I'm a life coach who specializes in helping women stop "feeling crazy around food" (including diet-binge cycling, emotional eating, obsessive food thoughts, etc.). As you can imagine, my work involves doing a TON of body image work with clients, as it's my perspective that body hate is what gets us into these dysfunctional patterns to begin with.
Whenever body image comes up with clients, however, I'm almost always asked:
"Do you REALLY love and accept your body exactly as it is right now? Do you never have moments when you wish your body was different? It seems like one of those things people say, but like, that can't be real."
Which is when I have to explain a reality of "body image work" that too many coaches and counselors often neglect...
While I choose to love and accept my body today under all circumstances, that doesn't mean other people will agree with me or do the same. And because, as a human, I'm a relatively social creature by nature, it's not always easy to deal with rejection or disapproval by others (whether that rejection be explicit -- like when I was bullied by my pediatrician for being a fat baby -- or implicit, like when I'm constantly being told what "hot" looks like, and it doesn't look like me).
The deal with "body image work" that we all need to get hip to, and that I hope mental health professionals will discuss with their clients in more depth as time goes on, is that loving our bodies as they are today requires a commitment to being proudly ourselves in spite of potential judgments by others.
In other words, a big part of doing "body image work" means learning how to handle having different opinions about weight, beauty, and/or "health," than other people.
And that reality is something that, unfortunately, doesn't go away.
There is no denying that weight stigma exists, and that the social problem of weight stigma is often what makes our body dissatisfaction and/or food problems most difficult to escape.
But we only have two choices in how we can respond to to this social problem today:
1. We can pander to it.
We can stay in on Friday nights.
We can honor the social systems that oppress us.
We can wear pants when it's 90 degrees.
We can deny ourselves dinner dates because we're scared of the menu.
We can wear t-shirts during sex.
We can NOT have sex.
We can blame ourselves for behaviors that are direct consequences of dieting and body shame (i.e. emo & binge-eating).
We can fear food.
We can weight-cycle (the technical term for yo-yo dieting that is clinically understood to be far more dangerous for our bodies than fatness of any kind).
We can starve ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually... all in the name of prejudice, primarily towards women's bodies, but increasingly towards men's as well.
2. We can choose to be proudly ourselves in the face of bias.
We can stop hiding.
We can buy clothes we like now.
We can enjoy our food choices.
We can go swimming in the ocean, in a bathing suit, in daylight.
We can make love with the lights on.
We can take a stand for ourselves and all others affected by a culture of weight discrimination.
We can choose health at any size.
We can show up to our college reunion (and even get down with our bad selves).
We can refuse to participate in body shaming behaviors (including dieting for weight loss, derogatory body talk, and/or "health shaming").
We can live fiercely today rather than wait indefinitely for a certain body size.
How long have you been waiting? How many years do you have left on this precious planet Earth?
The choice is yours.
And if you think I'm onto something here, you can read more of my food and body image insights at www.isabelfoxenduke.com.
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