Worthiness, Belonging, Sin, Guilt, Shame — these are usually the purview of religion, but more and more they’re to be found lurking under the umbrella of “wellness”. The linking of wellness and “goodness” has been building for years now, but it’s reached epidemic proportions: Before 2005, about 50% of Americans reported feeling guilty for eating something they liked. By 2017, 70% of men and 80% of women now say they feel guilt over the simple act of eating something they enjoy. Now that’s truly a shame! (Guilt-free enjoyment is one key to lasting weight loss).
WORTHINESS: Internet trolls, and public figures have made their judgments all too clear –any woman who doesn’t look like a model or happens to be of normal weight or more, or has a gray hair or a wrinkle, can’t be taken seriously, should be attacked mercilessly, and probably doesn’t deserve to live. But it’s not just the trolls, shades of this are everywhere…
BELONGING: If you’re young, thin and beautiful, you’re “in”. If you’re surviving on radishes and brussels sprouts, you’re in. If you’re spinning, cross-training, ultra-anything-ing, you’re probably in. If you’re trying hard just to get in a walk or two on weekends, sorry, but you’re out. If you’ve struggled to diet but the weight just comes back every time, you’re out. If you’re sixty and something has sagged…right, out again! The truth though, is that we all have the same right to belong, we each have a place and something to offer the world, the challenge is to step into it bravely, whatever “it” might be.
SINFUL FOODS/SUPER FOODS: The lists keep growing and changing, creating endless opportunities for virtue and guilt. Going on a diet or doing a “cleanse” may seem noble, but it could easily backfire. (More than 1/3 of dieters end up heavier, not lighter). Remember: you’re not “one cookie away from the grave”, and no one food is the key to salvation. They come, they go. Find the middle path: enjoy a little of this, little of that, and relax.
GUILT: It’s said that Americans worry more about what they eat and enjoy it less, than any other nation in the world. Eating is not a moral issue! Waste and animal welfare have ethical aspects, but choosing pizza instead of salad is just a choice, a preference. If you eat too much pizza, your health may suffer, but it’s not anyone else’s place to condemn you for it. In the end, it’s up to you. Even your doctor and loved ones need to realize that making you feel guilty won’t help. Guilt is a lousy motivator–we usually end up eating more as a result, not less. Let it go!
SHAME: This is the worst of all: it destroys our self-confidence and our self-worth. With so many spoken and unspoken rules about wellness and what’s good for us, it’s hard to avoid breaking one. Society’s judgments are so clear that even when nothing is said, shame floods in instantly at every opportunity. And if you’re overweight, just “being” can feel shameful. Speak up for yourself: both to those who seek to shame and to that internal voice that creeps in with negative comments. Shame has no place here. If you’ve fought your body and lost, join the club. It’s one of the hardest things a human being can do, so honor yourself for the attempt, ditch the guilt and shame, and quit fighting. (There’s a peaceful path that’s not a diet: it’s simple, but not easy, and it will take time, but the pounds you lose will stay lost.)
Let’s find a new, more balanced perspective on all this:
Bodies come in all shapes and sizes and even imperfect bodies are good bodies.
Food is just nourishment, not a sacrament.
Thin does not equal healthy (really, it’s true).
If you can respect your body, listen to it, feed it when it’s hungry and not use it as a dumping ground, it will be your greatest ally. Making those shifts can be a challenge, but the health and emotional benefits are life-changing.
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