Tuesday, June 15

Body Acceptance - The Path of MOST Resistance?

Every man is the builder of a temple called his body. ~Henry David Thoreau

If you follow my blog, you may begin to notice that different slants of the same subject (body acceptance/body image) pop up again and again. This is due to my own lifelong struggles with the mirror...after all, to teach is to learn twice, so I'll keep trying and hopefully it will stick for good one day.

For the most part, I consider myself a confident woman, but like so many, I still struggle with body image. You may assume I wrestle with this issue because I'm a wheelchair user, but surprisingly, I've dealt with that long ago and although of course it can be, literally, a pain in the butt to sit 16+ hours a day, it's not what challenges my confidence.

Throughout my life, from puberty to now perimenopause, I've launched salvos of judgment at my reflection, while I seem to be deaf to compliments and have bionic hearing for criticisms.

I'm five feet tall (should the word "tall" even make an appearance in this sentence?)
I've been overweight and underweight and thankfully now I've learned what's healthy and I hover at average, but the number is not what really matters. I know this because even when I was underweight, I still saw chubby cheeks, a poochy belly, and thick thighs.

See the complete and utter weirdness here? I'm 'OK' with being in a wheelchair, but have struggled most of my life with the fact that I'm a curvy gal with boobs, hips, and a butt. (All three of which my husband has assured me he's more than happy with.)
Unfortunately, I'm not alone. Here are some startling statistics to mull over:

• 20 years ago models weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, they weigh 23% less.

• The average American woman is 5'4" and weighs between 140-160 pounds. The average American model is 5'11" and weighs 117 pounds.

• An estimated 40-50% of American women are trying to lose weight at any point in time.

• A study found that 53% of 13 year old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17.

All of this while a study in 2009 showed that American women are getting larger, with 62% being in the "overweight" category according to BMI charts. Even though many of us understand basic psychology enough to know that negative attention creates negative behaviors, it's clear that many are not putting it into everyday practice.
My solution has been to seek out constructive ways to reinforce a positive body image. Obviously I'm not completely convinced yet, but the fact that I'm striving towards acceptance is a plus. I won't give up...anyone who knows me will tell you I'm too stubborn for that.

Here are 5 steps I've found helpful in my journey towards a healthy body image:

1. Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you.

2. Keep a top-10 list of things you like about yourself -- things that aren't related to how much you weigh or what you look like.

3. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of body. Remind yourself that true beauty goes beyond appearances.

4. Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in the mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts.

5. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.

I hope that as I help myself on this topic, I'm helping someone else along the way. Please feel free to share your thoughts or experiences.

1 comment:

Karen Mortensen said...

Thank you so much. Your words are again very powerful.