It's time to stop the body shaming, of others and ourselves.
Shaming is a dirty little secret, a thing we pretend that we never, ever would do, but 99 percent of us have done it or do it regularly.
We look at ourselves, or even other people, and we judge, ridicule, and wonder why the body we are staring at can't just be perfect already. And we do it in an effort to feel good, lose weight, and be perfect -- which totally backfires and causes more judging, shame, and guilt.
Now you see why it's time to stop the crazy cycle of shame-guilt-shame.
As a health coach, I hear complaints about this from clients and friends all the time. The guilt and shame they feel is often isolated, and they feel like no one can really understand. But the truth is, I have been chubby, I have been stick thin, and I have been told by myself, and by others, that none of it was good enough. It's one of the reasons I do the work that I do. I have been on both sides of this coin, and it is anything but pleasant.
When I was younger, until mid-high school, I was chubby. I had always been considered "solid" or "thick," but I started gaining weight when I was around 9 years old. We moved, I was pre-pubescent, and I gained 20 pounds in a little over a year. I was well aware of the fact that I had gained weight, as my pants never seemed to fit. I was frustrated, uncomfortable, and had no idea why I couldn't look more like the tall, slender girls I knew. I would hear adults and school-mates whisper things like "Oh, she's gained weight," "Hopefully it's just a phase," or "She is so not cool." All in all, this did nothing to help me lose weight like I thought I should.
When I started high school, I grew a few inches and my body evened out a bit. I felt confident and finally was able to share my clothing with my friends. My weight hadn't changed much, but my confidence levels soared. For about a year.
Then we moved to a new state, I got depressed, and I gained about 15 pounds. I would skip breakfast, eat french fries with ranch for lunch, and come home to watch TV and eat generic brand Doritos until dinner time. I felt like crap, ate like crap, and barely moved my body. I wasn't treating myself kindly and I was in a downward spiral of guilt, shame, and more Doritos.
After a few months of that, I decided I needed a change. I was young and wanted to feel good about how I treated my body. I gave up feeling like crap and decided to be kinder to myself. It was hard, but I made small choices each day. I started eating better by cutting back on my bags of chips and not reaching for "thirds" at dinner, I got back to exercising about 20 minutes a day (something I always loved) and I joined extra-curricular activities that had some movement. I dropped 20 pounds and my weight balanced. I was proud of how I looked and felt.
Perfect, right? Not in my the eyes of some.
Even though I lost weight in a very healthy and mindful way, by letting my body adjust naturally and treating myself with care, I was now told I was too skinny and needed to gain weight. I had no boobs, was lanky, and wasn't built like the "girls" on TV. I was also 16.
I was asked if I was eating, told I was unattractive, and was compared to a door -- flat on both sides.
I was informed I was too thin and told to "eat a cheeseburger" on more than one occasion. If my weight fluctuated by a few pounds in college (hello, beer and salad bars), I was flat out accused of having an eating disorder.
This entire time, from age 13 to about 23, I maintained about the same weight, minus the natural fluctuation of a few pounds up and down. I was lucky enough that none of this negatively changed the way I treated my body in a or ate. It did make me feel at times that I wasn't pretty enough, good enough, or perfect enough. But then I realized it wasn't really about me at all.
No matter what weight I was at, someone had a comment about how it wasn't good enough. I was too thin or too chubby, but never perfect the way I was. And I know countless other women (and men) have dealt with this as well, being criticized by someone else about how their body should look.
Body shaming comes from both inside and outside, and is often not about the person being shamed, it is usually more about the insecurities and weight challenges of the shame-slinger.
You might be thinking, "I would never!" but if you really get honest, you've thought something, said something, or judged. We all have. It's a common thing to do, and a common defense mechanism, but there is one thing it does not do -- help you feel good about your body.
Next time you start to judge yourself or another person, take a moment to step back and think "Where is this coming from and what is going on with my own body image?"
Notice if your brain is jumping around and zeroed in on appearances. Do you think you are "heavy" like the person in front of you at the grocery store? Are glad you are not quite as overweight as the person next to you in the Starbucks line? Do you wish you were as skinny as the model on the latest issue of your favorite fashion magazine?
If it is, it's time to stop, take a break, and focus on what's really going on with your own body.
All of this shame, guilt, and judgment can be the breeding ground for more shame and more judgment.
Instead of shaming, try celebrating your own body and your differences. When I have been at my heaviest (which is actually right now), I have also been my strongest. Instead of worrying about being "too heavy" I can show off my strength and flaunt my confidence in my own body.
Whether you feel too skinny or too fat, by your standards or others, focus away from the weight:
Dress so you feel fantastic, then go out and do something that has nothing to do with your weight or food. Notice how good it feels to wear something that fits your body, as it is now, and share that confidence with the world.
Live your life a little more fully. Have fun. Find a hobby or activity you are excited about. Make time to go out and actually live a little. You'll stress about your weight and the weight of everyone else a little less.
Treat your body kindly. Nurture it and love it. Feed it with nourishing food and movement. Do things that make you feel good on a deeper level and you'll notice the surfaces changes don't matter quite as much.
Drop the ideas of perfection.Tell your body it is beautiful and absolutely, perfectly, imperfect. These are your unique qualities and traits that you deserve to be proud of.
Look at yourself and notice the things that you love, not the things you hate. Focus on the positive and the negative won't seem as prevalent.
Take action now and do one thing today to quit the body shaming and start living your life.
If you are ready to take charge and learn to love your body even more, sign up for the 3-Step Health & Happiness Guide and join me for the 4-week Flourish Series, where you'll learn how to stop focusing on your weight and start focusing on the other aspects of your health and happiness, so you can create a life that is fulfilling.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.