March 8th comes around every year, and with each passing year of recognizing International Women’s Day, I try to reflect on what (if any) changes I’ve noticed in my world. And while we’re narrowing the pay gap, breaking glass ceilings and climbing corporate ladders there is one undeniable roadblock many women still face; our worth is still too often measured by the size of our clothing or the number on the scale.
The walls of my office have heard it all. And, I often joke that I go through a box of kleenex every week because something about my office (or me?) brings out every emotion that’s been kept under wraps. Women who have achieved great things in their work and family lives describe strong feelings of failure because they just can’t lose weight. And while I’m not naive enough to think that only women are affected by bad body thoughts and self-loathing, I know that women experience it far more often than men.
And in some ways, are expected to.
Why this has happened is beyond the scope of this post. But, we can start a rebellion of our own by choosing to see the beauty in our diversity and fighting back against diet culture and its culture of self-loathing. Bodies of all shapes and sizes deserve love and acceptance, not only those that meet our expectations of the “thin ideal”.
So for this year’s IWD, I challenge you to break the bad body thought cycle and stage your own rebellion!
What’s a bad body thought?
In the book “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies“, Hirschman and Hunter call women’s hatred of their bodies “Bad Body Fever” and feel it’s a result of living in a culture which devalues females by telling them what to eat and how to look. As women, we internalize cultural messages that tell us which shape we must strive for and feel shame when we cannot live up to the bar society has set for us.
“Bad Body Fever” is when we launch into the long list of things we wish we could change about ourselves, believing that life would be better if we did.
“If only I could lose those last 10 pounds”
“I hate shopping because nothing ever fits my hips”
“Life would be so much easier if I was a size X”
“I hate the way my stomach looks when I’m sitting”
“My arms have gotten so flabby”
Many women will also notice that these bad body thoughts emerge when we’re feeling insecure or unhappy about other parts of our lives. So, are they even really about our bodies at all?!?!
Stopping the Bad Body Thought Cycle
Make your first small act of rebellion one of self-love. Stop the cycle of bad body thoughts and the temptation to dive back into diet culture. Break the Diet Cycle! Follow these steps the next time you find yourself having “bad body fever”.
- Recognize and label the thought
- “This is a bad body thought. It is not based on fact, but rooted in fear, vulnerability, etc.”
- Create distance by challenging it.
- “I’m not a bad person because I have fat on my belly. All people have fat, and not always in the same places. The shape and size of my body has nothing to do with who I am as a person, or what I deserve to have.”
- When it persists, keep challenging it.
- “I do not need to diet or lose weight to be worthy of love, acceptance or success.”
- Call out diet culture.
- Remind yourself that it’s our culture obsessed with the thin ideal that is fueling your bad body thoughts. We aren’t born hating our bodies, we’re taught to.
Feeling like you need a bit more support?
- Think about joining my guided online intuitive eating course which will be starting in May.
- Work with me 1-1 in my Dartmouth office. Call us or book online
- Join my FREE Facebook Group for support and inspiration – Everyday Intuitive Eating
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.