Like so many other women out there, body shaming has been an integral part of my life. There isn’t a crazy diet that I haven’t tried and though they worked, — I lost the weight. I fit in those jeans (you know, the ones that taunt you with idea that if you can fit in them then your life will be perfect) I still hated my reflection in the mirror. Of course, my body shaming was rarely about my actual weight. It was simply the easiest way to beat myself up. It wasn’t until I turned 50 that I decided to banish the body shaming for good.
I’d love to say that kicking my inner body critic to the curb was an immediate success. It wasn’t. Banishing your body shaming takes a lot of work, but it is possible. It’s really about creating a new habit. Most of us are so accustomed to judging not only ourselves, but other women (often under the auspices of “helping”) that we’re not even aware of how ingrained “fat talk” is in our lives.
I think that one of the reasons that body shaming is so prevalent is that we are now sold an ideal by the media that is totally unrealistic. I will never forget watching the movie “Laurel Canyon” with the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale. There is a scene where she has finished a run and the camera pans around her back side, and I thought ‘Wow, her thighs are huge’. WTF? I was so accustomed to seeing photos and movie stills where the woman’s body had been re-touched that I had lost ALL concept of what real thighs looked like. Even super skinny thighs. It was an “aha” moment.
Body shaming is not only a waste of energy, but it diminishes our power as women at a time when we really need to embrace it. Here are some of the things that I use everyday to keep the body shaming at bay:
Replace Judgment with Love
Looking at yourself naked in the mirror can be pretty traumatizing, but it is critical for establishing a new habit. In order to bust through the body shaming, you need to re-write your script by replacing words of judgment with words of love.
For one week, I want you to take a moment everyday to look at yourself in the mirror , naked, and notice what your inner critic has to say. Then, replace every negative, cruel comment about your flabby thighs with something positive. It doesn’t have to be about your body. I may never be able to say ‘I love my stomach’, but I can say ‘I am a really good friend’. Then, grab your phone or a piece of paper if you’re old school and write down the positive comments. Keep the list close, and refer to it when you find yourself backsliding. It helps. I promise.
Beware of Silent Body Shaming
Fat talk doesn’t have to be talk at all. It can be silent. Do you suck in your belly every time that you pass a mirror? Squeeze the skin behind your arms and make a mean face while brushing your teeth? Start to be aware of the non-verbal ways in which you bash your body. Restaurant menus can be a minefield. Have you ever wanted the burger, but then told yourself that you didn’t deserve it? There is a difference between making a food choice because it’s better for your health and denying yourself something that brings you pleasure. One is about power while the other is about shame.
What Can Your Body Do?
One of the quickest ways to re-write your body script is to focus on what it can do. At almost 53, I am tickled pink that I can still walk at a brisk pace for over 5 miles a day. I love that my body is strong. That I can take the stairs instead of the elevator, and cook a feast for 12 for dinner. Focusing on what you and your body can do will put you in the right mind set to celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. As women, we are taught young to stay quiet. To internalize. In order to banish body shaming, you need to scream from the rafters. If only to yourself.
Another somewhat silent form of fat talk is comparing yourself to others and coming up short. I can not tell you how many times I have looked at a friend in skinny jeans and thought ‘I could never look good in those jeans’. Poof — down the rabbit hole of shame I would go. This morning, I came upon a quote from Gabrielle Bernstein’s book “Miracles Now” that just resonated. Whenever you find that you are comparing yourself to another, say this prayer: The light I see in them is a reflection of my inner light.
Stop Judging Others
Judging others is a one way street to unhappiness. As a recovering judgmental person, this has been really hard for me. Though I am pretty good about not sharing my opinions unless asked, my inner dialogue can sometimes backslide. When it does, I simply catch myself and flip the thought. So, now, when I pass someone letting her rolls hang loose in a skintight mini-skirt, I think “go, you” instead of “go home”. One of the things that has really helped me to 86 the judgement is give out compliments instead. I promise that if you share at least one genuine compliment a day, you will be a much happier person. Really, try it the next time that you are in a bad mood. It’s better than prozac.
I sometimes cringe when I think about the time that I’ve wasted worrying about my weight. What could I have accomplished if I had ditched the body shaming earlier? And then I remember that we are all on a journey. Maybe the point of those years of struggle is that I can now share my wisdom with others. What I do know for sure is that the world will be a better place when we learn to love our bodies — lumps, bumps and rolls included.