I don’t think I’ve ever loved my body as much as when I had my daughter. I was just so astounded at the whole craziness of creating another human being, that I forgot all the being thin stuff, and I was just in awe of what my body could do.
Now, after my brush with cancer, my body image has taken a knock. I hate my short hair. My fitness levels have crashed. I’m just feeling a bit self conscious about it all, and desperate to look “normal” again.
At the same time, with a teenage daughter, I’m also worried about her developing an eating disorder. All my brother’s girlfriends were either anorexic or bullemic back when we were teenagers, and I hear they are more common these days. (I think I survived because I was a bit of a dork, and also naturally skinny so I was never tempted to diet).
All these things have inspired me to start researching body image, and how it impacts eating disorders. Should I tell my daughter she is beautiful or will that give her an eating disorder? Should I force her to eat more healthy food or will that start her dieting? I have no idea what is the right thing to do.
Your Appearance Should Not Be So Important.
Why is body dissatisfaction a serious problem?
…This pervasive problem is concerning because overvaluing body image in defining ones self-worth is one of the risk factors which makes some people less resilient to eating disorders than others.
This was a real Aha! moment for me.
I realised that I was placing too much emphasis on my appearance. Since my illness began, I haven’t been working, I haven’t been doing much at all. All my other qualities – my intelligence, my kindness – were gone. All myself, and everyone else, focused on was my appearance, my hair. It was making me miserable!
Instead I need to remind myself of my good qualities and talents, other than appearance. I need to remind myself how well I am doing. I survived treatment that other people find gruelling with barely a scratch. I am strong. I have great friends. I have a job waiting for me whenever I feel well again. I am really, really lucky.
Images like this are not the answer:
The answer should be to value qualities other than appearance more highly:
Change The Way You Think About Your Body.
I love this poster I found:
It helps me to understand how I should be talking to my daughter (and myself!).
It is important to understand that there is no right or wrong when it comes to weight, shape, size and appearance.
Challenging beauty ideals and learning to accept your body shape is a crucial step towards positive body image.
While changing your actual appearance can be counterproductive, improving your body image is a constructive goal. We have the power to change the way we see, feel and think about our bodies.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Focus on your positive qualities, skills and talents can help you accept and appreciate your whole self.
- Focusing on appreciating and respecting what your body can do will help you to feel more positively about it.
- Setting positive, health focused goals rather than weight loss related ones is more beneficial for your overall well-being.
- Weight is not a behaviour and therefore not an appropriate target for behaviour modification; interventions should focus only on modifiable behaviours, such as physical activity, eating habits or time spent watching television.
- Remember that everyone is unique and differences are what make us special
Make A Conscious Decision About What to Look At.
This post is also inspired by my previous post about blogging, and my preference for non-professional bloggers.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the vast majority of professional style bloggers fit the existing narrow definition of beauty that the fashion industry propagates. They don’t exactly push the boundaries on diversity. In fact, it is stating the obvious to say that they only get these deals and “work with brands”, because they fit the fashion industry mould.
As I struggle with my own body image, I have come to realise that the professional style sites make me just as miserable as the mainstream fashion industry. In fact they ARE the mainstream fashion industry. These idealised images are just so far from my reality. It is why I avoid the professional style bloggers and their catalogue lifestyles.
I prefer the non-professional, over 40 bloggers who are inspiring but real. However I do need to find a way to enjoy style without becoming overly obsessed with body image, and worrying about what I look like all the time.
I think the key here is to celebrate diversity and, as always, treat myself with a bit of kindness.