This week we decided to take a little break from writing about digestion and gut health to address a very important topic that I confront day in and day out, body image. It does not seem to matter who they are or what they look like, most women I confront feel they need to look better. It saddens me to think that so many women feel that they are never good enough, no matter what. I am not different. I constantly wish I could change my body, my legs, abs, face, arms, you name it, I feel that I need improvement, although I have an 80% better body image than I did when I was younger.
One of my goals is to help women feel good about themselves, not just good, but great! I feel that it is imperative to address negative self image and help women feel confident, strong and powerful. I honestly wish that I could step outside of my body and view myself as others do. There is not a day that goes by that I do not receive one or more compliments and am often told by patients and clients that they will be happy if I can help them look like me.
I get compliments on my body, hair, skin, muscle tone, posture, positive attitude, you name it, yet, in my head, I still feel that I am not good enough. This is one example: A few weeks back, I was using the cable cross at the gym to work my shoulders and back. As I am doing reps, my thoughts are focused on having too many drinks over the weekend, not exercising enough the week prior and my lack of desired muscle tone and strength. As I am in the middle of the reps, a women walked by and told me that I had done an amazing job sculpting my body, which completely took me off guard. I though “wow”, how amazing is it that two people can have such different prospectives of the same situation.
I usually find that positive self image starts young. I know that my negative self image started very early, maybe even eight or nine years old. I grew up in a very small town where being different meant that you were abnormal. This may seem crazy to you, given that so many women now color their hair red, however, growing up with red hair and freckles was not easy. My red hair and freckles became characteristics that I despised. I felt like an out cast, like I was less of a person. Adults wanted to touch my hair; Others called a witch, a freak or just ugly, and weird. To add fuel to the fire I went from being under weight and skinny to over weight and puffy when puberty started. Unfortunately, the taunting never seemed to end…from the kids on the school bus, in the halls and in town, to my father and even negative comments from doctor. Sadly, my doctor told me he did not know what was causes all of my symptoms and that I was overweight and needed to go on a diet. I know know that my symptoms were stemming from auto-immune thyroid.
At the age of 15, I decided to take my doctor advise and lose weight. My diet of choice was a starvation diet, only eating very small portions at dinner and skipping breakfast and lunch. The crazy thing was that amazing things started to happen when I stopped eating, my brain fog resolved, I had more energy, I could go to the bathroom, and I just felt better, not to mention the weight was coming off. Not eating became addicting because I felt so much better, however unaddressed emotions also caused me to binge at times, sending me into an emotional whirlwind of anxiety, lethargy and constipation.
I spent the next 15-20 years on journey through binge eating followed cutting my calories to sometimes only one can of tuna per day or nothing at all. At one point in my early 20’s I weighted just under100 pounds and could nearly touch my fingers when I placed them around my waist.
Making a career change into nutrition helped me get out of this yo-yo eating disorder and develop life-long healthy eating habits. I also addressed difficult situations from my past. It was not easy, however working thorough it has been one of the most powerful things that I have done. I now feel stronger and healthier than ever and want to continue on this journey to developing a more positive body image.
It’s time ladies, let’s work together to concur unhealthy body images to pass healthy body image on to younger generations.
Here are a few tips to help improve your self image:
- Start talking positively about yourself. We constantly compliment others on their skin, hair, body, clothing, shoes, etc. Give yourself a little love. Be that strong, confident woman that you want to be. Every day, instead of critiquing the things that you do not like about yourself, choose something that you do like and focus on that for the day.
- Exercise not only creates feel good neuotransmitters, it helps you tone and bun fat. Try a combination of strength training exercises to help you firm, tone and build lean muscle.
- Don’t strive for perfection: Perfection does not exist. We are humans, meant to make mistake and learn from them. If things do not of your way today, then blow it off and aim to reach your goals tomorrow.
- Hang out with positive people: Nothing can bring you down quicker that surrounding yourself with negativity. Surround yourself with people who make you feel uplifted and good about yourself.
- Practice kindness: Be kind to others. You never know who is going thorough struggles. Helping someone with small children at the grocery store or mowing your neighbors lawn when they are overwhelmed will bring positivity to your day. Exuding kindness will brighten everyones day, including yours.
- Celebrate the little things: If you lost five pounds, went to the gym three times this week or just chose to avoid the bread at lunch, be happy, you are making positive changes to help reach goals.
- Focus on things you can change: You will waste energy by focusing on things out of your control. If you can not change it, accept that and move forward.
- Don’t self sabotage: I see this time and time again. You are having a bad day, then decide since things are not going your way, then you might as well have pizza and ice cream, then feel guilty afterwards, leading to an even worse day. If you are having a bad day, go for a walk outside, call a positive, supportive friend or practice medication or deep breathing instead of reaching for things that will make you feel worse.
- Set realistic expectations: Nothing can kill our self image faster than setting unrealistic expectations. If you are 5’2, you will never be 5’7, so don’t waste time wanting things that have not ability to become reality.
- Deal with skeletons in the closet: Past trauma such as abuse, death, rape and other traumatic experiences can hinder positive body image. Seek a professional to help you work though experiences that prevent you from moving forward and being at peace.
- Eat a well-balanced diet: You know that I could not leave this one out. Eating a diet full of lean proteins, healthy fats, color fruit and vegetables and whole grains will help with mood, energy, body composition, over all health and positive body image.
If you find yourself struggling and need help, then call me. Together we can work through obstacles and help you feel your best.