Love Your Body More in Three Simple Steps

We live in a culture that tells us that our bodies are not good enough and never will be. A culture that, as my friend CJ Legare says, works hard to steal our self-esteem, cheapen it, and sell it back to us at a profit.  They are selling, but we don’t have to buy.  The following exercise did more to improve my relationship with my body than anything else I’ve done:

1. Make a list of things that your body does for you, and things that you appreciate about your body (your awesome hair, your beautiful eyes, the curve of your whatever, the fact that your body breathes for you, allows you to think, moves all that blood around all the time etc.)  This should be a pretty long list.  If you’re having trouble, e-mail me and I’ll help you out.  I’m serious – make a list, write it down.  I’ll wait….

Ok, now that you have a list (you do have a list right?  You didn’t just skip ahead):

2.  Start to notice the thoughts that you have about your body.

Really pay attention to when you think about your body and what you think about it.  When do you blame it, when do you give it credit?  When do you thank it for what it does, when do you accuse it of not doing enough?  When do you think that it’s beautiful, when do you think that it’s flawed.  Don’t judge your thoughts, just notice them.

3.  Start replacing negative thoughts with positive ones from the list that you created in step 1.

This will take some work in the beginning – you’ll have to pay attention to your thoughts and then make a concerted effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  At this point, it’s ok if you replace negative thoughts about one part of your body with positive thoughts about another.  What is important is that anytime to think something negative about your body, you interrupt that thought and replace it with gratitude.  While you’re at it, start looking for opportunities to proactively appreciate your body. Soon, it will become a habit.

Bonus steps:

4.  Notice the things that you typically don’t like about your body.

5. Think of something (anything!) to like about those things.

For example, you might hate the shape of your ass – but you would have some problems if you didn’t have one at all so hey, thanks body for having an ass where an ass is supposed to be.

6.  Replace negative thoughts about parts of your body with positive thoughts about the same parts of your body.

Lather, rinse, repeat and start having a little gratitude for your amazing body and everything it does for you.

Still feel like your body is just a limitation to be overcome?  Check out Conversations with my Body

For more on this topic, check out The Un-Roast Post over at Eat the Damn Cake

Published in: on June 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm  Comments (20)  

Oops…That’s Not a Compliment

So it turns out that putting clothes into the dryer isn’t enough, you actually have to press the button that starts the machine if you want them to dry.  My lack of ability in this area this morning spurred a last minute outfit change.  I was planning to wear black slacks, a pretty tiered sleeveless shirt and a shrug to my weekly small business networking group (Hi, NBX!)  The shirt was already clean but when I opened the dryer the pants and shrug were soaking wet.  I was late so I decided to throw on a skirt instead (which I rarely wear) and just wear the sleeveless shirt.  It’s pretty cold at NBX so I wouldn’t normally go sleeveless but I was in a hurry.

I often receive e-mails from people who say that they want to know how to be supportive of the size positive community.  My outfit and meeting today made me think of one of my favorite ways to do that.

Compliments.

If you’ve seen my post 386,170 Unhelpful Things then you know what I found out about how many negative messages come toward people of size everyday about our bodies.  I still think that one of the best things that we can do is change the number of positive messages.  If you want to be supportive of people of size, compliment them.  We don’t necessarily hear a lot of that.  While you’re at it, sincerley compliment everyone you can – it’s just a good way to live.

Anyway, here’s where the meeting today came in.  Based on this experience (as well as some others that I’ve had) I think that there may be some confusion as to what is, and what is not, a compliment.  Allow me to elucidate:

“Look at you, rocking a dress!” (said positively, no hint of sarcasm).

Compliment.  Well done.

Oh (makes pensive face), I didn’t think you wore dresses.  I actually think pants suit you better.”

Nope, not a compliment.  Not a thing to say at all really.  Maybe should have used your inner monologue on this one.

“Wow, I don’t think I’ve seen you wear a skirt before.  You look so cute.”

Compliment.  That’s how you do it!

“I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re very brave to wear a sleeveless shirt, I always feel like my arms are too fat” (said by someone less than half my size).

Swing and a miss, I’m afraid.  Not a compliment.  I appreciate that you’ve made it clear that this is your issue and not mine, but really if your “compliment” starts with “you’re so brave” and doesn’t end with “for fighting off those wild animals”, you might consider skipping it.

As a general rule, if you’re about to give someone a compliment and you’re not certain if it’s backhanded – try substituting them for yourself (would you like to hear someone say “I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re very brave to wear your hair like that”?)

So, help a fatty out:

Think.

Compliment.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Published in: on June 17, 2010 at 7:49 pm  Comments (9)  

Four and a Half Lessons from Shrek

I am an unrepentant animated movie lover, and I adore the Shrek series.  I’ve seen all four multiple times (I own the first three and am just waiting until the fourth goes on sale).  I have all the soundtracks, I love the musical.  There are some fantastic lessons that I think are taught through these movies:

1.  Beauty is fluid, and attractiveness is different for everyone.  This is just not a message that we get from very much mainstream media – a character who finds happiness and love looking opposite the cultural beauty stereotype is rare indeed.  Fiona Forever!

2.  Be yourself, and find friends who like you for exactly who you are.  Annoying donkey?  Awesome.  A little anti-social?  Not a problem.  Gawkey puppet?  Come on in, the water’s fine.  I love a good misfit story and Shrek is one of the best.

3.  It’s not a bug…it’s a feature (discover and use your unique talents).  How many times did Pinocchio’s nose save the day?  How would they have opened the drawbridge without Mondo the giant cookie?  Maybe not the smartest cookie on the sheet but ready to help.  How would they have gotten Mondo to the drawbridge in the first place if Donkey hadn’t used his oft-annoying, over-active mouth to coax him along.

4.  You don’t necessarily have to do things in order or go by the book.  If Shrek had slain the dragon before rescuing the princess like he was “supposed to”, Donkey would have missed out on true love and would be lonely without any slightly discomforting donkey/dragon hybrid babies.

5.  Empowerment is great and all, but if you want to market, you have to make Fiona thin.

So in conclusion, Shrek has taught me lots about…wait… what?  …go back one.  What’s the deal with number five?

Oh, funny you should ask.  I saw a billboard for the McDonald’s happy meal toys (the ones that weren’t accidentally laced with Cadmium) and the Fiona figure looks like this:


Actual Fiona from the movie  looks like this:

Um,  what the Hell.  Muscle tone in arms remove, neck slimmed, legs slimmed and muscles removed.  Eyes bigger, nose smaller, mouth more full, hands made delicate.  Double chin removed, pointy heart-shaped chin installed.  Wait…this sound familiar.  Holy crap – she’s been photo-shopped!  Apparently it’s no longer enough that that living, breathing  women don’t feel ok about themselves in pictures without computer enhancement.  Now,  a woman who was created from scratch – through a rigorous process of drafting, commenting and redrafting through however many thousands of revisions until she was EXACTLY what the film was looking for -  is still just not good enough to be a McDonald’s toy. I wish I had something eloquent to say, or a solution to present but instead I’ll leave you with the only thought that’s resounding in my head about this right now:

Screw that.

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm  Comments (6)  

There are no good carbs. Wait stick with me on this…

There are no good carbs.  There are no bad carbs.  There are just carbs.  I always cringe a little when I hear people refer to food as “good” or “bad”.  What if there was just food – some if it more nourishing than others of it at different times and for different purposes.  I once watched an Olympic-level triathlete eat bowls of pasta and loaves of bread.  Different bodies need different foods at different times for different reasons.

The minute we start thinking of food as good or bad, we set ourselves up for disordered eating.  We go to a party and eat a piece of cake …”Oh no bad carbs”.  Then we start to look turn it on ourselves – we ate bad food, we must be a bad person.  We are a bad person and so we don’t deserve to be treated well, so we start to treat our body badly and then it all goes to hell.

If you don’t feel good about your current eating, instead of letting someone tell you what foods are “good” or “bad”/ “restricted” or “allowed”, what if you took the time to find out what foods make your body feel good and then eat those most of the time?  Or find a holistic practitioner (Golda Poretsky for example!).  Consider working to gain health instead of lose weight.  (By the way, Golda doesn’t compensate me for mentioning her in any way, I just happen to think she’s awesome).

Does it seem likely that living in a cycle of guilt and shame, punishing yourself with food (Well, I had some birthday cake so I might as well stuff myself to the point of discomfort since I’m such a failure.  Tomorrow I’m only going to eat lettuce and cottage cheese to make up for it) etc. is going to put you in a place of good physical and mental health?

If you are caught in a cycle of good food/bad food, allowed/restricted, guilt, shame and fear may I suggest that before you change your diet, you first change your mind.  Break the cycle.  Let it go. Try something else.  If you feel better, do more of that.  If you feel worse, try something else.  Do what makes you, and your body, happy.

Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 8:49 pm  Comments (5)  

I don’t have to be naked to prove I love my body

I had two experiences over the past few days that have brought something that I’ve been thinking about into sharp relief.

The first was that my dance team competed in our first international competition.  We danced pretty well – especially for the first time that we were putting the routine on the floor.  We had great crowd appeal and people really liked us.  As part of the routine, the three girls start off with a black jacket which they take off to reveal gorgeous sparkling shirts.  The guys (who are playing a “Dick Tracy-esque character) keep their big yellow jackets on the entire time.  After the competition we got the chance to get feedback from the judges.  One of the judges spent 2/3 of our time telling me that we should have shown more skin. He actually used the words “When I saw the black jackets I thought it was going to be a strip tease…I want to see the top of a tramp stamp or maybe bend forward and shimmy toward the audience.  Why didn’t the guys take off their jackets?  Your name is Body Positive Dance but I didn’t feel like you were very body positive not showing any skin.”  Now, this is wrong on a whole bunch of levels and because I have respect for the position of “judge” I sat quietly and thanked him for his time.  I’ll address this in a second but first:

Jezebel.com picked up my article about how to stop obsessing and enjoy being in a swimsuit.  It includes tips to be happy with your body as well as alternate suggestions (such as swimsuits with more coverage or cover ups).  I got some comments from people who basically said that they were disappointed that I had suggested something other than just body love and that mentioning options like modesty suits and cover ups seemed to be backing up from my point.

Here’s what I think about all of that:

Having good body image means that you have good body image – not that you necessarily want to show a lot of skin. Thin people have wide and varied looks (think preppy vs. stripper) and so do fat people.  The fact that a person of size doesn’t want to show a ton of skin may or may not have anything to do with the way they feel about their body.

As a dancer I actively reject the idea that we have to dress like hookers to be respected as artists (thank you Dancing with the Stars).

If this is how you enjoy dressing, then knock yourself out.  I just think that if you feel that you can’t get attention, appreciation and respect for your dancing without people thinking that they have to leave money on the dresser at the end of the performance, you’re doing it wrong.   I refuse to be a part of it.  You have to pay me a lot more than a trophy to dress like this and dance around.

I also think that sometimes we in the Size Positive community try to make our size positivity experience everyone’s size positivity experience.  I think a much better idea would be to respect everyone’s experience and choices.  Just because you felt liberated when you first rocked a bikini doesn’t mean that everyone who doesn’t want to wear a bikini is suffering from the body image issues you used to have. We are not the boss of other people’s underpants and I think that the best thing that we can do is support everyone in their experience and not assume that what was true for us is true for them.  There’s room at the water park for all sizes of people in all kinds of outfits!

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 3:45 am  Comments (6)  

Dealing at the Doctor’s Office

The time that I’ve spent at the doctor’s office hasn’t been all rainbows and fluffy bunnies.  I’ve heard from plenty of other people who’ve had a similar experience.  So I’ve written a little free e-book with tips, tricks and scripting to help people get through their doctor’s appointments with their humor, dignity and sanity intact.

Download it for Free (there’s also a little excerpt below if you want to try before you download for free)

Here’s that excerpt I promised:

You deserve to be treated with respect by everyone you ever meet, every minute of every day.

Does that mean that everyone will treat you with respect?  No.

What is important is that you remember that the way they choose to behave and treat you is a reflection of them and not you.  You do not have to let it affect your self-esteem or your standards for how people treat you.

How you choose to deal with it is up to you, but I find it helpful to keep in mind that everyone deserves the same respect that I do.  I notice that if I strive to treat others with respect all the time, even if they don’t seem to “deserve” it, I feel more empowered – and more in integrity – all the time.  That makes it easier for me to insist that I be treated respectfully….

When you see the doctor

Be ready to state what you are coming to see them for, be ready to deflect anything that isn’t relevant to that.

  • Dr:  Well, at your weight we should talk about diabetes
  • You:  Thank you for your concern, I really appreciate it.  However, I am coming here to talk about the pain in my hand.  I know that you are busy and we have limited time and so my hand is what I would like to focus all of our time on today.

Do not accept a diagnosis of “fat”

  • Dr:  Well, that knee pain is probably due to extra weight.
  • You:  Thank you for sharing that possibility.  All the same, I’d like you to run the tests as though I’m a thin person complaining of the same problem.  If there are no other issues then we can consider the possibility that it may be the combination of my weight and muscle strength.

Want more?  Download the full book for Free

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 11:09 pm  Comments (5)