I know I’ve evolved a TON when it comes to the way I think about my body (and about food, exercise, self talk, etc.), and I’m really proud of the work I’ve done to get here. I’m also grateful for the shift that’s happening culturally when it comes to body neutrality, the anti-diet movement, body diversity, and the mindset around the fact that health isn’t inherently tied to weight (rather, there’s a range that can be healthy for each of us, and weight is certainly NOT the only metric that determines health).
And yet…thanks to being raised in a culture that was body and weight obsessed (and, let’s be honest, largely still is), it can be hard to shake some of those often knee-jerk thoughts and feelings I have related to this topic.
I’m guessing lots of you can relate.
It’s such a funny feeling, to KNOW something but to also feel this familiar inner voice bubble to the surface, trying to pull me away from what I now know to be true. It helps to remind myself that we have a lot more control over our thoughts and feelings than we often realize, and I try to cut myself some slack. After all, being a person (particularly a women) in our world is really hard and so exhausting when it comes to this stuff.
I want to spend my mental energy thinking about things that MATTER more — gun safety and parenting well and being present with my kiddos and protecting the environment and helping others and connecting with friends and SO MUCH MORE…and I’m better at that than I ever have been. YAY — such a win! That said, these body thoughts do creep in, and I try to cut myself slack because I know it’s totally normal.
I thought I’d capture just a brief snapshot into my all-over-the-place thoughts related to this, because A) writing always helps me process and B) because it helps me to remember others feel similarly about hard things like this (and perhaps this is helpful for you to see and feel less alone!).
Sometimes I’ll catch myself in a thought process that’s similar to where I used to mentally live a lot of the time, but now I’m also able to pepper in some reminders about the beliefs I now hold (about myself, diet culture, and more) which can help pull me out of the spiral.
It also helps me to remember that though these present as body-related thoughts, they are usually about something bigger. Or I feel like in my case sometimes they come out of habit, and I’m working to retrain my brain to break (or at least reduce) that habit. And I remind myself that I’ve been smaller and at that time was certainly NOT a happier person. In fact, I was a really sick person.
Here’s an example of one of those internal conversations:
I start the day with a walk, feeling so present in my body and grateful for its ability to move freely and quickly and painlessly.
Then I’ll just be going about my day, not giving much thought to body stuff. And then all of a sudden I catch my reflection in a mirror and wonder, “Why do my legs look so terrible in these shorts?”
Before I know it, I’m Googling “things to do to make your legs smaller,” even though I’ve Googled a version of this exact thing a million times and know what the search results are going to be. Still, I spend far too much time reading those results (for the millionth time). Maybe I SHOULD finally buy this workout program…
Then I catch myself: NO. I’m not going down this rabbit hole again. And anyway, am I really going to make changes based on what I see in those search results? I’m not. I’m happy with the way I eat and the forms of movement I do (they make me feel good and strong and joyful). They really do!!
But now that thought is lodged in my head.
I mean…are other people noticing how my legs look, too? Is it just me, or have they changed since last summer? Are these shorts fitting differently? Do I have more cellulite this year? (I for sure do. I should buy some cream or something for that… I mean, you’re right — 90% of women have cellulite. But it doesn’t mean I’m okay with mine…)
STOP. You know your worth does not come from the way your legs look. And besides — those are the same legs that helped you walk fast and far earlier today, and left you feeling energized and uplifted. Those legs are strong and capable. And…they also look just fine.
Think about the women you admire most in this world — the ones you’re so grateful to know and to have in your life. Does anything about that admiration have to do with the way their bodies look? NO WAY. Okay — let it go.
But why is it so much easier to believe that about other people than it is to believe it about myself?
Remember that Maggie’s watching you, too. I know you aren’t SAYING anything about the way you’re feeling about your body right now, but can she pick up on it anyway? I sure hope not…
Also, WHOA. Let’s stop with the Instagram scrolling today, shall we? Looking at images of so many other women and comparing your body to theirs is NOT helping anything. [Instagram can be SO harmful for me if I’m in the wrong headspace.] FYI: You’re also 100% allowed to unfollow an account if it consistently trips you up when it comes to this stuff. It’s so not worth it.
As a reminder, body neutrality is not about loving your body all the time. Nope. It’s about having respect for your body, for being grateful for all it allows you to do. So let’s go back to that place — that place of gratitude.
Okay. Yes. Gratitude. I AM grateful for my body. I’m able to live a life I love thanks, in huge part, to my physical abilities. That’s a BIG DEAL.
And also…it’s normal to still have these thoughts even though most of the time (certainly much more of the time than in the past!) you don’t obsess about the way your body looks, or spend tons of mental energy being critical or reading up on random diets or workouts promising total transformation.
Hey, yeah — that’s a good point. I spend so much less time on this than I used to, and that feels GOOD. I also have more tools to help me navigate these feelings, which is also a plus. And more than anything, I like the person I am in a way that’s totally separate from how I look physically.
Moving on…it’s time to focus my mental energy on something else so I can leave these negative thoughts behind. I think I’ll work on folding some laundry and put on a podcast about an unrelated topic to give my brain a chance to think about something else…
If you made it this far, thanks for reading my stream-of-consciousness thought process! That was interesting to write out, actually, and I think it was a pretty decent representation of how my mind works through these kinds of thoughts these days. Even in re-reading this, I’m proud of the way I’m able to “come out of this” so much faster now, and I’m also proud of myself for not beating myself up for having these thoughts to begin with. They’re normal and SO understandable based on the world we live in, and yet I can choose to shift my thinking away from them and remind myself that there’s so much more to life — and that there’s so much more to ME. I’m able to push through and keep living my life: I don’t skip meals or cut calories when I’m feeling this way, nor do I over exercise to try to achieve a physical change. That’s worth celebrating!
What about you? Did this feel at all familiar? Do you find yourself having these kinds of thoughts? If so, how do YOU navigate them — and has that changed over the years?
This was a post that definitely makes me feel exposed, in a way, but I feel like getting a peek into other people’s minds in ways like this helps me a ton. It can be such a reminder that there’s always so much going on below the surface: behind the Instagram posts or many of the conversations we have with each other or the assumptions we make about other people. I hope it was helpful to some of you reading this!