What’s your biggest body insecurity? If you’re like the clients I work with, body insecurities keep you stuck dieting. And if you’re like everyone else on this planet, your body insecurities exist because we live in a society that stigmatizes bigger bodies.
After ten years in nutrition practice and as the daughter of a woman who struggled to accept her bigger body, I’m hopeful breaking the diet cycle within ourselves can stop the cultural weight stigma that drives disordered eating in the first place. This post will show you why – and how – healing body insecurities are the key to food freedom.
To truly find food freedom, it is important to identify how weight stigma specifically triggers you into the binge-restrict diet cycle. I’d like to explain the relationship between weight stigma and the diet cycle through the story of a recent client of mine. This post makes mention of disordered dieting behaviors, so if you’d rather not be exposed to that right now, maybe come back to this post when you feel ready.
diet culture normalizes disordered eating for women in bigger bodies
A client of mine told me every time she felt bad about her body size she’d respond in one of 3 ways:
- stepping on the scale, obsessing over the “bad” number
- setting a timer to avoid eating (in line with intermittent fasting)
- beating herself up until she engaged in punishing exercise
We started working together because she found these behaviors unhelpful. She was thinking about food all the time and her mental health was suffering. In fact, as we later found, dieting behaviors like these often lead to hunger-meets-frustration binges. Something needed to change.
Like my mother, this client was told the solution to her body dissatisfaction was dieting from a very young age. She was praised for an effort we’d call disordered eating in a smaller body. And every time diets failed her, the shame grew, driving the binge-restrict cycle. Again and again. Even though we full know: diets don’t work. That is until, she started using my No Guilt Framework to replace dieting behaviors with positive coping skills consistent with intuitive eating.
what counts as negative body image?
Even if you no longer subscribe to idealized standards for thinness, you likely still have ideals of how weight and size should look for you.
Pursuit toward the proximity of thinness can be as harmful as pursuing thinness itself. Further, you may hold negative beliefs about health, weight, and size reinforced by medical prescriptions for weight loss which feel stigmatizing. From there body insecurities can manifest as:
- telling yourself you can’t wear certain clothes because your body is “wrong for it”
- only feeling confident and happy when you are smaller
- blaming negative physical experiences, like body pain, on your weight/size without further investigation
- believing you have “problem areas” , like your belly or chin, that need fixing
- feeling shame after normal experiences like “chub rub”, stomach bloat, or, changing fit of clothing as you sit/stand
- fantasizing about having a different body
- anything that pulls you out of this present moment, putting your qorth into question
If your response to any of these insecurities is avoiding life experiences you care about, or, re-entering the diet cycle of disordered eating behaviors, the insecurity classifies as negative body image. I’ll add that any preoccupation with your body that causes you distress is worth exploring. At any size, you are worthy of living life without food guilt and body shame.
are you avoiding things you care about?
For many clients, body shame worsens during periods of “diet rebellion” (that’s when you say “eff it, I quit” and lean more toward binge-type behaviors). “Diet rebellion” phases can last hours, days, or years. During these phases, avoidance is a coping strategy that can feel both protective and painful as you often miss out on valuable experiences with friends, family, and career.
Avoidance was my mother’s coping tool for body insecurity she faced through much of my childhood. Without alternative coping tools, this greatly impacted our mother-daughter connection while I grew up.
Here’s a list of things my clients have put off because they felt shame around their weight or size:
- going to the doctor
- going to parties
- taking photographs
- taking a job that involved travel
- getting a haircut
- buying themselves basic clothing, including underwear, that felt comfortable
- connecting with new neighbors (because that would involve food)
- what do you avoid?
If you tend to avoid experiences of importance when faced with body insecurity, it is important to identify new ways of being around food beyond dieting. My programs work specifically to address binge behaviors without engaging in dieting so that you can begin living life freely, and without body shame. Just as I wish my mother could have.
what else is there besides dieting?
So many of my clients tell me they understand dieting harms them, but they just don’t understand what to do next. The shame they feel around body insecurities feels uncomfortable, and it requires support.
Before working with me, they lack the process and how-to required to move forward. Without another solution in hand, they repeat the same old patterns that drive the binge-restrict cycle.
With this post, I hope you are better able to identify the ways weight stigma triggers your individual body insecurities. In addition, I hope you walk away with how body insecurities can keep you stuck in the diet cycle: either through avoidance, or, with restrictive dieting behavior. Once these factors are better understood, my clients move forward using a step-by-step approach, my clients learn to find food freedom.
Once intuitive eating skills are in place, you can improve your body image, nutrition, and movement behaviors from outside the diet cycle. With every client able to do this without leaning on the diet cycle, we challenge the weight stigma that drives disordered eating in the first place.
This post includes a few of the many skills I offer through my No Guilt Framework. Each individual will find different skills helpful at different times, and this post is just the start.
I offer group and private coaching programs that help you create a plan and practice these skills with the focus and consistency you need to FINALLY be okay with your body. Apply for coaching and I’ll meet with you to describe how you can go from feeling completely stuck in the diet cycle to feeling free and peaceful around food in 3 months, just like my clients do.