If you could snap your fingers and make it so, what would you change about your body? The answer to this question is exactly how weight loss programs have marketed their service to you over the years:
- flatten your tummy
- tone your thighs and arms
- …sounding familiar?
Weight loss marketing creates the idea that your body is a problem (spoiler alert: it’s not – you have a GOOD body) so that they can sell you a product or service. Worse? They sell you weight loss even though we have evidence from research that diets don’t work. As of 2019, the weight loss industry was valued at $72 billion dollars. Our dieting culture is what made you not okay with your body in the first place. All in the hopes of creating you as their repeat customer.
For many of my clients, growing up in a bigger body has meant a decade or more of chronic, yo-yo dieting that caused a damaged relationship with food – including binges, weight regain, and broken self esteem. If you are starting to see diets don’t work for you, and in fact, have left you worse off, this article will help you improve your body image so you can heal your relationship with food and finally feel free. You can live life without the CONSTANT food guilt and body shame you’ve experienced since age 12, just like my clients, using these tips from my proven No Guilt Framework.
tip #1: update your closet so all your clothes fit
For my clients, creating a closet that fits is a critical step toward practicing body respect.
That doesn’t mean creating a goodwill bag feels easy for them.
Like you and me, my clients learned to expect their bodies should never change. On top of that, they wish their clothes would never wear, tear, or shrink. These are nice wishes, but they aren’t realistic. The problem is the expectation. Not you. Still – even when you *KNOW* your body will change and your clothes will someday fall apart: it feels crappy when clothes no longer fit. If you find yourself stuck in that crappy feeling, know you’re not alone.
use my inspired-by-Marie Kondo method to help you:
(1) Before letting it go, thank the clothing piece specifically for what it offered you, for example:
- a great time on vaca with the girls?
- that perfect hue of green that makes your eyes pop?
- a little detail that reminded you of something your grandmother used to wear?
(2) Promise yourself you’ll create that feeling again
- text the girls a memory from the trip
- keep your eye out for that same green again
- frame a photo of your grandmother, keep her front and center
(3) Toss it in the bag, and let it go!
This technique won’t make the sadness you feel over your body changing go *TOTALLY* away. Instead, it helps you see the truth: change and letting go are part of life. And you can still have a good life by respecting yourself through it. The point is to stop triggering yourself to return back to diets that have never worked for you so you can heal your relationship with food!
tip #2: challenge the thin ideal
What comes to mind when I mention the “thin ideal”? How does it make you feel?
Every generation celebrated it. For my Mom’s generation, it was Twiggy. For my generation, it was Kate Moss and Jennifer Aniston. Just because we are now grown women, don’t be fooled: these ideals live in the back of our mind as a source of constant comparison. It is completely normal to compare yourself to the body ideals you learned in childhood. That’s why it is equally important to actively create new ones that reflect reality. The thin ideal is an unattainable, unrealistic, and unnecessary beauty standard for most of us.
social media and the thin ideal
One way to challenge the thin idea is by curating the social media feeds you spend hours scrolling through each day. Take a moment now to consider where you spend most of your online time. If you follow me there, you know I live on Instagram. On this platform, I curate my feed to remove any pages that make me feel bad about my body because they reinforce the thin ideal, or, perpetuate fat shaming – like the marketing tactics I mentioned earlier in this post.
I replace these accounts with pages of women in bigger and diverse bodies to help me see the Kate Moss ideal that plastered my teen magazine covers is not really representative of real bodies. By normalizing diverse bodies, you directly challenge the idea that the thin ideal is the “right” way for your body to be. Look for accounts that inspire you to see women as more than their bodies, too. This will help you to define yourself similarly: you are more than just a body!
other resources to challenge the thin ideal
I’d love to hear about your favorite accounts when you find them. I’m always available by direct message on – you guessed it – my favorite platform Instagram.
Fear of being fat, or fatphobia, has a complex history and origin. It drives the desire to go on-and-off diets and it will not disappear over night. If you want to feel free, it is important we all work to celebrate the many different types of bodies that exist out in the world as worthy of love and respect, starting with our own. If social media isn’t your jam – visit the resources section of my website for books about this topic, which includes a few powerful memoirs by fat women.
tip #3: engage in joyful movement
So often, movement is solely associated with earning food and “toning” the body. Weight loss programs that foster a “no-pain, no-gain” mindset often teach you to silence your body cues and move to burn calories at all costs. This attitude undermines your body’s ability to know and trust itself.
Many of my clients have found themselves in one of two exercise extremes after years of dieting: they are either completely obsessive about exercise, or, they completely avoid it. Which one are you?
improve your self-image through movement with these important steps:
- allow yourself adequate rest: my clients learn to make a “rest plan” to make sure they get enough! This helps them to feel like they want to move to feel their best,.
2. choose movement they enjoy: what kinds of movement appeal to you? do activities that help you to feel mindful and free in your body. if you’re not sure, walking is a great start! my clients often enjoy dance, yoga, stretching, and spin. What would appeal to you?
3. see movement as an act of self-care, not as something to change your body: consider how you want to feel as a result of the movement. is it for stress relief? alone time? fine? mobility? strength? figure out WHY you want to move beyond changing your size, and notice how this changes your sense of self-worth.
When you spend time in your body, you get to know your needs and become an expert at meeting them. By creating space for joyful movement and adequate rest, you can learn to better attune to feelings like hunger, fullness, and emotion like stress. This tip is powerful because sensing your body cues is the backbone skill of Intuitive Eating, a self-care framework that helps you to create a positive relationship with food. By choosing joyful movement, you will start to see your body as capable, strong, and worthy of trusting – no matter your size.
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 by no means an exhaustive list of how to heal body image.
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 negative body image to feeling free and peaceful around food, just like my clients do.