As a certified life + health coach specialising in disordered eating and body image, it’s my mission to help women stop feeling ‘out of control’ around food. Having experienced dysfunctional eating myself, it’s my belief that feeling ‘crazy’ around food stems from body hate. The sad reality is that many women believe their self worth is based on how their body looks, which perpetuates this belief that to be ‘loved, worthy, successful, attractive, popular’ etc. you need to be ‘thin’.
The reality is that you weren’t born with negative body thoughts or body hate. In some way or another what you currently think and believe about body image has been influenced by surrounding social and cultural influences (e.g. magazines, social media, friends, relationships, family etc.) Sadly, while this oppressive culture where ‘to be ‘thin’ is to be beautiful, successful, loveable, sexy, healthy’ etc. is difficult to escape, there are influences that you do have control over.
When I work with my private coaching clients I teach them that a positive body image starts when you’re proudly yourself despite the socio-cultural influences around you. Therefore, one of the first steps is to take note of what’s influencing you – or in other words what is preventing you from being ‘proudly yourself’.
Here are a few common influencers I’ve observed amongst women experiencing body hate:
Reading material: Reading books, magazines and blogs that support diets or a ‘diet mentality’ in your spare time are only going to perpetuate the idea that your self esteem is based on how your body looks. Diets can be spurred on by fitspo type images or images of women who are ‘thinner’ than you (e.g. models, ‘fashionistas’, celebrities).
Tip: One of the most successful ways to improve your body image is to turn your attention to women who are embracing life at any size. There are a plethora of body positive women/ coaches/ activists who are doing some amazing work promoting messages such as ‘health at any size’, ‘stop waiting on the weight’ and ‘stop dieting, start nourishing’.
Social media: Take note of what accounts you’re following (and likely being exposed to very regularly). One of the best things I did that helped me go from ‘mess to message’ was to unfollow accounts that portrayed a body shape, dietary advice and exercise regimes I knew weren’t easeful and realistic for me both mentally, physically and spiritually (very important components of what ‘health’ now means to me).
Tip: Turn your attention to body positive accounts such as @lornajaneclarkson, @virgietovar, @effyourbeautystandards, @naturalmodelsla, @isabelfoxenduke, @summerinnanen. If you have any favourites then please share them in the comments below!
Conversations: Think about what conversations you’re having with friends, colleagues, family, boyfriend etc. Do you constantly talk to a particular friend about diets, latest food fads, how ‘fat’ you’re feeling or judging other people’s bodies?
Tip: If talking to your friends about how you’re working on ‘body hate’ is not your kind of thing, then the best advice I have for you is to nip these types of conversations in the bud. Turn your attention to more ‘productive’ topics and interests (I’m sure you and your friends have a lot more in common than ‘dieting’). As for family members: This is tricky, however, the best advice I can give you here is that you have the right to request they refrain from these conversations with you, to walk away if the previous request isn’t met and to stay put and believe something different to their opinions, thoughts and beliefs.
Company: I got to the stage where I had to start cutting back on being around friends that were making me feel exactly how I didn’t want to feel (e.g. self critical, judgmental, guilty etc.). Deciding how I wanted to feel and then letting these feelings guide what I said ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to was liberating.
Tip: Choose to spend more time with people who simply don’t talk about food and their body 24/7 – especially while it still has a profound influence on you. I’m not saying ‘ditch’ these friends, but be aware of when you’re up for seeing them and how much you can tolerate this type of interaction. If you decide the friendship needs to take a significant ‘back seat’ then good on your for prioritizing your needs above all else (high five sista!).
Over to you now. Think about these ‘pressure points’. Take note of what’s relevant for you. Make changes where you can.
Sarah Tamburrini, is a certified life + wellness coach, informally known as a rule breaker, lifestyle rebel and a food freedom warrior. Sarah specialises in body image and disordered eating. As a recovered self diagnosed control freak, Sarah helps women all over the world dial down their crazy dietary obsessions so that they can make peace with food and their bodies and get back to living amazing lives. Her work is grounded in the belief that transforming your mindset changes everything.
Her online digs, Practise Glow is a place where health and happiness is measured in belly laughs instead of belly fat, self- love matters more than self-denial and you get to flex your ‘food-freedom’ muscles every day. What you won’t find is fear-mongering and all-or-nothing dietary propaganda.