One Diet That Will Help You Feel Better About Your Body
This was written as part of the Stronger In Seattle series that I am doing with New Day Northwest. Please watch the hysterical video, in which I do a plank on the coffee table, talking about this article.
Spring has sprung. Or, at least it’s springing. The Crocus are blooming, Tulips and Daffodils have sent up scouts to scour for nascent sunshine, and the magazines have exploded with a kaleidoscope of ways to tell us we’re too fat to be ready for summer. Certainly to be seen in a bathing suit.
Yup, summer is on its way, and we aren’t ready.
Fortunately, there are solutions. There are clothes you can buy that will hide your unworthy body parts. There is a diet you can go on to lose that unsightly fat. There is finally an exercise program that will make you look like a supermodel. There’s a pill you can take to change your metabolism. And luckily for you, you have a friend who is selling a new product that will roll back the clock and put doctors out of business because it unlocks ancient secrets that can change your DNA and the establishment doesn’t want you to know about it, but your friend does.
I don’t buy it. And neither should you.
Yes, there is a diet that you can go on that will help you feel better about your body. But it’s not food, or a pill, or an exercise regimen. There is one thing that you can cut down on that will start you on the path to true health and happiness, and help you feel better about your body.
What is it? What is the one thing most of us consume too much of ? The one thing that makes us feel worse about our bodies, and our relationships, and the world around us?
Want to feel better? Change how you consume media.
Now, obviously we’re not all going to go live in some Little House On The Prairie. And, personally, you can pry my Roku remote out of my cold dead hands. But there are plenty of ways to curate your media consumption in ways that empower you rather than belittle you.
Do these three things for three months, and see how you feel:
1. NO MORE “WOMEN’S” MAGAZINES.
I’m not kidding. Not one. Why? Their entire business model is built on making you feel bad about yourself, and then, with your self-esteem torn down, create billion-dollar marketplace to sell you products that will make you feel better. Except they won’t.
The “goals” that come out of reading those articles are both extrinsic and impossible. You cannot have younger skin, that’s not a thing. You cannot remove fat from one part of your body, also not a thing. And 99% of us cannot have washboard abs no matter how much time we put into it, much less in 3-minutes, at your desk, no excuses.
Not to mention that all of those goals are based on arbitrary standards, and impressing other people. Anything that supports the idea that your sense of self and worth should come from the approval of others is just plain wrong.
So make a deal with yourself. For the next 3 months, don’t open up one of those magazines. Not in the waiting room, not at the checkout line. You do NOT need to know that one magic tip for flat abs, because it’s a lie anyway.
2. NO MORE ADS ON THE INTERNET
I apologize to every online site out there that needs ad revenue, but you simply have to be part of the solution. If you will agree to show me great prices for Converse low-tops, I’ll come back. But if you continue to believe that because I am a woman in my 40’s I must need wrinkle-cream, weight loss and spanx, then I’m going to continue to block your advertising. And encourage other people to do the same.
I have installed AdBlockPlus on all my computers. And you should to. (You should also use the handy “donate” button to give them a few bucks, it costs less than therapy and is probably just as effective.)
Whether you pay attention or not, all those ads are just little voices sneaking in your subconscious saying “you’re too fat,” “you’re too old,” “you’re just not good enough.” Shut them off!
3. NO MORE BODY-SHAMING FRIENDS IN YOUR FEED (or your life.)
You have friends in your Facebook feed who are selling shame.
- They rep a “nutrition” company that will aid in weight-loss.
- They rep a cosmetics company that will erase time.
- They post “thinspo” posts about how there’s “no excuse” for you not to have 6-pack abs.
- They post celebrity gossip about fashion, body shape, current personal drama.
They can still be good people. But the messaging – whether it’s outright body-shaming, or “just” excessive snark – is not healthy for you. So “hide” them. You don’t have to unfriend them, just hover your mouse over their name and click “Unfollow.”
Now you’ve cut out three harmful things, let’s give you a few things to do in their place, with all that time and energy you’ve got now:
1: DO / LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Doesn’t matter what. Never been in a canoe? Rope a few friends into weekend canoe trips. Learn salsa dancing, register for a fun run, take a ceramics class, take a cooking class……
Learning and doing new things fires you up in a powerful way.
Make a list, today, of 6 things that you wish you were doing. Even if it’s inspired by seeing other people doing it and wishing you were more like them. Make a list, and start doing them.
2: CHANGE HOW YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR BODY
This is a tough one, but stop thinking about your body in terms of what it looks like, focus on what it can do. Focus on how it feels.
No, that won’t be all sunshine and roses, but it’s something that you can take some control over, and it’s rooted in YOUR feelings, not someone else’s opinions about you.
Celebrate the things you do with your body that make you feel good, whether it’s sex or snuggling or long walks or massage….. And it’s okay to think about times your body doesn’t feel great and figure out what you want to change. As long as it’s about YOU and how YOU FEEL, not the arbitrary standards of people who don’t even know you.
3: WEAR WHATEVER YOU DAMNED WELL PLEASE
This is a tough one too, but it gets really easy the more you do it. Wear whatever you want this summer. You want to wear shorts, but think your legs are too fat? Want to wear a tank top, but, you know, the backs of your arms… Waiting to have a “bikini body?” Great news, you have one, you just have to put a bikini on it.
Do not hide your body. Think about it this way: we hide things that we are ashamed of, we share things that we are proud of. Thoughts turn into behaviors, which turn into habits. Most of us will treat something that we’re ashamed of with a subtle disdain, that often intensifies over time. Things we love, on the other hand, we treat well, we protect and nurture. Treat your body as if you love it, and over time, you just might learn to.
At it’s core, we all fear rejection. We fear that if someone sees this thing about us – be it a saggy chest, a jiggly belly or wrinkles around our eyes – we will be rejected. That fear can keep us holding back in life. So risk it. Seriously.
Throw on a bikini, just because you want to, and see what happens. After all, thinking you shouldn’t wear a bathing suit because you don’t look like a model is a lot like thinking you shouldn’t go for a run since you’ll never win the Olympic Marathon. Just, as they say, do it.
The people who love you will still love you. (And the people who criticize you need to be “unfollowed” in the real world.) And every time you embrace this radical act of self-acceptance, it gets easier and easier. Until you don’t even think about it. You have a right to wear whatever you want.
But it also does something extremely positive for the world around you. You might be the one person who helps someone else come out of their shell. You might be the example that someone else needed. And you will normalize the diversity of our bodies for everyone.
Just like we need to cut out fake magazine images of people who are literally not real – because they are all airbrushed into some strange ideal – we also need to feel the world with body-positive images. Real bodies. In all their shapes and sizes.
So there ya go, let’s have this be the summer that we learn to love our bodies.
Rid yourself of the voices, habits and people that make you feel bad about yourself.
And rock on, however it makes you feel good to rock on.
Thanks to SwimSuits For All for letting me use their image for this piece. I discovered them when they bought an ad in The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and put a bodacious beauty in that magazine for the first time. I fell in love, hard. If you need a new suit, they got one that will celebrate you!