A woman vocalizes her physical insecurities to her best friend, “I just hate wearing strapless dresses to formal functions. Everyone can see my arms jiggle when I dance. Ugh, I feel so gross. I need to lose weight.”
Her friend responds, “Are you kidding me? You’re gorgeous. I would kill for your arms. At least you don’t have a gross belly pooch like me. I’m disgusting. I look like I’m still pregnant.”
Does this interaction sound familiar? We would never say the belittling things about our friend’s body that she is saying about her own but we are quick to slander ourselves. Is this a healthy pattern that uplifts both women? I would argue, emphatically, NO.
80% of American women, obese and non-obese, are dissatisfied with their bodies. That’s a significant percentage. Do you fall into this category?
Perhaps one of the reasons so many women are unhappy with their physiques is because American society emphasizes models that are 23% thinner than the average woman. If we see this as the prototype for beauty then we will put unnatural pressure on ourselves to conform to it. This saddens me because I see more and more women feeling like failures unless they get down to a model-thin dress size. Do you still use your athletic prowess from high school as your benchmark for fitness? Do you think of your wedding weight, that you spent months working hard to achieve, as your ideal weight? Do you compare your thighs, arms, or abs to women featured by Sports Illustrated, Vogue or Victoria’s Secret? While it’s always important to have goals to aspire to, we must be careful not to sacrifice our mental health in the process.
Self Magazine partnered with UNC at Chapel Hill and found that 65% of women between the ages of 25-45 have disordered eating behaviors and 10% have a diagnosable eating disorder. The staggering 75% of women, who mentally struggle with food, are not differentiated by racial or ethnic lines.
Glamour Magazine conducted a study to assess women’s mental health and found that their readers had, on average, 13 negative body thoughts a day. This means that women are thinking negatively about their body once almost every waking hour of the day! Whoa! Scary stuff? It certainly scares me.
Please don’t start thinking that you’re a bad person or a failure because you have negative thoughts. They are natural to have sometimes, just like occasional emotional eating is a part of a healthy, normal eating pattern (yes, it’s true!). The problem comes when we begin to fixate on these negative patterns. Thoughts can become habitual just like biting your nails, overeating, cigarette smoking, and procrastination. I like to explain positive versus negative thinking to clients by talking about hiking trails. Odd, I know, but just wait…
Pretend you’re hiking in the woods and the path splits into two new routes. One route has a wide dirt path that is free of branches and overhanging foliage. The other path is barely visible underneath weeds, fallen branches and rocks. The choice of which path to take is obvious, right? Well, this is kind of how your brain looks at positive versus negative thinking. If you think negatively all the time, negative thinking actually gets reinforced and easier. It becomes the wide open, friendly path that your brain prefers to take. The same is true for positive thinking. The old phrase “smile until you mean it” has some merit because you are reinforcing your brain to comply with the way you want to feel. To summarize, if you constantly remind yourself of the things you don’t like about your body, you will feel worse and worse with one negative thought followed by the next.
So, how do we change?
Positive thinking starts with knowing that positivity is not a state of mind that just happens, it’s a choice. Henry Ford’s famous quote; “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right,” is on point. This is exactly why Wellnesswinz’s tagline is “Start believing you can.” This lesson was drilled into me when I was en route to an ashram in India for yoga teacher training. The cab driver was asking me whether or not I was going to become an excellent yoga instructor and I responded “I hope so.” He scolded me like a young schoolgirl: “No. You know so.” I was humbled.
A positive and vibrant life, full of self-confidence, is what you deserve. Whether you’re trying to accomplish a healthy fitness goal, take the mental burden of negative body thoughts off your shoulders, or tackle the impossible, start believing you can and then suddenly, you will.
Yours in health & wellness,