Maybe this has happened to you? Years ago, early in my work life, I would start thinking about how I looked and soon the idea would come: “I should lose some weight”. Then shortly after that, I’d find myself in the break room, in front of the Coke machine, holding a candy bar.
And the next thing I knew, I’d have gained 5 pounds. It happened more than once, until it finally dawned on me that diet thinking led to weight gain, not weight loss, and I realized I had to stop it. Cold turkey. Find a way to let those thoughts go.
Letting the negative judgments go wasn’t easy then, and society makes it even harder …
- We live in a world where wellness has become a religion and being thin is considered a sign of good health. (It’s not, but that’s another story)
- In our culture, women are rated first and foremost on their attractiveness, and weight is the most important factor.
- Women in the media are PhotoShopped into wildly unrealistic proportions, and it’s hailed as revolutionary to feature a normal-weight woman as “attractive”.
- Models struggle with anorexia and bulimia, and girls go on diets at younger and younger ages.
- Some doctors are refusing to treat women with serious conditions “until they lose weight”, even though they can’t prescribe a reliable and lasting method of weight loss.
- And isn’t sad that often the greatest compliment you can give someone is to ask: “have you lost weight?”
… and all this pressure ultimately makes us heavier. It increases our stress and our negativity about where we are at the moment, and it eventually leads to more eating, not less.
WHAT IF YOU COULD LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND NOT CRITICIZE YOURSELF?
How would that feel? What would it mean?
It would mean acceptance, but not necessarily approval. This was a difficult one for me to get–that I didn’t have to LIKE my weight to be OK with myself. I had learned that you can’t build something positive on a negative foundation, and I realized that self-criticism wasn’t a helpful starting place–it meant Cokes and candy bars and 5 more pounds. The Catch 22 here was that to be OK with my weight and keep from gaining, I had to stop thinking about it.
It would mean focusing on the human being, not the flaws. Do you see the crows’ feet? The extra chin? The love handles? Or do you see the warm, lovable, intelligent person who’s looking back at you? Do you look into her eyes? You can choose what you see–choose wisely!
It would mean peace instead of struggle. No one is perfect–even the most “perfect” models are brutally aware of their own flaws, so the rest of us might as well throw in the towel and accept what we are. It’s not giving up, it’s opening up–opening to a whole new way of thinking about ourselves, of being in our bodies.
It would mean having a purpose beyond looking good. Of course you’re more than your looks. You know that. But where do you focus when you think about yourself? We women, especially, tend to focus on our flaws when we describe ourselves. Force yourself to look beyond the flaws to what really matters to you and to others and put that first.
It would make room for the possibility of a smile … and that could feel GREAT!
In fact, smiling is a good idea. It can be the first step toward thinking of your body and yourself with appreciation and respect.
I finally did quit thinking about losing weight and going on diets, and learned to jettison the self-judgment. It was the last piece of the puzzle that needed to fall into place, and what a relief! I discovered that self-appreciation was much more attractive than self-criticism, on the outside as well as the inside: it helped my confidence, and that showed up and paid off in many ways.
So, find a new thought to replace the old judgments, and let go of the negativity when it arises. It will get easier with practice.
Wishing you a smile in the mirror!
PS. If this sounds impossible, or if it sounds intriguing, there’s a powerful movie you might want to watch: Embrace. It’s free with Amazon Prime or very inexpensive to rent. Warning: there’s a fair bit of female nudity–it’s purposeful and impactful.