When we recently took a poll on how you were feeling about your body, the results were at first saddening. In the comments, the stories you shared were unbelievable: How could so many young women so clearly not overweight feel that they were? And how could those who admitted to being overweight feel so crippled by self-hatred that they felt unable to start taking better care of themselves? But that initial sadness turned to anger and the anger turned to action.
We, as women, have got to stop hating on our bodies. It’s not something that can be accomplished instantly or in one blog post; we’ve consumed too many negative messages over too long a period of time to expect to undo the damage instantly. But this is serious, and it’s not just vanity. This is a kind of oppression that we willingly engage in. Think of all the brain power 51% of the population is wasting worrying that our thighs are too fleshy. That is brain power that could be applied to something magnificent, like writing the next great American novel or studying animal populations. It’s also energy we could use to improve our lives and the lives of others in smaller but equally significant ways on a daily basis. So how do we begin to change the way we see ourselves and other women? This is an ongoing conversation, and one we need you to contribute to; here are some ways to get started.
Decide that you’re beautiful
This suggestion comes directly from the great Victoria Moran in her book Creating a Charmed Life. Since there is no empirical standard of beauty (it’s in the eye of the beholder, remember?), behold yourself as a beauty. “Great-looking people have an undeniable advantage. I find that the most sensible answer to this apparent inequity is to be a great-looking person.” Your quirks and individuality can be part of your beauty, whether you’re a no-make-up or to-the-nines kind of gal. Decide that you’re beautiful and care for yourself accordingly — by making the most of your assets, keeping yourself well-groomed, and tending to your soul by taking time for yourself and doing working you believe in. “And smile a lot,” writes Moran, “so when you get lines on your face, they’ll point up.” Remind yourself that you’re beautiful until you believe it. “Once you do, other people will believe it, too.”
Wear the clothes that make you feel good
No matter how insufficient your wardrobe (and even the most Cher Horowitz among us can feel our closet is lacking now and then), we all have an outfit that makes us feel great. Not great in that “oh, aren’t sweatpants comfy?” way, but great like the best version of ourselves. It’s an outfit that makes us feel chic and pulled-together. It’s an outfit that makes us hold our heads high and be proud to be admired. Wear this outfit. Wear it everyday if you have to. Imagine Stacy and Clinton are standing with you and get rid of the clothes that are too-tight, too baggy or make you feel self-conscious. When your budget allows, invest in more items that make you feel terrific, clothes that show off your great cleavage, strong arms, broad shoulders, shapely calves, whatever you like best.
And spend more time naked
Clothes can pull and squeeze or mask your delicious shape. But when you’re naked, as a friend of mine recently quipped, “everything fits.” Spend time after your bath luxuriating in your own figure. Laze on the bed like a 19th century beauty and read or just drift off to dreamland in the nude. If you need an activity, be your own muse and draw yourself or keep things simple just by massaging your body with a silky oil. Your bod is an amazing workhorse, but it could use some good old fashioned loving attention.
Focus on health
Research shows that when you compare a group of people who focus on health without regard to weight to those on a traditional weight loss program, after two years the health-focused group sustains lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while “the average dieter had regained all her lost weight, and the only measurement that dropped was one for self-esteem.” In other words, focusing on health, rather than the number on the scale, can actually make you healthier. Eat a bevy of fresh delicious foods, meet your friends for yoga and walks through the park, and find ways to relax in your crazy stressed out life. Approach your health holistically, body, mind, and spirit. You are not just a number on a scale, and that number has no link to your worth (duh x 1,000,000, but it obviously bears repeating).
Cut out the body trash talk
Sweet Machine on Shapely Prose writes, “fat talk isn’t just about you — every time you put yourself down, even if you really, truly are thinking only about yourself, you are also adding to the toxic environment that your loved ones live in, too. Self-shaming behavior implicitly shames others.” What about not just cutting out the fat talk, but cutting out the body talk, like the admiration (and implicit shaming) that happens when you see Jennifer Aniston in a bikini. We’ve spent so much time talking about our bodies, that we could probably talk about Hannah Arendt and health care reform for 100 years before evening the score. When a friend bemoans how fat she looks in her skinny jeans, or how amazing you look in yours, just gently change the subject. Cutting out body talk isn’t only good idea in theory, it actually works. This inspiring video created by the Tri-Deltas for a Fat Free Talk week will get you in the zone to talk the talk (or not, so to speak).
Do you agree to cut out the negative body talk? What are you going to do today to increase your body positivity?