Dealing with body dissatisfaction

October 04, 2023

Physical attraction is the most common reason to lose weight given by women and a significant minority of men in a recent study. We want you to feel good about our bodies but also see body satisfaction as something to strive for, independent of our body weight. This week we will offer you some useful ways to work at feeling good about yourself. It is a gradual process. Take your time while working on this subject.

Make sure you actually do the tasks assigned for the week. This is a lifetime effort so take your time.

Goal in trying to improve your body image:

Working to accept yourself. Focus on the meaningful and important things in life, that is your health. Acquiring and practicing a healthy daily routine is more important than having an attractive physical body; healthy daily habits will make you look attractive, but that should not be the primary goal of your efforts.

LIFESTYLE AND BODY SATISFACTION:

What are your beliefs about weight and weight control? There are several weight control beliefs that exist. You may believe that you must control your weight, or believe in healthy living regardless of your weight, or believe that you can control your weight whenever you want if you work at it, or accept the weight you have if you are living a healthy lifestyle, etc. One resource for clarifying your weight control beliefs is the Springer science and business media questionnaire.

If you believe that controlling your weight must be in your control, research says you are likely to be dissatisfied with your body and likely to have poor self-esteem.

If you believe in a healthy lifestyle and accept that your body will regulate your weight, research shows that you are likely satisfied with your body.

However, to have lasting satisfaction, you need to have a healthy balance between your willingness to work at self-improvement and your willingness to accept your biological limits and work with realistic expectations.

So even though you are striving for weight loss, you should have a lifestyle goal, not a weight goal. Monitoring your weight is a tool to remind you to stick to your plan but you should make a lifestyle improvement plan and stick to it regardless of how your weight may fluctuates. You are striving for a healthy lifestyle and are working to accept the weight that results from this lifestyle.

Review week #1 at this point and see if you are following your plan.

Emphasize feeling strong, fit and healthy over losing weight. Use other areas of self-care in improving appearance.

WHERE DOES YOUR DISSATISFACTION COME FROM:

We live in a weight obsessed culture. Think about what you have learned from your life experiences and messages you have received from this culture.

Researchers have found there is only a weak relationship between body satisfaction and actual objective attractiveness.

You may know people who are large and comfortable with themselves. Or people who have fit bodies but are unhappy with their appearances.

You may remember times when you felt good about your appearance even when your weight was not ideal. What do you think influenced your feelings about yourself?

Can you think of the time when you lost weight but still felt uncomfortable with your appearance?

Your body image dissatisfaction is not really about your body, as much as it is about the beliefs you hold about your body.

Our toxic culture:

Our culture is very concerned with physical appearance. Heavy people are not imagining it, they truly face negative evaluation in their social and work lives. Celebrities and fashion models are very thin and considered to have an ideal body type, even if they meet the criteria for anorexia nervosa.

How do you expose yourself to our culture’s toxic messages? Media, people in your life, your gym, etc.

Our personal history:

If you have experienced personal rejection, criticism, or teasing based on your appearance, you may have disliked your body. Somewhere along the way, you may have learned that appearances mattered. We want you to fight back and challenge the messages you have received.

Things you can do this week:

  • Catch yourself when you find you’re thinking you would be happier if only you were thinner and more attractive.
  • Limit your exposure to the messages that happiness depends on your appearance or weight loss.
  • If something goes wrong in your life, look beyond your appearance to other important factors that may need your attention.

GETTING PERSONAL. WHAT YOU SAY TO YOURSELF:

What do you say to yourself? Become more aware of and selective about what you say to yourself.

Look at yourself in a full-length mirror. Take note of what you think. What you say to yourself matters. Self-criticism and toxic thoughts have an impact on your mood, your self-esteem, and your willingness to take part in life. These thoughts certainly fuel body dissatisfaction.

So, what can you do about your thoughts?

Step 1: Catch yourself when you have these negative thoughts.

Step 2: Decide and choose to interrupt this line of thinking.

Step 3: Refocus. What would you think about if you weren’t lost in negative thoughts about your body? Refocus your thoughts where they belong.

Get a notebook and track your thoughts. Write about challenges and refocus your thoughts. Ask people in your life for good positive feedback.

COMPETITIVE COMPARISONS AND MIND READING:

Have you found yourself comparing your body to other people’s bodies? You may assume that people are making negative evaluations of your body.

People look for the most attractive person in the crowd and compare themselves to them; thus, reinforcing the importance of appearances. Doing this leaves you with a feeling of body dissatisfaction.

You are ‘mind reading’ when you believe others are thinking about your appearance. Mind reading rarely leaves you feeling confident or satisfied with your appearance.

Follow the three steps mentioned above, catch yourself, decide and challenge these thoughts.

Instead of mind reading pay attention to their personality, their mood, things that are happening in their lives or in their day. When you catch yourself mind reading, you need to broaden your thinking and consider your weight is most likely not even entering the other person’s thoughts at all. In fact, the most people think about is themselves.

This week, notice your negative body image thoughts and write them down in your notebook. Challenge your competitive comparisons and mind reading thoughts.

DEALING WITH CLOTHING AND THE MEDIA:

Clothing and media both can trigger body dissatisfaction. In shopping malls looking at the mannequin wearing your favorite pants and when you try them on, it is not the same. Watching commercials on TV, bring thoughts of all perfect bodies and you feel ashamed about your own body; you can feel miserable and depressed.

How to change your thinking:

Try to be aware of your emotions. Check in with your thoughts.

Practice the same three steps; catch yourself, decide on other thoughts and refocus and challenge your thoughts.

Instead of blaming your body for ill-fitting clothes, find clothing cut for your unique body. Attractiveness is not essential for most of us. So, it is reasonable to accept the looks of the celebrities as unrealistic.

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