Body Shaming has been a hot topic lately, from the always present internet trolling on gym selfies to the outpouring of negativity over Lady GaGa’s Super Bowl outfit. I work with a lot of women who are working to get their health and fitness on track and I know that the pressure from social media and the media at large on women to look a certain way, act a certain way, and do certain things takes a mental toll. It messes with the confidence of many women who are trying to find themselves and where they fit in this world. I know that I struggle with body image over my life and this turned into a whole lot of personal body shaming that took me a long time and a lot of work to get over. Now that I have a relatively large public presence I get some pretty ridiculous comments on some of my social media posts that would have made me cry a number of years ago. I do not see how this constant judgement and ability to say anything to anyone anonymously or from the comfort of your laptop would not have a negative effect on self-image. This body shaming mindset is not productive in life and not conducive to getting results in health and fitness. We need to enjoy the ride, not be critical of every step and every victory. Here are 5 ways I have learned to switch off my body shaming mindset and build a more positive self-image and empowering attitude.
5 ways to switch off your body shaming mindset:
Realize that your thoughts are not always true.
I know, this sounds like a to new age mumbo jumbo but hear me out. Our thoughts are mostly habitual, they just appear out of no where for no apparent reason. They are conditioning and many of them are outright lies. When it comes to body shaming ourselves the responses we have to our behaviors and appearance are probably so habitual that you may not even notice them as a mere thought at this point, you may be viewing them as a fact (even thought they are not fact). Our brains are always trying to label and categorize things quickly, this is necessary for survival, but it is also detrimental to our mental health much of the time. If you always look at some ripped girl on IG and say (out loud or in your head) “That’s how I should look.” Or as soon as you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror you think,”I’m fat” or “God I need to lose weight.” Then you need to notice these thoughts as they come up. You are generally not actively thinking,”I’m fat,” you have conditioned yourself to think that and then you go and feel all of the shameful, hurtful emotions that come with the thought. Imagine if you saw yourself in the mirror and in your head you heard the thought,”I’m fat” and you just stopped it right there and said that’s a thought and let it go. You do not have to give every thought that pops into your head weight, you do not have to attach a story to it or explain it, you can just say that’s a thought and let it go. This is a skill that needs to be developed so if you are not good at it right away do not be hard on yourself, just keep working on it. You will be surprised how many unconscious thoughts you have that you attach a whole lot of meaning to out of habit that are simply not true.
Embrace your inner Stuart Smalley.
Do you remember Al Franken on SNL when he played Stuart Smalley who would always look in the mirror and tell himself,”You’re Good enough. you’re strong enough, and gosh darn it people like you?” I am not telling you to do that, I am telling you to stop being such a “B” to yourself. Stop that body shaming dialogue that you have in your head by actively training yourself to change your inner dialogue to a positive and empowering one. The way that we speak to ourselves directly affects so much of our lives, from what we think we are capable of to the quality of our relationships, to our self-esteem. If you are constantly talking a bunch of smack to yourself it will be really hard to make a positive change. Many of us will think things about ourselves or say things to ourselves that we would never allow any one else to say about us and this is not ok. To me a lot of this comes down to really noticing how we currently talk to ourselves and identifying our patterns. When we do this we can change them.
When I was speaking to my husband about this one he told me that when he was working on changing the way that he talked to himself he focused on continually encouraging himself and stopping negative thoughts in their tracks. He would tell himself he could do it (whatever it was) literally saying”I got this” and when some kind of negative thought would come into his head he would laugh at it to break the pattern and just replace it with the positive. Here is an example he gave me: When he was working out and trying to lose a lot of weight he would have moments when things got hard when his head would tell him there was no point and he wasn’t going to drop the weight, how could he let it get this bad, etc. He told me he would literally laugh and tell himself I git this, I can do anything. The repetition of this led him to success and to immediate replacement of those negative thoughts when they came up. The key he said was doing it in the moment and telling himself positive things even when the negative thoughts were not there. We build self-esteem by doing estimable acts and recognizing ourselves for them. It takes time but the way we talk to ourselves is key to stop the body shaming and start an encouraging, nurturing positive relationship with ourselves.
Celebrate the small stuff and do not sweat the small mistakes.
Success is simply small seemingly inconsequential acts repeated over and over again. When it comes to habitual body shaming we need to realize that we are doing to right things and we need to build some positivity in our lives, a track record of success. I know that I work out for a week or eat über clean for 5 days and all of a sudden I expect to look like a figure competitor even though I know that this is not reality. It is imperative if we want to feel good about ourselves to notice the good things we do. We do not have to find the cure for cancer or save someone’s life to celebrate, we simply need to make good choices and strive to be better than we were yesterday. Did you get your workout in today? Give yourself a high-five and tell yourself good job, seriously, give yourself a high-five and tell yourself good job, and do it every day you go to the gym. Do you usually buy a bag of chips or a treat when you go to the grocery store but you consciously did not buy your treat this time? CELEBRATE your good choice! Conversely, did you go out with some friends and make a poor decisions regarding food? Don’t beat yourself up, recommit, go make a really good healthy choice and celebrate it.
I heard Noah Levine describe our capacity to hold onto the negative and let go of the positive perfectly. He said that studies have shown that as humans we tend to look at things in the negative for survival’s sake. We need to always be seeing how bad something could go or the worse possible scenario because we need to keep ourselves safe.This was the case when we were dodging crevasses and fighting saber tooth tigers but not when we were having drinks and checking emails. Now we have this biology that allows positive thoughts and incidences to slide off of us like we were coated in Teflon but the negative things stick to us like Velcro. It is up to us to know this, recognize when it is happening and let that shit go. the more we cultivate a positive image of ourselves and our actions the easier it will be to not get caught up in saying negative things about our bodies and our lives in general.
Toxic people need to go.
I am sure that you have heard that we are the sum of the 5 people we hang around most. I have found this to be true and this can be a tough thing to do but it is necessary to clean up your life if you want to find happiness and change the body shaming and life shaming mindset you have. If you objectively look at all of the people tat you spend time with are they people who have a positive, supportive, abundance filled outlook or they a negative Nancy who will always find something less than positive to say about whatever comes up or whatever you ware doing. If we hang around with negative people we will become a negative person. This means that we will view or chances of success, our physical states, our abilities and the world through a negative lens and this will keep us stuck and shaming ourselves. If we are talking about people who you are not willing to cut out completely or cannot then you have a couple of options, you can have a conversation with the person and see if you can improve together or you can simply limit the amount of time that you spend with them. In the case of family members this may be the best course of action, also limiting what you talk to them about will be beneficial. If when you talk about working out or health and fitness and they go into talking about your weight or why you can’t change then stop talking to them about it.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
I was told this early in my sobriety and it is the TRUTH. If there is one thing that solidifies body shaming thoughts it is constant comparison with others. We do not know what is truly going on in someone’s life and we do not know what they have done to get what they have. In the fitness world it is easy to look at someone’s social media account and compare your insides and outsides to their outsides and your perception of their insides. What I mean by this is that if you just started to eat healthy or even if you have been at it for a year or two and you look at some girls Instagram where she looks totally ripped and is doing some crazy yoga pose and you compare yourself to her and start picking apart your body and skills you are missing the big picture. There is not point in this because we are never comparing apples to apples. She may have been a college gymnast who has been practicing yoga for 10 years with a professional photographer boyfriend and you are comparing yourself, who does 30 minutes of yoga 3 times per week for the last 6 months and should be feeling good about it. The fact is that comparison serves no purpose. You can look at someone who looks great or is doing something that you want to do in life and you can look to them for INSPIRATION but never comparison. There are too many factors that go into being healthy and fit to ever get an accurate comparison. All you will do is demotivate yourself, start to pick yourself and your progress apart, and start a cycle of unhealthy habits. If you constantly find yourself scrolling a certain social media account and starting to feel negatively about yourself you probably need to stop following that account. The key is to focus on you and what yo are doing to move your health and fitness forward.
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