Monday, September 26, 2016

Body Acceptance? Get Real.

“It may sound simplistic, but a 2009 study compared people of similar age, gender, education, and rates of diabetes and hypertension and found that body image had a much bigger impact on health than body size.
In other words, two equally fat women would have very different health outcomes, depending on how they felt about their bodies. Likewise, two women with similar body insecurities would have similar health outcomes, even if one was fat and the other thin.

body acceptance: approving of and loving your body despite real or perceived imperfections

It's a nice idea, but often easier said than done. How can one practice body positivity if they don’t like what they see in the mirror?
  1. Start small: Start with appreciation for what your body does if liking how it looks is out of reach for now. Maybe we worry about flabby arms, but think about how they allow to embrace the people you love. Maybe we worry about “thunder thighs,” but think about everything your legs have carried you through in this life. Recognize what your body can do and what you can work toward.
    “More specifically, work out because you love your body and not because you hate it should be considered an achievable goal, not something to add to today’s to-do list that you can check off with ease. It’s a tedious process for many, not a simple mindset change.” —Nia Shanks
  2. Be mindful:
    Pay attention when negative thoughts show up. Don't beat yourself up for it. Acknowledge the thought without assigning value to it, and let it float away as if trickling downstream.
  3. Affirmations: a declaration of something that is true and used to practice positive thinking One of my favorites: Im not messed up; the world is.
    I acknowledge my own self worth.
    “I release myself from outside expectations.
  4. Fake it ’til you make it:
    You don't have to believe your affirmations, but with practice and repetition, they'll take root for you. The longer you act confident and practice positivity, the likelier you are to really feel and believe those things.
  5. Set boundaries: With the holiday season coming up, many are dreading critical comments from their families. Depending on your family's unique dynamics and how many spoons you have on a given day, you can absolutely say, "That is inappropriate and offensive. Do not comment on my food choices." Stand up for yourself. Ragen at Dances With Fat has a lot of excellent resources and scripts for dealing with friends and family who comment on your body and food.
  6. Recruit “Team YOU”: Team You consists of friends, family, coworkers, community members, and health care practitioners who are kind and supportive in helping you live the most positive and beneficial life you can in the ways that you choose to. It's difficult to learn body acceptance when everyone around you thwarts your efforts, so work on cultivating positive relationships in your life.
    If people who claim to care about you can't get on board with what you need to take care of yourself, then they don't really need to spend time around you.
  7. Practice compassion: We're human, and success doesn't happen overnight. Remind yourself that it's a journey, that it's okay to trip, fall, and backslide. It's what you choose to do next—get up and keep going—that matters most.
It's not just new-age, self-help, woo-y, feel-good advice. Science supports body acceptance as a key part of overall well being:

“By learning to value their bodies as they are right now, even when this differs from a desired weight or shape or generates ambivalent feelings, people strengthen their ability to take care of themselves and sustain improvements in health behaviors.” (source)

What actions have helped you on your journey?

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