Promoting A Healthy Attitude About Food And Body Image
I’ll outline ways that you can contribute to an environment that promotes a healthy relationship with food, body image and exercise. Additionally, if your loved one struggles with an eating disorder, sticking to these tips ensures that you’ll be creating a supportive environment.
When body image comes up, don’t self-deprecate
I make it a practice to say away from comments about people’s weight, like: “You look like you’ve lost so much weight!” Or, “I can really tell you’ve been dieting/working out!” I suppose there are some exceptions especially with those you are close with, but I choose to avoid just because you don’t know where people are or what they might be struggling with. Speaking of which, speak kindly about your own body and stay away from “love-handles,” “stomach flab,” or “thunder thighs.” Deprecation really isn’t helpful and it’s along the same lines as calling yourself stupid, worthless or ugly. Harsh-sounding, right? That’s because it is! You probably wouldn’t say it to someone else, so don’t say it about yourself, either.
Don’t qualify your food choices
At one point or another most of us (especially women), have said, “I am going to be really bad and eat ______.” You fill in the blank: chips and queso, hot fudge sundae…whatever. Remember the benefits of intuitive eating? Food isn’t inherently “bad” or “good” it’s for nourishment and enjoyment! This doesn’t mean you have to over-indulge, but it does mean it’s a better idea to stay confident and positive about your diet choices.
Loosen your grip on image
We live in an image-drive world. Selfies are everywhere, fashion options are endless, exercise routines for toning, slimming and shaping are shamelessly promoted. Take a step back and focus instead on wellness- of the mind, body and spirit. Instead of “How do I look?” Try and focus on “How am I acting?” Take necessary measures to protect yourself from the image-craze that can feel overwhelming- especially on social media. Challenge your character, not just your looks. Ask: “How am I contributing to my town or city?” “ What is the emotional health of my family like?” “Am I maintaining friendships that matter to me?” If you belong to a faith community like a church or a synagogue how might you be contributing there? There are many things that contribute to the beauty of one’s life and in the grand scheme of things; image is further down on the list than most of us make it out to be.
Make exercise about enjoyment and play
Instead of saying, “I’m going to burn off all that dessert I ate last night and run,” or “I have got to lose those last ten pounds so I’m going to work out twice as long at the gym” try saying, “I haven’t hit the gym this past week, I miss it!” Weave exercise into recreation and fun- from hikes in the great outdoors, to cooling off and swimming in the neighborhood pool to dancing to music in your living room– the more movement is fun the more likely you are to have a healthy relationship with exercise. Remember how we discussed eating disorders have a compensatory element to them? i.e. (if I eat too much dessert, I must purge or over exercise later to make up for it) Stay away from language that’s in line with this thought process.