Tackling the Body Image Blues
Health & fitness are an important part of my life now. But, I when I was a kid taking care of my body was the farthest thing from my mind. I was an obese kid. I remember being weighed in the 4th grade. The teacher measured our height and weight and wrote them down on a chart in the classroom that everyone could see. I was mortified every time I walked by that chart. My weight was in the triple digits and everyone else had a weight in the double digits.
I really struggled with my weight. At 12 years old I started becoming obsessed with my weight. All I could think about was losing weight. I started working out for hours on end and severely restricted my calories. I lost weight but I quickly dropped to a dangerously unhealthy weight. I remember only wanting to look like the girls in “Seventeen” magazine.
I knew this was turning into a problem when everyone started telling me I was too skinny and I still saw an overweight girl in mirror. I wondered, “Why can’t I see what they all see?” In my mind I still didn’t look like the girls in the magazines and I thought I had to work even harder. Although I was never officially diagnosed with anorexia, I was clearly struggling with an eating disorder.
Then something strange happened. After years of extreme dieting, I started getting fatigued, sleeping all day and I stopped working out. I didn’t feel like going anywhere and was getting depressed. I started eating normally again, but by my 16th birthday I started putting on lots of weight which made me more depressed. I went to the doctor. It was the middle of the winter and he said “take off your coat.” I will never forget the look of shock in his eyes when I took my coat off. He said “oh my god, you have the thyroid of an 80 year old woman!” I was 16. He immediately diagnosed me with hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid condition and I had a visible goiter, to boot. I was prescribed a medication called Synthroid and have been on it for over 30 years.
Since I didn’t have a family history of this disorder I wanted to know how I developed this condition. I started doing research and discovered that anorexia, thyroid problems and depression are all linked. Hormones play a major role in all 3 issues. I probably destroyed my own thyroid through extreme dieting and screwed up my hormones and in turn which created both depression and an underactive thyroid.
So why am I sharing this story with you? Well, I think it is significant that this crazy cycle started when I was a teen with a poor body image. My only goal was to look like
the girls in the magazine. I didn’t value my body and that is really my concern about the effects of body image distortion. Comparing ourselves to others sets us up to devalue ourselves and then we do things that punish, instead of nourish, ourselves. So, we end up severely depriving our bodies of nutrition and we mentally beat ourselves up because we can’t compare to the images we see in the magazines. This sets us up for failure and keeps us trapped.
Why Diets & the Media are Bad for you
I think having a negative view of our body also causes a lot of people to go on those quick fix type of diets that usually lead to yo-yoing in weight. Research teaches us that yo-yo dieting changes your hunger hormones for up to a year. You end up feeling extremely hungry after a severe diet and that is why it is so easy to gain back the weight after dieting. Also, every time diet you actually have to eat less with each diet to be able to lose weight. So, the more diets you been on in your life the harder it will be to lose weight.
Also, exposure to thin models is related to body image distortion, as well as, eating disorders. We see the standard of beauty that exists in the media and we internalize it. When we compare those images to our our own bodies it causes body dissatisfaction. You and I both know that many of those images are “photoshopped,” but we still compare our bodies to the ones we see and we undervalue our bodies. Research suggests that advertisers are basically betting on the fact that you will compare yourself to the models in the ads and when you realize you don’t measure up you will go out and buy that product so you could be more like the model!
So, the most important first step to take to get healthier is creating a healthy body image. When we start with a healthy body image we won’t struggle and punish ourselves with exercise or deprive ourselves of foods. When we create a healthier body image we can create a healthier body that is functioning at its best. If we destroy our hormones we will actually have trouble burning fat and utilizing the whole foods we need to provide it nourishment. Don’t think about doing a diet. Diets are temporary. Think about creating both a healthy image of yourself and a healthy lifestyle. Add foods in your life that will bring you great health and work on LOVING YOUR BODY.
How to Love your Body
Here are my top 3 tips to loving your body and to start getting healthy this holiday season.
1. Believe it or not, one of the best things you can do for your body image is to surround yourself with other people who have a positive body image. Being around other people who feel good about themselves will rub off on you.
2. Think of yourself as a WHOLE PERSON and don’t just look at, and critically evaluate, parts of your body. You are amazing, beautiful and incredible. You are more than the sum of your parts. And don’t you forget it!
3. Start becoming aware of how you feel in your body. One of the best ways to get in touch with what your body needs is to drink water. When you start properly hydrating, you will learn the difference in your body’s signals between thirst and hunger. Getting touch with this will give you more confidence about making healthy choices because you will learn how to listen to internal rather than external signals about what your body needs.
I know you will SPARKLE this holiday season. I would love it if you would share with me your thoughts on tackling the body image blues to get better health. You can leave a comment below or email me at [email protected]. I will be back soon to talk about how important our thinking is to better health and wellness.
This piece was originally posted as a guest blog for Rachel Grant Coaching on Decemeber 6, 2015. Rachel is a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach. Visit her blog and website to learn more.