My Body, My Self 

radical self-care

I just spent the last two weeks in Paris eating French food, drinking French wine, and talking about life with French women. It just doesn’t get much better than that for me!

With all the discussion about body image and 'diet culture' in the United States, I was fascinated to learn that the average French woman doesn’t have the same issues around her body image and eating that we have here in America. While French society does put pressure on women to be thin, your average (not eating disordered) French woman does not diet and is not struggling with the emotional consequences of food restricting that so many American women experience. How could this be?

We have quite a bit to consider when piecing apart our individual relationship with food and our bodies.  But before we get to working with the individual pieces, we need to re-align our ultimate destination. This is a version of re-calibrating our internal GPS around our body image and eating. Where are we headed?  

The first stop will be intentionally replacing the 30 year old picture of Twiggy or Farrah or whoever you have gnawing in the back of your mind as your model of what you think you should look like. For our generation that came of age in the early days of the feminist movement, the image/role model could likely be you, yourself at a younger time and weight. Or for those of us stuck in food prison, it is most likely a relentless adherence to Twiggy-like a number on the scale. Or it could be her clothing size, that keeps you captive, forbidding you from ever enjoying a piece of bread or dessert. 

We all know physical appearance is just a part of who you are.  Clearly too much emphasis has been placed on appearance in today’s world. So, if appearance says little about your value as a person, what does say something about your character and value as a person to you?  How do you define yourself?  Is it in terms of being a loving mom?  A kind friend?  A competent athlete? Capable at your job? It is probably a combination of some of these things that make up how you define your whole person, your character and value.  

Many women spend the healthy years we have being alive distracted from living because we feel shame about our bodies. Many women engage in a tremendous amount of self-judgment and self-punishment around food and weight. Even Oprah, one of the most successful women on the planet, probably goes to bed feeling guilty because of what she ate that day. Time spent being disappointed in yourself can be a remarkable time-sink in a person’s life.  Research shows that the average women spends 31 years of her life dieting. How much time have you spent in past decades telling yourself that your body was flawed? Look at pictures of yourself from those olden days; do you now realize how wonderful you actually looked? From an objective vantage point, you can appreciate the smile on your younger face and look in your younger eyes, and not hone in on just how thin (or not) your legs looked.