Now that we’re well and truly in the warmer months, the Big Marketing machine is in full swing preying on our body hang-ups in a bid to make a quick dollar. Just look on the cover of most magazines or morning show ad segments. Everyone has got some new diet or product that promises to get your body READY FOR SUMMER. Which can sometimes feel like it carries the underlying message that “if your body doesn’t quite look like this then shame on you! Go crawl back into a cave and try harder next summer, loser”. I don’t know about you but it can certainly make me feel that way sometimes.
It’s totally normal, we all have insecurities and hang-ups about our bodies. It doesn’t discriminate… male or female, young or old, size 6 to size 26; I’ve seen them all in my years of working as a dietitian. But what happens when it starts to spiral out of control? Where what started as a slight dissatisfaction turns into a vicious cycle of disgust and self-loathing, binge-eating to cope, intense feelings of guilt and disgust, feeling too de-motivated to exercise, feeling useless and disgusting. On and on it goes.
All this self-loathing can become a real barrier to healthy lifestyle habits. How can we nurture something that we hate? After all, it’s our deep-rooted beliefs that drives our thoughts; which in turn determines the actions we take.
Why eat the salad that was painstakingly prepared the night before when deep down you believe that it’s too late and that no amount of kale will give you the kind of body you follow on Instagram. You know… the ones in tiny clothing with perfect smiles and hair.
Why bother with doing exercise when deep down you believe that even if you did lose some weight, you’ll never truly be beach ready because all the jiggly bits that remain on your tummy and hips mean that you shouldn’t be caught in a swimsuit.
Stuff it. Just pass me the TV remote and bag of chips now, thanks!
So this got me thinking – how can we change our mindset around how we feel about our bodies, and make it be less of a barrier to healthy lifestyle and eating habits?
“My size is not a measure of my healthy lifestyle habits”
Repeat this mantra again and again. You cannot determine someone’s health based solely on their body size. I know countless overweight people who have incredible fitness levels and eat a diet of mostly whole foods. Similarly I also know lots of thin people who have shockingly poor diet quality and lifestyle habits.
So what’s the best way of knowing if your lifestyle and eating habits are healthy, if you’re not measuring your weight or size? Easy – just track it! For example:
- How many days this week did I drink 8 cups of water?
- How many days this week did I eat 2 pieces of fruit?
- How many days this week did I take the stairs instead of the elevator?
Stop judging yourself and other people
I find the people who are most critical about their own bodies, who have crippling amounts of self-loathing and disgust, are also sometimes the most judgemental when it comes to other people’s bodies as well. And it might just be that because they’re spending so much time judging other people, that they too might fear that other people may be secretly thinking the same about them!
It’s worth remembering that your weight or size has no moral value. It does not make you a bad or good person. It does not make you better or worse than the person next to you.
I’m not saying that weight stigma or fat-discrimination doesn’t exist. But if we want it to change then we need to start with our own thoughts first. We need to stop judging other people based on their weight and size, and likewise trust that other people are not making judgements about us in that way too.
Engage all your senses
When we’re pre-occupied with on our own bodies and perceived flaws, we can sometimes start to lose touch with our surrounding environment as all we can focus on is our imperfections. Furthermore, the negative emotions that arise makes it difficult to actually take delight in our surrounding. So this summer, I challenge you to use all your 5 senses and take in the environment around you.
Taste a ripe mango or pineapple, chilled in the fridge and freshly cut. Or savour an icy popsicle. Regardless of your choice, be in the moment and really take your time to taste the flavours.
See an art exhibit at the National Gallery or have a look at the different flowers in bloom at the Botanic Gardens. Take this opportunity to smell the flowers and observe the bees going about their business. Give bird-watching a go. Take a look at the stars on a clear cloudless night or cloud-watch during the day. What shapes can you see?
Listen to music that makes you feel good. Compile a “summer playlist” full of hits that make you dance in your seat and makes you want to jump up and dance like nobody is watching. Go for a walk and listen to how many different twitters and bird calls there are.
Hold your loved ones close. Touch their hand, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Feel how their skin feels under yours – whose hand is warmer? Buy some nice hand cream or body lotion and massage it into your hands each night. Feel the texture of the cream melt into your skin. Silently give thanks to these hands for doing so much for you. Breathe in the scent of the cream – what feelings do they invoke? Try booking in for a massage and enjoy the feeling of total relaxation.
Try one activity a day – no matter how small.
Switch off social media
In the past it used to be heavily doctored images of models and celebrities in magazines. These days, they’re now on our screens making them more accessible than ever. Facebook, Instagram, ads on websites. Constantly tempting you to compare yourself or feel insecure. After all, nothing sells products better than insecurity.
So this summer – switch it off! Go outside and enjoy the glorious warmer weather! And if you’re like me and addicted to my screen-time then maybe you should try doing a social media clean-out. Unfollow people whose feed makes you feel like crap about your body. Or makes you feel guilty about the way you eat. Follow those who make you feel empowered about making healthy lifestyle and food choices – with minimal emphasis on the body form. May I suggest the Healthy Eating Hub Instagram and Facebook page as a start? (lol totally not biased).
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