Tag Archives: body image

Want to change your body? First accept it as it is.

Someone once said to me, “Kim, the doctor just told me that I am obese.”  She sounded devastated . . . and desperate.  “Obese” is such an emotional term for many people.  It is technically defined by a certain body mass index (BMI).  Defined in this way, it is very mathematical, very exact, and simply factual.  It is a number after all, not a feeling, right?  Or is it?

In fact, being labeled obese has a very emotional meaning for many people.  “Obese” can feel like a judgmental term.  When one is told they are obese, it often sounds more like “You are really, really fat.”  Panic is a natural reaction, along with shock in many cases:  “UGH, I had no idea I was THAT fat!”

Whether someone has just learned they are clinically obese or has just felt “really, really fat,” the results seem to be the same.  Feeling unacceptably fat appears to make it harder for people to lose weight; in fact, it looks like it might cause them to gain.  Recent research on the subject was really no shock to me.

I have been telling weight loss clients for years that the first step toward improvement is accepting where they are.  Then, putting a focus on changing behaviors instead of obsessing over numbers will help with forward movement in a healthy direction.  Once this happens, tension releases, desperation lightens, and change is possible.  The alternative is lots of stress, often using food as a soother, leading to weight gain, not loss or even maintenance.

The research report states that three studies “found consistent evidence that perceiving oneself as being overweight was associated with increased weight gain.” In fact, even people who just felt overweight (but were not) gained.  The perception seems to be the important point.  This makes perfect sense, since what we perceive is what affects emotions, not necessarily what is actual, factual reality.

“Individuals who identified themselves as being ‘overweight’ were more likely to report overeating in response to stress and this predicted subsequent weight gain,” according to the authors. “These findings are in line with recent suggestions that the stress associated with being part of a stigmatised group may be detrimental to health.”

The report also noted that the gains may have come from emotional reactions to being considered unacceptable, OR they may have been the result of aggressive dieting.  Brilliant!  Can we finally all agree that crazy, rigid dieting is not effective . . . unless of course you are trying to GAIN weight.

Do you avoid mirrors?

This time I made them face the mirror!

This time I made them face the mirror!

I had a very interesting experience I would like to share with you.  This morning, I walked into an exercise class 5 minutes late, grabbed my equipment, and looked for a place to set up.  As I scanned the room for an empty spot, I thought, “Oh, weird, it looks like the class is being taught in a circle today.”

The teacher was in front – as usual – facing the class with her back to the large mirror on the wall in the front of the room.  Three quarters of the wall on that side is mirrored, with a space on either side that has no view of it.  The class was spread out in a horseshoe shape in front of the instructor, with a denser group on the “blind sides.”  A few people faced the mirror, but they were practically touching the back wall.  Only those with eagle vision could have seen themselves clearly from that far back!

I started to cram myself between people to fit into this odd semi-circle,  commenting to the woman next to me, “Oh, a circle today?”  She said, “no” but offered no further explanation.  Then the instructor and I had a laugh and she made a crack about how there was no one in the expansive space in the center.

I settled my equipment right in the middle of the room – more space to move!

We chatted after class, and I mentioned that I have seen this happen many times before in my group discussions – not the circle thing, but mirror-avoidance .   People do not like to be facing the mirror, . . . or, if they must, they will be as far away from it as possible.

The instructor said, “Yeah, I think it’s worse in winter.  Everyone is eating more, and they don’t like to see what that looks like in the mirror.”

Hmmm.  Interesting, don’t you think?  Are you a mirror avoider?  I think it is time to make friends with our image.  We can modify it somewhat, but acceptance now is important for even initiating that journey.

For All Of You Cute Little Tomatoes (and the bigger ones too)

Narrow standards of beauty are so limiting.  I rarely meet a woman who loves how she looks, and when I do – again, RARELY – it is unpredictable.  She is as likely to weigh 225 as 125.  On the flip side, the level of suffering with body image has nothing to with size either, at least not from my observations.

I like to remind people that they can choose a lifestyle, not a body type, and often not a specific size either.  A healthier lifestyle will cause almost everyone to lose weight and look better if weight loss makes them healthier.  Aiming for a size, or a weight, or a look, is a futile struggle if the methods needed to get there are torturous and temporary.

Nature is diverse.  Check out these two lovely tomatoes I just picked from our garden.

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Body Image Tips from Dogs

It’s OK to have wrinkles.  They add character.

Short legs are just fine, even if they don’t go with the rest of you.

Big ears?  No problem.

There is no such thing as a “bad hair day.”

You look cool in anything, you trendsetter!  

Why do we have such narrow definitions of attractiveness for ourselves?  While there is some variety in what we consider attractive, it is so limited when you consider what we think of dogs’ looks.

Can’t we cut ourselves at least a little more slack?  If you inherited short legs (I did), they will always be short, so focusing on more significant assets is going to offer more possibilities for growth (haha – very bad joke!).

Weight, which is such a negative focus for so many people, can often be improved for better health, but having a poor body image will not really help to speed the process along – really!  The opposite is more likely.

In summary, there is no such thing as ugly, since if you are ugly enough, you are really cute and you win a prize.  

(Note:  I wish I could claim credit for these pictures, but they were from Google Search.)

Interesting Signs!

A sign like this just might show up in a dressing room near you.

I love treasure hunting for clothes.  I never know what I will find at T.J. Maxx or my favorite resale shop.  On a recent visit to good old T.J.’s, my “find” was a hooded exercise shirt – certainly something a person who works at a gym can use!

I headed to the dressing room, closed the door, and prepared to try it on.  As I looked in the mirror, I had to laugh.  A sign stared back at me – a very clever and sneaky message – “You should get it!”  As I turned to face the door, another one caught my eye – “This would be a great score for you!” Continue reading