July 21, 2015

30 Day Body Image Challenge - Finding Freedom From Body Dissatisfaction

So much time wasted on fat talk

How much time do you spend daily thinking about how dissatisfied you are with your body? Now multiply that by 365 to see how much time you spend annually feeling dissatisfied with your body. Then think about all of the people you know, and add up how much time, energy, emotion and money they spend disliking their bodies. Can you even count that high?

One of the questions I ask to assess my clients who struggle with body image problems is, "what percentage of your waking hours do you spend thinking about food, weight, and your body?" The answers vary from 10% to 90%. Often these thoughts tend to be of the punishing variety, like "I hate my (insert body part)" or "My (insert body part) looks really fat."

These thoughts do not necessarily correspond to reality; they are instead based on negative feelings we have about ourselves. I had a client named Kristie in my office recently. I think by accepted western standards, she would be considered to have an ideal body. Imagine a Heidi Klum type--tall, thin, well accessorized. Still, she is not happy with her body. She shared that she was afraid people would reject her if she didn't always look perfect. Kristie said one time, "I'm so tired of thinking about myself and my body. It sucks up all of my extra time."  She has become a slave to a self-imposed standard that left her no time to do other things in life that she enjoyed, things that made her feel genuinely good about herself.

Do something good with that time

Carolyn Becker asks a really good question at her TEDx San Antonio talk. What could you do to change the world if you could harness all the time, energy, emotion and money you spend disliking your body and could direct it to making a difference? Commit to stopping the fat talk, the shame talk, and all of the negative body chatter that runs through your mind today. Instead, challenge yourself to think about how you can do something to make a difference in someone one else's life.

It does not have to be a big thing. You don't have to stop world hunger. But maybe instead of spending 5 minutes worrying about how your tummy looks in your new swimsuit, you spend 5 minutes writing an email to a friend telling them what a blessing they have been in your life, or you make coffee for your partner when they get up in the morning, or you help your elderly neighbor pull weeds in her garden, or you get online and donate money to your favorite charity. You have the power to redirect your energy to something good. And when you are engaged in doing good, you will just feel better.

Make a plan and take the challenge

Of course you can keep criticizing your body in the hopes that it will motivate you to exercise more and eat less, but I want to encourage you to try something different. For the next 30 days, focus less on how your body looks and more on how you want to use your body to be the kind of friend, coworker, partner, and parent who contributes to the wellbeing of those you encounter. Make a list of 10 things you can do this month, and cross the list off as you go.

Who knows, the extra energy you get from helping other people might even translate into more motivation to take better care of yourself. But hopefully the motivation to take care of yourself will come from a place of strength and confidence and not from a place of criticism.

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at www.wilsoncounseling.org  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!