The Fifty Minute Hour

Thoughts on therapy and life

Body Image: Can you accept yours?

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Acceptance of imperfection

Accept yourself as you are and start to live now.

If you were attracted to this blog by the title, I’m guessing that you have some strong feelings about your own body. Are you perhaps on a diet?  Do you belong one of the commercial weight loss programmes, (weight watchers, slimming world etc) or are you just trying to cut down a bit? Maybe you have started a new exercise regime, or are following one of those plans that promises you a bikini body in a week or two?  Or are you the opposite, rather than losing, do you want to enhance or correct what you already have through surgery, liposuction, Botox etc? Whatever it is, I’m willing to bet, especially if you are a woman that how you look, is never far from your mind.

I know this, firstly because I am a woman, and secondly because the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image reported in its findings that

45% of women in this country find their body image a source of great concern. That’s huge; almost half of us are unhappy with how we look. And what’s more we are passing these messages of dissatisfaction to future generations with girls as young as five beginning to worry as well.

My thoughts are that we now have a totally unrealistic view of what our bodies are supposed to look like, to the extent that top athletes such as Jessica Ennis and the British Beach Volley Ball team have been described as fat. No; these are women completely dedicated to their sport with carefully planned training schedules and meals planned for optimum nutrition. Yet apparently this is not enough, not only do we expect them to be at the top of their game, they have to look a certain way as well. No wonder eating disorders are on the rise in sportsmen and women.

The Daily Mail waded into the debate with it’s usual sensitivity, suggesting that “fatties” toughen up and learn to live with a bit of name calling, but it is not that simple. Pretty much every client I have ever worked with who has body image issues and/or an eating disorder, can remember a comment or an incident that sparked the idea in their head that they that they did not look right.   And that rarely leads to healthy eating or self image. It is true that Britain has the highest rates of obesity in the world and that we struggle with the connected health issues. But obesity, like anorexia is a product of an unhealthy relationship with food. How many dieters keep the weight off? Most put it back on again, and a little bit more.  “Dieting” changes our relationship with food, it becomes “the enemy” something to be resisted or at least controlled, which to taken to the extreme results in illness and sometimes death. For most of us dieting means we lose the connection between hunger and satiation, we worry about portion control and fat content rather than taste and what our body needs. The pay off for this restriction is that we lose weight and are praised for fitting into the stereotype that only thin is acceptable.  So I understand why the All Party Parliamentary Report estimates that getting rid of dieting could wipe out 70% of eating disorders.

Hmm no more dieting, sounds a bit utopian doesn’t it? Well 18 months ago, I took a decision to give up dieting, I realised I had been doing it for 33 years, which suggested to me that it wasn’t really working, and frankly I’d had enough. Now, I think about food  less, I eat less than I ever have and my weight has stabilised; I’d like to tell you it is lower than it has ever been but sadly it turns out I’m supposed to be a stone or so heavier than I thought. And that’s the difficult bit isn’t it? Learning to accept yourself as you are, rather than as you think you should be.

Accepting your body means giving up on the images you have been sold or inherited, it means listening to your body and getting to know it as it is, not as it could be after you have honed it or starved it or pummelled it or enhanced it.  Yes you might be giving up on a dream, but accepting reality releases energy to live your life now, as you are. Life will not be immeasurably better once you’ve lost that weight, you will still be you, why not just get on with being you now?

Accept yourself and start to live – you’re great; end of.

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Author: Johanna Sartori BA MBACP Accred.

I'm just working at finding my way through life, and travelling with those on the same journey

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