or you can embrace it.

As Crabbe said in a recent Instagram post:

“I have given up on my body.

“I’ve given up on my body becoming something that it was never supposed to be.

“I’ve given up on my body being a measure of my value as a human being.

“I’ve given up on my body being the reason why I don’t deserve happiness because I’ve always deserved it.

“And I’ve finally let myself go into the world without believing that fitting into a bulls–t cultural standard of beauty is all I have to offer.”

Here’s to letting ourselves go. I hope it feels damn good.

You can be caged or liberated. In 2015 I chose liberated, and I assure you, it feels damn good.

Wellness has become another word for diet

“No one is going to stand up at your funeral and say, ‘She had a small waist and a great thigh gap.’”

—Ailey Jolie, registered clinical counselor

As a woman, former exercise professional and “eat this, not that” nutrition coach, that could have been how I was remembered. My identity was health and wellness. And my professional success, for the most part, used to be measured in pounds and inches lost.

After years of working in the fitness and nutrition fields, I saw the harm the “wellness industry” was perpetuating and my part in it. I felt dishonest teaching that you could have the “healthy” body you desired if you just ate well and exercised more. We are not here on planet earth to spend a heartbreaking amount of time, resources and energy trying to mold our bodies.

That wasn’t the legacy that I wanted to leave behind for future generations.

Trending toward moralistic

“At its core, ‘wellness’ is about weight loss,” author Jessica Knoll wrote in “Smash the Wellness Industry,” an opinion piece printed in the June 8 New York Times. “It demonizes calorically dense and delicious foods, preserving a vicious fallacy: Thin is healthy and healthy is thin.”

Even smart, successful women have fallen prey to weight loss disguised as wellness, Knoll noted. She described a recent lunch with her friends during which they struggled to order off the menu: One was eliminating dairy to lose weight, another was trying to be “good.” And they were all picking apart their perceived flaws: excess body fat, cellulite, post-baby weight. She wondered what the men at the next table were talking about.

I doubt it was weight loss.

Health has become fear-based and moralistic — good, bad, clean, dirty. We believe we must worry about every morsel as if we’re just one bite away from disease. And for many, exercise is a “should,” though at times rest may be the best form of self-care.

How do you determine if a behavior is truly healthful? Simply put, if self-care is creating stress, it’s not self-care. Chronic stress is worse for our health than anything we eat or any workout we skip.

Different word, same diet

Your body at its healthiest and fittest may not look the way you hoped or were led to believe it would. As Beauty Redefined, a nonprofit promoting body image resilience, wrote in a recent Instagram post: “We must learn to separate cultural outward body ideals like thinness from our health and fitness pursuits.”

Although the language we hear every day has shifted away from weight loss to healthy behaviors, the underlying goal of the diet industry disguised as wellness remains: Pounds lost equals success.

Take Weight Watchers, for example, which in September 2018 rebranded to WW with an attempt to redefine the acronym as “Wellness Wins,” a move to “reimagine” the program. But examine the company’s messaging on its Instagram:

“What sweet treats do you save your SmartPoints for?”

“Raise your hand if your scale is always wrong on Mondays”? Laughing emoji.

“Seeking: SmartPoints refund for food that didn’t taste as good as it looked.”

“Me: How you feel is as important as how much you weigh. Also me: Removes dangly earrings before stepping on the scale.” Laughing emoji.

What struck me most was how frequently the laughing emoji is used, a move that seemingly makes light of our perceived food and body failures and preoccupation with the scale and food.

How we feel about our bodies is no joke. I have a well-used tissue box in my office to prove it.

We don’t need more of the same, no matter what it is named. We need honest messaging that frees us from a war with ourselves, that frees us from believing that we even need to start our week out by stepping on a scale.

Your values, your life

Getting clear on your personal values is the start of creating space for a meaningful and impactful life. I love to use value cards, which present 80-plus values sorted into three piles: very important, important and not important.

Once you’ve determined your top five values, go live them. Let these values guide your daily decisions. Let them take up space in your mind that you once dedicated to dieting and weight loss.

To further put things into perspective, I’d like you to answer three profound questions asked by author Martha Beck:

“How much did Florence Nightingale weigh when she founded modern nursing? How much did Rosa Parks weigh when she took a seat on that bus? How much did Malala Yousafzai weigh when she started writing about the lives of girls in Pakistan living under Taliban rule?

“You don’t know? That’s the right answer. Because it doesn’t matter.”

Right on, Martha.

That is the legacy I want to leave behind.

If you, too, find yourself stuck in the toxic messages of the “wellness” industry and it’s distracting you from living fully into your personal values, take heed of this powerful message from News & Guide Deputy Editor Melissa Cassutt:

“I read obituaries for a living, and weight has been mentioned in exactly zero. I never even see beautiful or handsome used. What families and friends often remember is how a person made them feel.”

Don’t allow the diet industry disguised as wellness define your health. Know your values, focus on them, and take care of your whole self. You will be remembered for how you made others feel, not for the size of your waist or thighs.

And that is truly the most beautiful thing about you.

(This article was published in the August 21, 2019 edition of the Jackson Hole News and Guide).

Say ‘No Weigh” to the Scale

“You can live the rest of your life without knowing how much you weigh.”

Does that sound radical and maybe even unfathomable?

The statement comes from registered dietitian Christina Frangione, who suggests we all can say “no weigh” to measuring your health with diet culture’s ruler: the scale.

While we may believe health is manipulating our bodies to an “ideal” weight and maintain that weight throughout our lifetimes, that belief is false. In fact, it’s making many of us less healthy.

Created by the $72 billion dollar diet industry, healthy-as-thin has infiltrated the nutrition and fitness industries, duping far too many of us into a lifetime filled with food preoccupation, exercise obsession and body dissatisfaction.

Does that sound healthy?

‘Ideal’ weight is a fallacy

As a culture we are obsessed with the number on the scale and the belief that we have an “ideal” weight.

You know, that number — the number you weighed when you were 22, pre-baby, on the ski racing team, when you were restricting gluten, dairy, sugar on your 21-day detox, after your fitness contest. Or maybe that number is simply one you’ve been told you should attain but have never weighed.

We get that one number stuck in our heads and believe we can’t like our bodies or be happy and healthy until the scale sings it. Whatever pops up on the scale sparks joy or utter despair, all in a matter of seconds.

Again, that’s not healthy.

As a body image and redefining wellness ambassador, I must remind you that weight doesn’t necessarily indicate your best health because bodies are born different sizes and shapes.

Some bodies are naturally small, and others are naturally big. Small bodies may be healthy or unhealthy. Big bodies may be healthy or unhealthy. Every body is different.

It’s understandable that we focus on scale weight, as that’s all we’ve ever been taught: Lose weight, get healthier.

But that’s not the case for every body. For some, attaining and maintaining a thin body comes with relative ease. If you’re thin or have lost weight and kept it off by honoring your body’s needs, that’s wonderful. But it doesn’t mean every body can do it.

As a former “eat this, not that” nutrition coach and fitness professional, I had that false belief because, frankly, I live in a body that’s naturally thin.

But for many, focusing on attaining an “ideal” weight is a full-time job and a struggle. It takes an incredible amount of time and energy to force your body into a size it was never meant to be. In many cases, it can’t be done.

You are not failure when that happens. It’s diet culture that’s failing you.

If you need to maintain a strict eating and exercise regime to maintain your “ideal” weight, that’s not a healthy weight for you. We normalize restrictive eating and obsessive exercise and call it healthy. It’s not.

Perhaps you do attain your goal weight. At what cost, and is it sustainable? For most, that “success” is fleeting, leading us into a life of yo-yo dieting and a desperate hunt for the next eating and exercise plan promising to fix our bodies.

Even more distressing, when you focus solely on an “ideal” weight and see little to no change, you may give up on healthy behaviors despite dramatic improvements in health markers, like improved cholesterol, blood sugar and cardiovascular health.

And, finally, diet culture doesn’t tell you that your body is meant to change naturally throughout life’s stages. As a 52-year old post-menopausal woman, my body weight and shape has shifted. Scale numbers will fluctuate daily and throughout your lifetime.

But I have to lose weight

I can hear you pushing back: “But what if I am trying to lose weight for my health, not my appearance?”

You’re told to lose weight as the sole solution to having health challenges such as diabetes, thyroid conditions, knee pain.

People in thin bodies have those health problems too. But only people in heavier bodies are told to lose weight to solve them.

As a mind-body-nutrition coach I have respect for every body, regardless of weight. Together we focus on the healthy behaviors that your unique whole body needs, and we allow your weight to be where you feel nourished, not punished or controlled.

Don’t worry: Not focusing on weight loss doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your body or your health. It means that you are prioritizing whole health and feeling good over a number on the scale. It means that you are enhancing your overall health by freeing up precious time and energy — mental, emotional and physical.

So if you’re not focusing on scale weight, then what?

Listen and nourish

“When weight loss is the goal,” intuitive eating counselor Krista Murias said, “depriving and restricting the body become more important than listening to and nourishing it.”

Listen to your body. Diet culture has convinced us to tune out.

Stop forcing yourself to eat kale if you hate it. Stop forcing yourself to trot in the Turkey Day 5K to “earn” your holiday dinner. As clinical psychologist Dr. Coleen Reichman said: “Sometimes it’s healthier to skip the workout. Your soul probably needs more attention than your glutes today.”

Focus on healthy behaviors, not the number on scale. When you do, you can let the weight stigma against yourself go and finally find real freedom and intuition with food and fitness to live your best life.

Be a rebel. Dump your scale.

Listen. Your body is talking

In addition to truly healthful behaviors like intuitive eating and pursuing movement that makes you feel good, listen for your other needs like:

• more sleep

• counseling

• meditation

• a job change

• saying no unless it’s a, “hell yes!”

• more frequent vacations

• learning to communicate more effectively

• connecting with your partner

(This article was published in the November 13, 2019 edition of the Jackson Hole News and Guide).