Love Your Body

Love Your Body

Love Your Body

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “Thaw” by Bnny

Love Your Body

How to love your body? It sounds like it should be the simplest thing in the world: to have gratitude and appreciation for the miracle of your physical body. It automatically and without any input or direction from you… keeps your heart beating, keeps breathing while you sleep, makes you sweat when you’re too hot, digests your food, and locomotes you from one place to another. It can even participate in making another human. It is truly a miracle and whether or not it’s in good working order is the undeniable foundation of everything else in your whole life.

When it comes to your body, there is so much to love! 

Why Do I Hate My Body??

I’m well aware from many years as a therapist and fellow human that’s not always the way we feel about our bodies, is it? Even though it’s a fantastic engine of life that supports everything you do, it’s easy to get kinda judgy about the way your body looks or whether or not it’s as “good” or worthy of love and respect as someone else’s body, and through this weird emotional logic that tells us that certain bodies are better than other bodies, that the people in possession of enviable bodies are more intrinsically valuable humans.

It sounds so insane when you put it all down on paper like that but… that’s what we are often socialized to do: judge bodies by the ever-changing scoring rubric of the current zeitgeist. (Lisa pauses typing to double-check her reflection, and yes, the hair is parted down the center and not to the left. Giving myself a point!)

Hairstyles are one thing, but when it comes to how our bodies actually look — their shape, proportions, fat-to-height ratio, and how these shapes, proportions, and ratios compare to those of a difficult to attain cultural “ideal…” that’s when we can start slipping sideways into something yucky. 

Being unhappy with your body because it doesn’t look like one of the “good” ones. Being angry with your body for not responding to your efforts to diet, restrict, or exercise it into physical compliance. Worse yet, you might even start hating your body and being consumed with worry and thoughts related to what you’re eating or how much you’re exercising. 

Sometimes I’ll have online life coaching clients come to me with these kinds of goals for themselves, and it always makes me uncomfortable. When self-worth is tied to body image… that never ends well. [Read: “Advice From a Body Positivity Coach” for more on that subject]

Body Image and Low Self Esteem

When it gets really bad, people can even start to feel really down on themselves, struggling with low self-esteem, and finding it difficult to accept themselves or feel happy — all because their bodies (which work perfectly well, by the way) don’t look a certain way. 

This is a trap, folks. One that lots of people, particularly women, stumble into. Sometimes even before middle school is over, they’ve been indoctrinated into believing that people with different bodies have different levels of status and respect in this world, and that, in order to have love, happiness or success, they darn well better look like they’re “supposed to” (or kill themselves trying). Let’s not!

Loving Your Body: It Can Start Today

In the words of the late, great Monty Python: “And now for something completely different!” 

Enter my guest on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast: My Growing Self colleague Stephanie O. Stephanie is a therapist on the team who specializes in relationships — the ones we have with other people, but also the kind of relationship that you have with yourself. She helps many clients with things like self-esteem and how to have healthy partnerships, but she has special insight into helping people with body image and how to love themselves. 

Health at Any Size

Stephanie practices “Health at Any Size” ideas in therapy, and walks with her clients step by step through the process of examining beliefs about bodies, learning how to reject unhelpful cultural ideas about the value of our bodies, and then move towards body image acceptance. Over time, she can help her clients have genuine gratitude and appreciation for their amazing bodies, and even learn how to love their bodies too. 

She is joining me on today’s episode of the podcast to share her empowering “how to love your body” ideas with you. If you sometimes feel like you hate your body, I hope that you listen. Grab a pen — Stephanie’s sharing a ton of ideas that I hope you write down and start using today!

You can listen to this episode right here on growingself.com or access it through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show while you’re there! If you have follow-up questions or comments for Stephanie on this topic, please let us know in the comments below so Stephanie or I can respond. Show notes and episode transcript are below. 

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Love Your Body

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Love Your Body Podcast: Show Notes & Episode Highlights

Stephanie’s Journey to Health at Every Size

Many people are obsessed with their body weight and size. Some obsessive tendencies can manifest in extreme diets or passive thoughts. But some might even bleed into other aspects of their lives, such as low self-esteem and sexuality.

When she was a college freshman, Stephanie learned about eating disorders in her Psych 101 class. She was shocked to find that signs of anorexia applied to her and almost all the women she knew. That’s why she thought it would be interesting to work with people with eating disorders in grad school. 

During that time, she was introduced to the concept of Health at Every Size. Since then, Stephanie has sought to incorporate this in her work as a therapist and life coach.

Why Do I Hate My Body?

Most of us now know that it’s no longer cool to hate our bodies. Body acceptance is in! However, we still tend to think negatively about our bodies, often in overt ways. It starts off with seemingly benign thoughts like, “I should eat healthier.”

But then, this may turn into an obsession with cutting down on calories. Stephanie explains: “Underneath it, the goal underneath is really to actually be thinner because we equate so much of health and size together.” In addition, we tend to conflate health and morality. 

Because of the sneaky way we obsessively think of our bodies, many of us also treat our ideal bodies as the prerequisite to happiness. You’ve probably had these beliefs at one point in your life:

  • When I hit my ideal weight, I can finally get my crush to notice me.
  • If I become thinner, then I can wear the clothes I want. 
  • Once I get my body goals, I’ll finally be happier.

We become so engrossed in “that day.” But Cheri Huber reminds us: That day does not exist, and it only exists in your mind. Its reason is to torture you.”

The misconception that you’ll be happy in the future when you achieve the “perfect body” holds you back from living the life you want. The truth is, you can’t be happy in the future if you aren’t happy now. So, learn how to love yourself now.

The Path to Radical Self-Acceptance

If you are struggling with loving your body, practice self-compassion. It’s not a “you” problem. Rather, it’s a larger societal problem.

Society has perpetuated unrealistic beauty standards through the media and beauty industry. It has become so pervasive that it’s rare for someone to be completely satisfied with their body. In our society, we are conditioned to think we’re doing bad when we aren’t a “normal” weight. Thus, we should constantly try to work toward that unattainable standard.

Stephanie usually starts the process of body acceptance by encouraging them to consume more size-inclusive media. These can come in the form of:

  • Instagram accounts to follow,
  • podcasts to listen to, and
  • television shows to watch.

She shares, “Because if we do this work, and we continue to just see all the same input all the time, it's almost impossible to challenge that.”

From there, they would work on challenging societal norms and standards by paying attention to how much value we put on size and weight.

It’s also important to deconstruct the messages we’ve been given. For so long, we’ve been led to believe that being fat is unhealthy and being thin is good. However, there is no significant correlation between health and size. Learning to question these beliefs is crucial to radical self-acceptance.

How to Accept Your Body

Finding the reason why you want to change your mindset and body perceptions is an important part of loving your body. Whether you want to stop counting your calorie intake or you just want to feel better in your skin, determining this gives you a purpose.

Another good way to start your journey is to get rid of your scale. Thinking rationally, it serves no real purpose. It’s just there. But it doesn’t need to be.

Body neutrality can also be a powerful thing. Stephanie describes it as:

  • Not loving or hating your body.
  • Not valuing your body using terms such as “fat” or “thin.”
  • Simply acknowledging what you look like.

Some people are resistant to this idea because they feel like they’ll let themselves go. If you ever feel that nagging fear about getting fat, then ask yourself, “What does getting fat mean to me?” 

Perhaps, you’re unconsciously linking being fat to lovability and worthiness. In that case, you have to remember that fat ≠ bad. Many people have harmed their bodies by trying to fight their natural state.

Health at Every Size

Society tends to attribute health and wellness as a personal responsibility. In reality, it’s widespread problems, such as marginalization and racism, that are huge health hazards. By sweeping these under the rug and blaming it on people’s laziness, we allow the unjust components of our society to proliferate.

Thus, the best way to improve our population’s health is to create a fair world without inequity. Just as Stephanie says, “We know that different cultures and ethnicities have different sizes. People come in all different shapes and sizes.”

Yet, research on obesity in white people is being applied as a worldwide standard. Moreover, most of this research does not factor in fitness, further spreading misinformation that weight and health are intricately linked.

Love Your Body Now

If you’re struggling to love your body, the key is not losing weight. It’s appreciating your body for the things it does for you. Try saying these phrases to yourself and see what comes up:

  • I love my legs because they take me to new places.
  • I love my ears because they allow me to hear beautiful music.
  • I love my tummy because it protects my vital organs.

For Stephanie, loving your body simply means taking care of it. Alongside body acceptance, some other ways to love your body are intuitive eating and joyful movement. 

“So that's the home run message. How can you live the life you want right now in the body you have right now, given your current situation, not that invisible finish, not that imaginary future day. But how can I be the healthiest I can right now in the body that I have right now?

Remember that your body is worth loving and taking care of. Always was, always will be.

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Did you enjoy the podcast? What did you learn about body image and acceptance? How do you think these insights can help you love your body and give it the care it deserves? Tell us by commenting on this episode. Subscribe to us now to discover more episodes on living a life full of love, happiness, and success.

[Intro song: Thaw by Bnny]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast. The band is Bnny with the song Thaw. It's a haunting song with a raw message, and that is intentional because we're going there today. Today, we're talking about you and your relationship with your body. 

It can be hard to love your body. How do you feel about your body? If you're like a lot of people, especially women, you don't like what you see in the mirror. You wish your body looked different, and a lot of people, especially women, get tricked into believing that if only you could attain this physical ideal of beauty that is unrealistic for like 99.999% of all humans. But if you could, then finally, you would get the love, the happiness, and success that you always wanted. 

This is a trap. We need to talk about it. Too many of us are socialized into basing our worth on the way we look. We spend way too much time thinking about how we can force our body to be different and get super vigilant about what we're eating or weighing ourselves. Or even taking this “healthy lifestyle” to an extreme that is not actually good for anyone, especially mentally and emotionally or physically, for that matter. 

If any of what I'm saying is feeling familiar and on point for you, I want you to get ready for a breath of fresh air. Today, I'm so pleased to be visiting with my colleague here at Growing Self, Stephanie O. She is a marriage and family therapist but she also has a real passion for helping people, especially women, liberate themselves from these really destructive and toxic ideas about self-worth, and particularly, self-worth based on the way you should look. 

Stephanie is here today to talk with us about how to practice health at any size, how to shift away from self-hatred and towards self-acceptance, and maybe even into loving your body the way it deserves to be loved. Thank you, Stephanie, for being here with me today. 

Stephanie Oliver: Thank you so much, Lisa, for having me. I'm really excited to talk about this and share this with people and curious what other people think and have to say as well. 

Stephanie’s Journey to Health at Every Size

Dr. Lisa: Yes. Well, we're going to have a good talk, and I'm just happy to be here because I like talking to you anyway. This is a particularly important topic because I think so many people, and I do not want to gender stereotype because I think a lot of different people struggle with this, feel a lot of shame, anxiety, discomfort around their body, the way their body looks, lots of messages like what kind of body they should have, their body is different. 

Then, we also get these messages like love your body, and that's pretty much when people just feel like laying down and taking a very long nap. 

Stephanie: Yeah, and I think the moral of that is that we spend way too much time thinking about our bodies in general, whether it's complete shame and self-hate of our bodies to just wanting to change it in some way, or wishing that it was different, or even more passive thoughts throughout the day like, “Should I or shouldn't I eat this? Or should I or shouldn't I look differently?” It just takes up way too much of our time and our brain power. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. You've been working with clients around this for a while. Can I ask you? I'm curious to know. How did you get interested in this, I think, fascinating subset of our profession? 

Stephanie: Yeah, so I think I can pin it back to actually when I was 18. I was a freshman in college, I was in Psych 101, and we were learning about eating disorders. I saw the diagnostic criteria for anorexia. It was restricting calorie intake, dissatisfied with the way that you look, fear of becoming fat. I was like, “Wait, isn't that everybody?” 

I hadn't really known any woman to not possess some of those characteristics, including me. I thought, “Well, this is a classified mental illness, so there's got to be more to the story than this, that it gives so many people experiences.” I just kind of filed it away in the back of my mind until I went to grad school and thought, “Oh, maybe I'll work with people with eating disorders. That could be quite interesting.” 

I got exposed to this concept of Health at Every Size, which some people will be familiar with. It's basically an entirely new way of thinking about health, and size, and body acceptance, and the way that we think about weight and health in our society. It made so much sense to me, and I just went from there. I thought, “How can I incorporate this as a marriage and family therapist? How could I not perpetuate weight and size stigma, but instead, continue to challenge it since this is such a common presenting problem as a therapist? A lot of people come seeking help with weight, and size, and body image issues.” 

Why Do I Hate My Body?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well it impacts so many different parts of life too and relationships and sexuality, there are so many different things attached. I'm wondering, for somebody listening to this who's like, “I'm really glad I'm listening to this podcast right now. I'm ready to learn,” what are some things that you would imagine might be true for them that maybe you've heard from some of your clients previously around? What starts to happen when people are thinking about their bodies a lot? 

Stephanie: Well, I think, this day and age, it can actually be quite sneaky. I think before maybe when we were growing up, it was a lot more overt like, “Oh, I wish I had thinner legs, or bigger boobs, or a flatter stomach.” Now, I think it can sneak in a variety of ways because a lot of us would like to consider ourselves very… We know it's not cool anymore to hate your body, right? Body acceptance is in. 

I think that sometimes it sneaks in. It starts out as a pursuit of health. “I want to be healthier,” and then, you start thinking like, “Okay. Well, I want to be healthier. I've got to burn more calories.” It just kind of spirals from there, right? Underneath it, the goal underneath is really to actually be thinner because we equate so much of health and size together, right? 

I think that it can sneak in in a bunch of different ways. I think with all of the images that we're exposed to online in terms of clean and healthy eating, and vegan diets, and gluten-free diets, and things like that, which can be really helpful for people and can be really important for people, can also turn into starting to obsess a little bit too much about what we're eating and how we're eating. 

Dr. Lisa: Like good food, bad food. That kind of thing. 

Stephanie: The other thing I think people will be familiar with is just conflating health and morality, right? Like what you were just saying, “I'm a good person because I keep healthy,” or “I'm a bad person because I didn't exercise today,” or even judging that in others. I think, too, not just oneself but making judgments on other people. 

I think, to just having this sense, and this is for all of my clients, I think, having this sense that there's a magical day in the future where everything is going to be exactly the way that they want it, “I'm going to be the exact weight that I want. My life is going to be the exact way that I want.” That day does not exist, first of all. 

Dr. Lisa: Do you have to say it out loud? Come on! No, I'm just kidding. It's like, “When I attain this thing, then all these other good things will happen.” 

Stephanie: “When I'm this weight, I will have the partner that I want. I'll be able to wear the clothes I want. I'll be happy.” My favorite quote from one of my favorite authors, Cheri Huber, who's a Buddhist writer, she says, “That day does not exist, and it only exists in your mind. Its reason is to torture you.” Right? 

Dr. Lisa: What an awesome quote.

Stephanie: I won't talk about solutions yet, but I feel like that day does exist in so many people's minds. It prevents us from accepting who we are now, living the life we want now because we think, “Oh, one day, I'll be this way.” 

I think another thing too is thinking that “At one point, when I was a different weight, or when I looked differently, I was happy.” I think that's a big myth that people carry with them. I have my clients find a picture of themselves at a time when they thought, “Okay, I like the way I am and this picture.” I have them look at the picture, and I say, “Well, were you happy, and were you pleased with your body at that point?” 

Most everyone always says, “I wasn't really happy then either. I also hated my body then, even though I'm looking back at it now, and I think I look good now looking back on it. But at the time, I still was so self-critical and still wasn't happy and comfortable with my body at that point.” I think those are things that most people can relate to. 

The Path to Radical Self-Acceptance

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and that's huge. This is just so interesting. It's like there's this, I don't know, maybe it's conscious, maybe it's subconscious, this very powerful association. That “I need to make my body look a certain way or become this…” There's character, and morals, and virtue all tied up in it. “And if only I can do these things, then all these doors will open. I will feel good, and people will like me. I will feel loved. I will feel confident. All of these things.” 

This makes a lot of sense to me. This turns into almost this motivation to really being focused on your body because it's a vehicle. It's sort of like a symbol for all of these other things. That if we could only torture it into submission.

Stephanie: Yeah, it's the one you can only control, which you really can't that much. But we think we can. I think it's important for people to realize too that it's not really their fault if they think this way, right? We think this way, it's not a personal problem. It's a larger societal problem that was really put on us by unrealistic expectations by the beauty industry, by so many different things we were exposed to. Then, we continue to perpetuate it. 

There are estimates but I think 85% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies, and I'm sure it's more. I haven't really met somebody in my life that hasn't, at one point, brought up some type of dissatisfaction with the way that they look. It's very pervasive. 

Dr. Lisa: Well, can we just talk a little bit more? You mentioned, what I heard in there is we're taught to believe these things about ourselves that aren't true, and you just kind of alluded to culture. If you had to articulate what you think women and men are taught, and sometimes it's about men and their own bodies. I think that men are also taught about women's bodies and what that is. How would you articulate the messages that we inherit from these larger systems and take on board sometimes without even realizing it? 

Stephanie: I think the messages are, “You better be a ‘normal' weight, and if you're not, then you sure as heck better be trying to achieve a normal weight. It's not okay to just be complacent or be okay with the way you look. You need to be trying to achieve that norm.” I think that's broad enough to apply to men and women.

Dr. Lisa: If you don't look like this fairly unattainable representation of physical humanity, which is hard, you need to feel bad about that and guilty and be working really hard to make that be different, or you're a bad person. 

Stephanie: Yes. Yeah. Lindy West, who's a famous fat activist says, “Okay, you're fat, but you better be a fat person that's trying to be thin. That's sort of like okay, but it's not okay to just be okay with it.” 

Dr. Lisa: Wow, but I bet you have a different idea that maybe it is okay. 

Stephanie: I do. 

Dr. Lisa: Tell me more about that part. What's the alternate? Well, I shouldn't say because I love doing these podcasts and kind of talking about ideas and things that would be helpful for people, but I always feel so cautious and feel myself saying this over and over again. 

There is a process. There is an arc of growth from coming in and talking with somebody like Stephanie, and that's where you are. It's like with these messages and these things still very true and that there is a process that builds over time to be able to incorporate different ideas and stories. 

That's what I'm asking you about, is different ideas and stories. But my disclaimer is that it takes a while to get there. Because it's like another thing for people to judge themselves about, right? If they're like, “Stephanie dropped some great ideas.” Like, “Here's a better way to think,” and you're like, “I can't do that yet. I just want to make that.” 

Stephanie: …and the shame cycle is just… 

Dr. Lisa: Right? Okay, so with that in mind, where do you gently move people towards instead and I'm wondering what the process looks like in your work with clients? 

Stephanie: Well, I tend to start by exposing people to other types of input than the input that they're getting. I recommend people to more size-acceptance types of media, people they can follow on Instagram, or podcasts that they can listen to, or TV shows that they can even watch. That's my first approach to it because if we do this work, and we continue to just see all the same input all the time, it's almost impossible to challenge that. 

Then, the other thing I do, which feels pretty safe to people, is work on the way that they view others first, challenging societal norms around this, so questioning things. I always tell people, “Just start to pay attention to how many of your conversations with your friends are around size and weight, positive or negative,” because I'm pretty radical. I don't think we should compliment each other on our bodies either, but just how much value is put on the way someone looks, your conversations with your family. 

People are pretty surprised to just slow down that awareness and realize, “Oh, it's a lot.” It's a lot. We talk about our looks a lot. The other thing I slide in is starting to understand that the relationship between health and size is not what we think it is. We think fat is unhealthy, thin is healthy. We have to start understanding that that has been fed to us over a long period of time, and it's not the whole story. There's science, there's research to back this up as well. It's not just an opinion, right? 

Getting people to start to deconstruct the messages that we've been given and how true they actually are can give people, give all of us a sense of purpose in terms of “Oh, I'm going to challenge this. I'm not just going to believe what I've been told about my weight and size. I went to the doctor, and the doctor said I was overweight. That doesn't feel like… I don't understand. How could that be?” Right? And not just accepting that right away and understanding that there's a bigger story around all sorts of things, and I don't know how much we want to get into it but that there's more to it than that, and we can really challenge it. 

One of my clients was saying that she complimented a friend and said, “Oh, you're looking so thin,” and the friend was like, “I actually got diagnosed with cancer a year ago, and I'm sick.” That was her wake-up call. “Oh my God, I was just assuming that this was a positive thing. She had lost weight but she was sick.” Things like that that we can work on, just rethinking our common narrative can be really liberating for people because it's harder to just turn inward and then live by that. But it's easier to start questioning society itself, which is where the problem comes from anyway. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, I could see that. It feels helpful and, in some ways, easier to see that narrative and be able to challenge it around “Wow, I am complimenting people on their looks, assuming positive things about others by virtue of the way they look that may or may not be true,” and just really being exposed to different ideas, different kinds of information that shape our perceptions of reality. 

How to Accept Your Body

Stephanie: Absolutely. Some other things to start thinking about in terms of change, I'm really interested in people not wasting any more of their lives, in general, on whatever the thing it is, that thing they have, maybe. We waste an awful lot of our time on this. I know I don't want to be on my deathbed thinking about how I wasted time about my weight or the way I looked and things like that. Finding that reason why you want to start changing your thinking is really important for a lot of my clients. 

For some people, it's like, “I want to be able to look in the mirror again,” or for some people, it's “I want to stop obsessing. I want to stop counting calories and weighing myself all the time. It's exhausting.” By the way, that's another thing you can do, is get rid of your scale immediately. There's no reason why we need to have scales in our house. I tell people they can bury it in the backyard because you can always dig it back up again if you feel like you need it. But I do have clients that have literally buried their scales because it doesn't need to be there. 

It's a question, “Why is that there? Why am I tracking every pound?” Really questioning how much time is this taking. In that vein, I think working on this idea of body neutrality can be really powerful for people. “I'm not going to love my body; I'm not going to hate it. I'm just going to accept. I'm going to look in the mirror and be like, ‘Okay, this is what I look like.'” And trying not to value it at all in terms of “I look great, or I look fat, or I look thin, or there's a bulge here or whatever.” Just acknowledging it as a fact almost like, “This is what I look like.” People could start there themselves. That could be a really interesting process as well. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and this idea that you need to jump into this, “I love and appreciate my body exactly as it is.” It feels like too big of a step and just to experiment with “This is my body.” You're almost describing it as like a very mindful way without interpretation, or judgment, or values. It is just what it is.

Stephanie: This is extremely scary for people. That isn't easy. When we have a belief system over time that tells us, “No, if I do that, I'm going to let myself slip. I need to constantly be pushing myself, and I can't let go. I can't let myself slip. That's a really scary thing because if I'm okay with my body, then what if I get fat? What if I gain weight?” for some people, that fear is all-encompassing. 

Dr. Lisa: What do you do with that? “Stephanie, I can't. If I don't hate myself, if I don't judge myself, if I don't yell at myself every time I look in the mirror, then I'm going to stop trying, and then I will be fat and what does that mean?” 

Stephanie: What would happen if you were fat? What would happen if you gained weight? There's an assumption that fat is bad, right? It's not necessarily. A lot of people are fighting their body's natural state quite intensely to prevent it from being at the weight it wants to be. A lot of clients that I have have gotten to a point where they're like, “What if I just let myself be fat? There's a good chance that I'm never going to look any different than I have my whole life. So maybe it's time to just be okay with it, right?” 

I think that weight fluctuation, too, has really been linked to a lot of health problems so the more we diet, and we know diets don't work. 99% of people gain back all or more of the weight after two years of losing it on a diet, right? They're unsustainable, and they're unattainable. So that weight fluctuation can actually be really harmful for health. Pointing things out like that to them can sometimes be useful. But I think questioning like, “Well, okay, so you'd be fat, and? What does that mean to you?” Then, we can pull out some of people's own stigma and biases. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. What does it mean? Our virtue? Lovability? Worthiness? Yeah. I want to go back to a point that you said. It was actually on my mind earlier today, and I'll tell you why. You mentioned a minute ago that people are often fighting viciously with themselves to try to not be the weight that their body naturally wants to be. I might have even, was it just last night? It might have been.

Health at Every Size

I came across this article that I read because I was thinking, “I'm going to be talking to Stephanie about body image and weight.” I have to share the link with you. It was a new article from a science journalist who's going through a lot of the research. The punchline is that there has always been, even among medical professionals, this theory about what creates obesity, but I've certainly heard before, which is calories in calories out. 

If you are consuming more calories than you burn, it gets stored as fat. It's sort of like thermodynamics, right? It sounds very reasonable. That is actually not true and that genetic variations, there have been experiments with mice, that a mouse with a certain genetic imprint, their bodies do different things with insulin production. In experiments, you can actually feed one of these mice half as much as a sort of standard-issue mouse diet, whatever that is, and they will still gain weight. 

Their body just simply does different things with energy and energy storage and that there's a high degree of just natural variability in humans. The discussion is that people who do maybe struggle with obesity or overweight are not eating more than regular people. They're not doing anything bad to create this. It's just their bodies. 

Stephanie: Yes. We have never been able to find any evidence that shows that fat people eat more than thin people. We've never. People try to prove it all the time, and it doesn't work. That article that you're citing right now is actually a pretty famous piece of research. It's not new. Maybe this one is new. 

Dr. Lisa: The article came out, or at least I saw it recently. 

Stephanie: The research is older, and people went through a lot of efforts to keep that message from the public because still, this moral sense of “We can't let people know because then, they'll think it's okay, right?”

Dr. Lisa: “They'll bury their scales in their backyard. The anarchy.” 

Stephanie: Yes, yes. Just so much of it is not at all our nutrition, what we put in our bodies. So much of weight is based on genes, genetics, socioeconomic status, our relationships, our friendships, our fitness. Fitness is the biggest personal predictor, the biggest thing you can control to keep your health up. 

Nutrition plays an important but very, very small part in it. It doesn't surprise me when I read things like this. Actually, we can't find that fat people eat any differently than thin people. There are thin people who eat tons of junk food. There are fat people that eat tons of junk food. There are fat people who eat very healthy and exercise a ton. There are thin people who eat very healthily and exercise a ton. We can't really find a difference in the… 

Dr. Lisa: Behavior, yeah.

Stephanie: A strong causality. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and just to support what you're saying, I will totally share this article with you. But citing research from a hundred years ago, stuff going on in World War II that this was coming out and just never gained traction. In agriculture, it was known that certain kinds of cows or other livestock just metabolized food differently, but it just never translated to humans. 

That's so important because it goes back to that idea of morality, of virtue, of good and bad, the sense that, “I should look different, and I should make myself look different. If I can't, that means something bad about me.” This anxiety that comes along with that, and what I'm hearing from you is like, “Just get off that bus!” 

Stephanie: Well, that's, I think, one of the key components of Health at Every Size, is that the best way to improve the health of a population is to work towards creating a more fair and just world and reducing inequity. We have studies that show increased heart disease in immigrant populations. 

We were able to sort of prove or research was able to show that the only contributing factor here is the stress on this minority population. But we're going to tell them, the information that we're going to give them from the health organizations is that they need to eat less butter, right? 

It's putting a personal responsibility on someone when it's actually things like racism, and size stigma, and any type of marginalization are huge health hazards. As long as we keep it in this sphere of “It's what you eat, and how much you exercise, and if you can't maintain a weight, you're lazy,” then we kind of ignore all of these other unjust components of our society. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and how we're all, in some way, personally responsible for creating that or maintaining that. I'm so glad that you're bringing this up because there's I think a positive way that it seems like, at least, in some ways, there has been some progress. Racism is still very much a thing, internalized racism, and the amount of stress that it creates for people of color, immigrants. 

I think it could be argued that discrimination of overweight people or fat-shaming is still widely accepted in a lot of ways. I think that people internalize, like we were talking about before, internalize that shame. They may experience hostility, or nasty comments, or lost opportunities, maybe assumptions made about them being a certain way that aren't true. The level of stress, and anxiety, and pain that causes, that's the real health consequence. 

Stephanie: Absolutely, and we know that different cultures and ethnicities have different sizes. People come in all different shapes and sizes. All this research that we have on obesity and all this stuff, it's all on white people. All of the subjects in these tests are mostly for white populations. So everything is messed up, basically, is what I'm saying. 

In so many of these studies that link health problems to obesity, this is an important point people should know, fitness level was not accounted for in those studies. When fitness is accounted for, there's virtually no link between weight and health. There's a lot of misinformation. People are interested in publishing things that go along with what we already believe, and it's very hard to challenge those belief systems, I think, because of how this has become such a moral issue. 

Love Your Body Now

Dr. Lisa: I hear you. Okay, so if I were to synthesize very complex and nuanced ideas into a few chunks, I'm hearing you say that step one is getting familiar and understanding the stories that we are telling ourselves, stories that we've inherited just as an observer, right? Then, that second piece is really beginning to challenge them with different kinds of information. Then, the next phase really is trying to move into a practice of acceptance, of self-acceptance. 

Then finally, just to ask, in your work with people, have you worked with people over the arc of this process where they are able to change their relationships with their bodies to the degree that they can say, “You know what? I love my body. I am so grateful for this body I have,” and have it be a positive thing? 

Stephanie: I think that my clients who experienced success become people who some days, they love their body, some days, they don't think about it at all, some days, they may have an issue with their body creep back in again. But it's much more along just the normal experience of our relationships with our bodies and not being obsessed with it. 

I think that success to me in this field is taking care of your body. That success, just taking care of it. There are a few other things that we work on like intuitive eating, and joyful movement, and along with the body acceptance piece. But I think that success in the end is like, “I've got this body. I have it. It is what it is, and here's how I'm going to take care of it.”

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and then, I would attach maybe to that too is, it's worth taking care of, maybe potentially disconnect a little bit from the way it looks and to what it does. Because what I'm thinking about right now, having gone through two pregnancies, this experience of my body just starting to do all of these things automatically for me and for this baby that were in no way connected to me looking good, but to more like very useful in terms of: “I could do all this stuff!” Just being able to transport you from here to there. The physicality of movement is appreciating your body for breathing, and digesting food, and doing things. Yeah, it's amazing. 

Stephanie: I think that the people that we know that have a more positive sense of their bodies are the people who are able to say, “Oh, I love my legs because they make me run fast,” or “I love my skin because it stretches when I am pregnant. That's amazing.” Just understanding and being grateful for the functions of their body, and if we're struggling with that, the answer is not to lose weight, right? 

The answer is to find things that we like or enjoy or in terms of movement and things like that that our bodies can do. That's kind of the home run message, is how can you live the life you want right now in the body you have right now, given your current situation? Not that invisible finish, not that imaginary future day, but: “How can I be the healthiest I can right now in the body that I have right now?” 

Dr. Lisa: Yes, radical idea that perhaps, and this is a good message for everyone, that there is a path to being perfectly happy right now with normal ebbs and flows, where it is what it is, to find a path of gratitude and appreciation that is disconnected from your physical appearance and what that means, just being happy like, “This is it.” I love it. 

Thank you so much for sharing such a positive, empowering message. I'm sure that there are a lot of people who needed to hear this. It's wonderful even for me to hear and think about. 

Just to share, the last time I was pregnant, I got a doctor who started giving me a lot of crap for gaining too much weight too quickly. I started to develop so much anxiety about what I was eating, and when do I eat, what do I eat, all that stuff, and weighing myself was not good. Then, my scale broke, and that was three years ago. I never got another scale, and it's so interesting. Just that one data point that, especially women can get very weird about, it's a non-issue. It doesn't matter. 

Stephanie: It's not even really measuring anything. I want to say too that there are many doctors, physicians, nutritionists, mental health professionals, dieticians even, who do follow this Health at Every Size approach. There are doctors that I know who have actually stopped weighing their patients altogether and just follow this paradigm shift, just shifting our thinking. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, that's wonderful and again, I think a message of empowerment is that if this is something that you're working towards, to advocate for that, and find a doctor who is familiar with these ideas and who practice this Health at Every Size and to find that network of support for this. Wonderful. Again, thank you so much for sharing it, and I will include if you'd like to share more information about Health at Every Size in the show notes of this episode and some other resources that we can direct people to and go from there. 

Stephanie: Thank you so much, Lisa. I really enjoyed talking to you about this today. 

Dr. Lisa: Me too. This is a lot of fun. 

You can find links to the resources that Stephanie shared today during our talk on the post for this podcast, which is going to be growingself.com/love-your-body. Also, while you're there, be sure to cruise over to the blog. Stephanie has so generously written a number of articles on our blog related to self-esteem, healthy relationships. She has a particularly fantastic article about what to do if you feel like you're walking on eggshells with someone in a relationship and another article around body acceptance and Health at Any Size

It is all there for you at growingself.com. Come over, check it out, and in the meantime, I will be back in touch with you next week with another episode of The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast, and let's go out with some more Bnny. 

By the way, you guys, this whole album is fantastic. You should definitely check it out, Bnny. Bnny. All right, that's all for today. Over and out, my friends. I will talk to you next week. Bye-bye.

[Outro music: Thaw by Bnny]


Advice From A Body Positivity Coach: Love Yourself

Advice From A Body Positivity Coach: Love Yourself

Advice From A Body Positivity Coach: Love Yourself

Finding Your Self Worth

We are taught from an early age that our self worth is wrapped up in our bodies. Especially for women, we must either be thin or striving for thinness at all times. A woman could have an amazing career, family, and friends, but if she’s “feeling fat”, it can ruin her whole day. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are brave and outspoken voices of the fat acceptance movement, encouraging loving your body and feeling confident in your own skin.  

But sometimes, it all seems like a little much. What if I’m not feeling good or bad about my body? What if it’s just there and I don’t feel any particular way about it? Body positivity to me is having a general good sense about your body, but thoughts about food, weight, and body appearance only take up a very small part of your life, if any at all. Imagine if you had all of that time back to think about other things. What could you do? How would you feel? 

As a body positivity coach, I work with clients around establishing healthy thoughts and habits around their bodies, health, and overall wellbeing. Today, I'm going to share that same advice with you!

Shifting Your Mindset from Dieting to Body Positivity

When I was first shifting my paradigm to a Health At Every SizeTM approach, my trainer said “Only a dieter will eat an entire Hershey’s bar.” I could see the other therapists, physicians, and dietitians in the room look at her inquisitively, preparing their questions. She continued, “A dieter will eat an entire bar of chocolate, because they will not allow themselves to eat more tomorrow.  Food for dieter is associated with goodness or badness and a chocolate bar, in this case, is bad. So in the dieter’s mind, which is a deprivation mindset, they are thinking ‘well, I will never allow myself to have this again, so I better eat it all now so I can start fresh tomorrow.’  A non-dieter will know that they can have a little now, and there will be more tomorrow.

After working with hundreds of women (10 year olds to 60 years olds) I have found this dieting mindset to be true. Someone who has an intuitive, healthy relationship with food knows that they can have some chocolate now, and that it will still be there tomorrow, if they want it, or if they don’t want it, whatever. However, those who are in the dieting mindset or all in or all out – shifting from one extreme to the next (often known as yo-yo dieting). 

Signs That You May Have a Dieting Mentality

The first sign of a dieting mentality is deprivation. People on diets deprive themselves and see that deprivation as a good thing, as willpower, and they see it as necessary. But unfortunately, deprivation is not sustainable and what should be a small part of someone’s thoughts, becomes all-consuming.  When we’re deprived of something (especially if we do this to ourselves) all we can think about is the thing we can’t have. Food then becomes a really big part of what we think about. For some it becomes the ONLY thing they think about.  

The second sign of a dieting mentality is exercising to burn calories. Someone on a dieting mentality is exercising and clocking in how many calories they are burning, specifically to counteract the calories they have consumed. Exercise is not necessarily from a place of self-love, but of punishment and self-hate. It may partly be about feeling good, but under the surface lurks a voice that says “you have to do this in order to be thin / beautiful / successful / etc.”

The third sign of a dieting mentality is spending time in front of the mirror wishing you had a different body. Maybe it’s a flatter stomach or a smaller chest or maybe you wish you had a whole different body. Yes, we all have done this, but that doesn’t make it normal, it just makes it even sadder that body hatred is as pervasive as it is. 

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

The Origin of Low Self-Esteem

Let me make it perfectly clear, we are not born hating our bodies. We are born with a love for ourselves and at our inner core we want to be loved by others. Along the way we were trained by not only society, but sometimes by the people we loved the most that we are not good enough. And for women, one of the ways we try to make ourselves good enough is through controlling the way our bodies look.

As a body positivity coach and licensed therapist, clients often find it helpful to work through their feelings of low self-esteem to uncover areas that may have led to the way they feel about themselves and their bodies. However, feeling this way – especially in our western culture, is often part of being human. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect and live up to some unrealistic, idealistic version of ourselves that we’ve created in our minds either based on what we have been fed in media, society, or our relationships instead of truly getting to know the incredible people that we are. The idea of “perfection” is so tainted to the point that we don’t see how beautiful and unique and fully lovable we already are. 

Creating and Practicing a Body Positivity Mindset

If you found yourself ticking all the boxes above, you are not alone. Most women have been there. In fact, this is so ingrained in us, that sometimes when I begin to question or even gently challenge a client’s dieting mentality, it is met with resistance. Society is very invested in you having the dieting mentality. We can break out of it together, but it takes a lot of work.

The first thing you can do is educate yourself. Diets don’t work. They simply don’t. After two years most everyone will gain back all or more of the weight they lost on a diet. And it’s not because consuming a few calories doesn’t make you thinner; it technically does. Diets don’t work because they are not sustainable. It is simply impossible to keep up with the level of time and energy it takes to maintain a diet. 

In addition to diets not working, they are downright harmful psychologically and physically. Weight cycling from the results of dieting has been linked to very significant health problems and has in fact been shown to cause more problems than being overweight. Not to mention dieting is one’s own personal cycle of abuse: set unrealistic goal, fail at attaining goal, feel even worse. 

4 Ways to Begin Your Body Positivity Mindset Journey

#1 Be Honest with Yourself. The dieting mentality is not like it used to be. Gone are the days of Atkins, Weight Watchers, and aerobics (but can we keep the leg warmers?!). Dieting isn’t even a cool word anymore. We have hidden ways of keeping ourselves in the dieting mentality. While there are certainly people with medical and ethical reasons for being vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, sugar free, etc.,, these types of restricted forms of eating can be motivated by an underlying desire to be thin.

Orthorexia, a new term that includes an obsession with things like clean eating and meal planning, is on the rise and is hard to identify as problematic because on the surface it appears to be someone making healthy choices. So be honest: is food taking up a small part of your life or is it a huge part of your life? Is your food intake and your weight an obsession?

#2 Eat Intuitively and Relearn Trust. When a baby has a bowl of food in front of him, he knows when to stop eating. We can learn to tune into our bodies again – I see people do it all of the time. Have you ever had a week where you were really busy and ate a bunch of junk food and then you craved veggies one night? That’s your body craving the things it needs. You can actually relearn to trust your instincts around food. Some helpful tools used in the Health At Every Size Approach can help you gain back your trust in your body.

#3 Practice Joyful Movement. What feels good? Maybe it’s stretching after a long day in front of your computer. Maybe it’s singing in a choir or walking your dog in the crisp fall air as the moon is rising. Maybe it’s playing red light green light with your children or going on a ten mile hike to see a beautiful mountain view. Whatever it is, do it because it feels good.

#4 Practice Size Acceptance. Waiting for the imaginary day when you are the weight you want, when you look the way you want, when you can wear the clothes you want, and you can finally feel like the confident person you want to be is simply a tortuous way to live! Doing all of the things like dieting, depriving, burning calories, doesn’t really work. The goal is never reached, the happiness never comes. So size acceptance is about living the life you want now, in the size you are now.

I know you’re thinking “easier said than done!”  I get that. Let's just acknowledge right now that the thoughts of weight will still be there. The fear of hunger, the fear of fat, the fear of gaining weight, the disgust with your body….those feeling will still be there, but just make an agreement with those feelings to put them in a little box and bury it in the backyard (while you’re at it you can throw your scale in there too). Don’t worry, it’s still there, you can always go dig it up, but those feelings just aren’t needed right now. You can still practice joyful movement, eating intuitively, and size acceptance even when those thoughts are there.

Road to Recovery: Making Power Moves for Your Self-Esteem

The road to recovery will look a little different for everyone, but the basic steps are the same. I like to share with my body positivity clients who are on their healing journey that it’s okay to get mad! It’s not fair that this mentality was encouraged in you from a young age and continually pressed upon you into and throughout your adult life. 

The first step for every person looking to make power moves for their self-esteem is to decide that you’re not going to play along anymore. You have to make the decision to press on and work hard for YOU. Healing journeys are rarely easy, but you can do it. You can begin to see positive changes in your mindset and health if you make the decision to make your health a priority. 

Secondly, just with any recovery program – having a support system can help establish accountability, offer encouragement, and give you a place to turn to when things feel heavy. A way that you can begin to build a support system virtually is to join a book club with similarly goal-oriented friends or even strangers! Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon is a great book to get started with.

Lastly, if you find that you need a little extra support or know that you would benefit from one-on-one work, find a licensed therapist or life coach that has been trained in frameworks such as Health At Every Size. Once you start to see all of the ways that we are taught to hate ourselves, you can be empowered to do something about it for yourself and for others.

A final note: Although a body positivity mind set can be helpful for everyone, it can also be very important to distinguish between a diet mentality and Eating Disorders behaviors, as these can often look similar in one's day to day life. Please keep in mind that if you or someone you know is struggling with an Eating Disorder, it could be critical to get help and support from a doctor or therapist who has been trained in treating Eating Disorders. If you'd like additional information on distinguishing between a diet mentality and Eating Disorder behaviors please visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

Warmly,
Stephanie Oliver

Online Therapist UK Relationship Counselling Online

Stephanie Oliver, M.A., LMFT, UKCP  is an active, engaged, and down to earth counselor who takes great interest in your overall well-being. She works with couples, families, and individuals to help them reach their full potential in life and their relationships.

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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Walking on Eggshells

Walking on Eggshells

Walking on Eggshells

Heal Your Relationship

​Have you ever felt like you were walking on eggshells around your partner? Like no matter what you say, it is taken as a criticism and erupts in defensiveness or walking away? Or do you feel you have to be really careful or you’re going to get “in trouble” for doing something the wrong way and get blamed and nagged by your partner? In my work as a marriage and family therapist, it’s common for couples to begin counseling because of similar feelings like the ones above. Typically, one partner will feel like they are constantly having to “be careful” while the other partner has no idea they feel this way.

I see couples all of the time who say, “I feel like I have to walk on eggshells.”   

Walking on eggshells is usually a misguided attempt at preserving a relationship. In other words, partners are afraid of expressing their more vulnerable thoughts and feelings out of fear that they won’t be heard or understood and that it will somehow cause conflict or arguing in the relationship. The good news is that this is a pattern that many couples face and it can be worked through. The bad news is that if walking on eggshells becomes a pervasive pattern in your relationship it leaves both partners feeling alone and misunderstood. 

Prioritize Emotional Connection

It’s sad when partners feel like they walk on eggshells because it usually means that they aren’t connecting emotionally. If you constantly watch what you say to avoid offending your partner, it is usually because what you say strikes a nerve deep within them. The nerve may have developed when they were younger or it may be from a past relationship. Perhaps they perceive what you’re saying as criticism and it strikes their nerve of “i’m not good enough.” That shame quickly turns into anger and they get defensive or simply give in to what you say without really hearing you. Even something as simple as “Will you please put the crackers on the bottom shelf next time?” can land as a criticism and can start the reactions. Maybe your partner checks out emotionally or leaves the room by the end of the argument.

While this may make you feel misunderstood and angry, your partner shutting down or leaving is an attempt at preserving the relationship. They may feel they need to leave in order to avoid further conflict or avoid saying something they don’t mean.

Chances are the reasons you feel anxious and angry is because you actually care about your partner and you long to connect with them better. There is a fear that you might lose them. If you didn’t care about them, it probably wouldn’t bring up these types of emotions. 

There are some things you can do on your end if you play the role of this partner in your relationship. Instead of worrying about where your partner puts things in the fridge or how they pack the kids’ lunches for school, try to recognize your need for emotional connection with your partner and prioritize that.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

You Control How You React

If you feel you need to walk on eggshells or your partner will find fault in something you do, nag you, criticize you, or blame you, you are not alone. Maybe you’re even aware that the nagging, criticizing and blaming not only makes you angry, but makes you feel inadequate or that you’re falling short. You probably find yourself shutting down emotionally or physically leaving the scene either to avoid getting into a bigger conflict or simply as an act of self-preservation.  These are natural reactions to this common occurrence in relationships.

However, the problem is, your partner is trying to reach you for emotional connection. I know it sounds strange, but it’s true. The nagging, criticizing, and even the blaming is an attempt to reach you emotionally. (I didn’t say it was a good attempt, but it is an attempt nonetheless.) So, when you leave, that strikes fear deep in the heart of your partner such as “I can’t count on him,” or  “What if I lose her?”

Once you can access these thoughts and feelings, you will immediately have more control over them. You can decide how you will react.  

Access Vulnerability in Your Relationship

Sometimes when we approach our partners about sensitive topics we are defensive or upset.  This almost always leaves the other person feeling blamed. But when we come from a more vulnerable place, when we’ve accessed those tender feelings beneath the surface and we are able to express those to our partner, they can usually hear us.  

Learning How to Be More Vulnerable in Relationships is an important step in any relationship and a relationship-saving tool that you and your partner can work on together.

See the Argument Through a Different Lens

Try and see the argument through a different lens. Is the argument really about where to put the crackers on the shelf, or is someone feeling a lack of connection? Is the argument really about the kids or is someone looking for reassurance and safety? If you can work with your partner on filling in the blanks below, you will be on your way to a solid foundation, rather than those fragile eggshells.

  • This is what I yearn for in the relationship (security, a sense of belonging, to matter)
  • When the thing I yearn for is not happening, I feel (loneliness, shame, danger)
  • When the above feeling is too difficult or vulnerable, I feel (Angry, frustrated, confused)
  • What I think about myself is (I’ve got this wrong, I’m not enough, I can only take care of myself)
  • What I think about my partner is (He doesn’t care, she doesn’t listen, he’s so irresponsible)
  • So I try to take care of myself by (controlling, blaming, walking away, zoning out) and this triggers my partner. And we go back to the beginning.

See how it works?    

Sue Johnson, the developer of Emotionally Focused Couples therapy called this “The Dance.”  All couples have a dance they do and when couples are caught in this negative cycle it leaves people feeling bad and alone, and like they are walking on eggshells to avoid fighting.

If you feel like you and your partner can work together to change this dance, there are great tools out there for couples. My favorite book to recommend to my friends and family is “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson. It teaches couples about how and why they are walking on eggshells and provides powerful exercises and talking points to explore this with your partner and improve emotional connection.

If you feel like you’re too stuck and the thought of bringing up any of this with your partner feels like it will end in a major battle, find a trained couples therapist who will help you get unstuck!

Wishing you happiness,
Stephanie Oliver, M.A., UKCP

Online Therapist UK Relationship Counselling Online

Stephanie Oliver, M.A., UKCP Family and Systemic Therapist is an active, engaged, and down to earth counselor who takes great interest in your overall well-being. She works with couples, families, and individuals to help them reach their full potential in life and their relationships.

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