Something we're quick to forget is how culturally-conditioned our perceptions of beauty are. For example, we think a nice tan makes you more attractive, yet in many cultures that was simply a sign of low social standing. The media says you have to be skinny to be beautiful, using a definition of ideal weight and build that would automatically disqualify all the beauty contestants of even the 1960s - you know, the ones who look "fat" to us now, precisely because they had a normal and healthy body weight.
In hopes of helping at least a few women out there who are struggling with these issues, I'm reprinting with permission a great article by my friend and colleague Roberta Mittman. Here it is:
Three More Questions toIn the last newsletter, I asked two questions that reveal ways we can be less than kind, if not downright cruel to ourselves through negative self-talk about body image. Hanging on to those damaging thoughts can limit our possibility of success in weight loss as well as health, and life in general. Here are three more questions that can help you blast past old, worn-out, self-sabotaging ideas about your body.
Stop Body Bashing
Stop Body Bashing
Question #1: Are you over-enrolled in celebrity diets?
I admit it. I’ve bought those magazines that show “How They Did It,” what plan models, actresses, and other famous people have followed to achieve substantial weight loss and what seems to be a total body make-over. Well, my friends, it’s true that most of these stars did work very hard to obtain those results. However, please keep in mind that many celebrities have personal chefs, staff, and trainers and have worked on their bodies project sthat must be “fixed” in order for them to retain favor in the public eye. So what do these plans mean for the rest of us personally? I say, nothing. Most of us don’t have such advantages. Besides, comparing ourselves to others usually comes from a sense of lack, and competing with the rich and famous will only contribute to a greater sense of failure and feeling “less-than.”
I’ve seen celebrity diets fail for patients, in fact. Hannah, for example, came in excited about trying a diet that was featured in People magazine. She was sure that following a plan which kept stars looking fabulous would yield similar results for her. After a few weeks, though, it became clear that Hannah was, in actuality, gaining weight.
The reality of the situation is that a diet plan that works for one person may not translate into benefits for another. A successful eating plan must take into account your nutritional requirements, your food sensitivities, your daily schedule, the responsibilities that you alone face, and the goals that you have set for yourself. The diet must provide enough food to satisfy your body’s hunger—not to mention, it must be pleasing to your personal tastes and preferences. After all, eating is both a physical and an emotional experience. Forcing yourself to stick with food you don’t like or can’t feel good about is sure to result in diet failure.
The plan designed for some other person, however beautiful, was clearly deficient for my patient, Hannah. This plan would fail for many others as well. Don’t be star-struck and fixate on what worked for someone in Hollywood or Bollywood. Instead, keep focused on what your own requirements are. Only then will you be able to stay on track.
QUESTION #2: Do you yearn to return to your high school weight?
You might be surprised to learn how many people come into my office wanting to weigh what the scale said 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Realistic? I don’t think so. An arbitrary figure from the distant past may be an unattainable goal for many reasons, and it surely can serve as an undesirable one as well.
The aging process brings many variables that can affect one’s weight. Hormones, nutrition, and lifestyle can change the body’s ideal weight (usually raising it a bit higher). Placing your goal at a number from another time will set you up for failure and ultimately can be a damaging choice.
Here’s a much better option: Stop in for a complimentary consultation to see what plan will work for you. I’ll give you a comprehensive evaluation including possible sensitivities (to foods, molds, etc.); explore some emotional components that have kept you from being successful in the past; and help define a personalized, workable plan for you. Don’t start with the wrong objective; get a realistic picture of where you should be today to enjoy a healthful, rewarding life. You probably look better than you did when you went to high school, anyway.
QUESTION #3: Do you think you can make all the changes yourself?
Please think again. If you’ve been struggling with the same issues and results for a while, then chances are you are missing the boat in determining which strategies can work for you now and will work in the future. It’s amazing how many people have lost weight only to gain it back because they don’t have proper support and care.
When David began coaching with me, he was eager to try a new detox plan he had discovered. He hoped the plan would rid his body of toxins and let him lose weight while he followed his vegetarian preferences.
What he didn’t know was that he had a sensitivity to soy, a primary ingredient in many of the proteins on vegetarian eating plans. David’s digestion was often upset, and he wasn’t getting the burst of energy that can accompany a good food-based detox program. He was following all the dietary instructions, but because his body didn’t feel good during the detox, he began to sense a deeper problem than he had before he started. He was already seeing himself fighting a losing battle, and he’d only just begun.
Fortunately, David’s symptoms came up early on. On our next coaching call, he shared his disappointment, and we worked together to make adjustments. Once we realized the source of his discomfort—too much soy—we were able to craft a new, healthful, personalized nutritional program that took into account this and other sensitivities. We also collaborated to come up with a workable approach to exercise and other lifestyle considerations. The result: David has had smooth sailing since.
Now, when people ask David what steps he took to get into a healthful pattern, he tells them to begin their own coaching sessions. He knows full well that what works for him may not be the answer for the next person. It took a personalized plan and the support of a caring expert to find the strategies that worked for him.
Don’t forget, a healthy body is intimately connected to a healthy mindset. If you’re not at your best physically, it may be because you are laboring under false assumptions. Believing that a plan designed for someone else will work for you, or being unwilling to make changes or ask for help, will only further hamper your efforts. Change those attitudes, and change your results.
The common factor in most success stories is identifying the problem, so get started by asking yourself all the above questions. Visit my blog next week for additional details about these questions. Then take action to change, beginning with finding a caring partner to support you on your journey toward the positive. With the right help, you can move past these stumbling blocks and embrace instead an attitude of possibility and improved self-esteem—which will lead to better health.
Roberta Mittman, L.Ac. writes about her experiences in her monthly newsletter to both real and virtual patients. If you are ready to jump-start your transition to natural health care, feeling better, and gaining a new outlook on life, get free advice now at www.RobertaMittman.com.
And if you know any woman who is struggling with body-image issues, please feel free to pass this along!
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger