I entered the women's body image discussion in part because of my decades-long experience trying to manage my weight through my fear of the bathroom scale. I knew there had to be a better way to live than looking out for the next magic diet and spending my precious time waiting for a perfect number to show up. We only get so much time alive.
I researched and learned how to take matters into my own hands. The answer was to stop trying to manage my weight and start taking care of the rest of me! I started to listen to my body's needs for rest, movement, pleasure and nourishment.
I learned to eat intuitively using the seminal book on the subject Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. I became re-connected with my body signals and realized as an adult, I can eat whatever I want. My concerns about what I should and shouldn't eat because of the latest eating fad became a thing of the past.
I also realized that my appearance isn't as big of a piece of who I am as our diet culture would lead me to believe. I look good enough, and I have many other things to do.
In the process of my research, I was amazed to learn how pervasive body image and eating issues are for women in our diet culture. We live in a society, in a day and age where there is massive pressure on women to be thin, tons of food available, and lots of focus on what to eat.
These body concerns have ramped up in the last twenty years, and young girls and boys of today are feeling body image pressure more than ever. Worrying about their bodies to this degree is a distracting sideshow to our children's lives. I realized I wanted to help to be part of the movement that re-focuses kids and society on those things that matter more, helping children focus on the other real pieces of who they are.
Since all eating problems start with a negative body image, I began to focus on body image issues. I found a fabulous group out of Berkeley, California, The Body Positive, that has a mission to spread body positivity worldwide. I trained there to be a Be Body Positive Facilitator to work with children and their parents on developing positive body image. From there, I got an additional license to work with women who are at risk for developing eating disorders from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). I am trained on their Body Project curriculum for small group work.
From this work, I created MyBodyMySelf’s 4 Guiding Principles –- suggested mental framework -- for better mental health around body image and eating:
1. Self awareness: Become aware of messages we have recieved that have influenced our relationship with our bodies and food;
2. Focus on whole-body self care, not weight management;
3. Cultivate self-compassion: learn to speak to ourselves inside with compassion not self criticism, allowing us to hear how to best take care of ourselves; and
4. Value community: surround ourselves with like-minded people in person and in our social media choices.
MyBodyMySelf discusses how to actually do this in your life, based on 50 years of research studying people who have experienced problems with their body image and eating behavior. My hope is that my work can help you as it has helped me. We live in an unfortunate time for the body esteem of most women and men. But, with awareness and attention we can change that trajectory, and teach our kids to love their bodies and themselves.