Lots and Lots and Lots of Thoughts: Diet Culture and Body Neutrality

I’ve got some more real talk for you today:

Most of the time I am body neutral. This means that I go throughout my day without really thinking about my body too much. I don’t obsess about how I look, I don’t obsess about food, I don’t have to actively try to love my body… I just live my life and that’s that.

But… some days are much more difficult. I get really in my head and stuck on a negative cycle of thoughts and self-talk.

My high school reunion happened recently, and even though I wasn’t able to attend it was still very triggering for me.

“No one would recognize me.”

“I don’t look like myself anymore.”

“I should go on a diet (aka: starve myself) to try to look my best.”

Etc.

Honestly, the past few months I’ve had to REALLY put my intuitive eating and body positivity/neutrality and therapy to work. I have spent a while studying these things… but actually applying them has been difficult.

When I have these thoughts, I allow myself to feel sad. I don’t try to shove down the emotions. Instead I feel them, feel them fully, redirect with healthy thinking, and try to move on.

For example:

“No one would recognize me.” … Oh man, that would be a bit embarrassing if no one recognized me in this bigger body. But it has been 10 years since I’ve seen most of these people in person, so I would be surprised if I recognized a lot of them, too. Also… the people I am friends with on FB have likely seen pictures I’ve posted throughout the years, so they are aware of my body changes. That’s an interesting thought. What if I updated my FB profile picture before the reunion, so my chances of being recognized are higher? That’s a good idea. *moves on with day*

“I don’t look like myself anymore.” … My body really has changed a lot since high school. I had the same figure and hairstyle for most of my life (23 years) so these past 5 years it sometimes does catch me off guard to see my new size, haircut, color, and features. I am sure a lot of people experience that. But… it is impossible for me to “not look like me” because I AM ME… regardless of how I look. So I DO look like me, I just don’t look like I used to. Hmm… that’s interesting. It actually removed quite a bit of the shame I was feeling to realize that regardless of how my body looks, I am still me. I think my therapist will be proud. *moves on with day*

“I should go on a diet (aka: starve myself) to try to look my best.” It is normal to feel the urge to diet. Marketing and social expectations and a big event are all triggers for this kind of thinking. I know that. But, I will never diet again. Let’s review the books I’ve read and the things I’ve learned about dieting and how unhealthy it is. *scrolls through my saved files on being anti-diet* Dang, I am so glad for those reminders. Body, I love you. And I know that you put up with a lot while I was trying to force you to change. I am sorry for that. You can trust me now. I won’t do that again. Now that I’ve reminded myself about my resolve to never diet… let’s unpack this feeling that I have to be thinner in order to look my best. This is a media marketing tool. I know this. I can see through diet ads, before and after photos, makeup and beauty campaigns, plastic surgery testimonials, etc now. I can see through their marketing messages and realize that they are preying on insecurities to make a profit. The beauty industry has defined an ideal that is near-impossible to reach as “beautiful.” I don’t have to buy into that anymore. Instead of trying to change my body to “look my best” how about I think about what makes me feel my best. Laughing. Being outside. Being creative. Learning. Being a wife and a mom. Singing. Hmmm… maybe I will ask the boys if they want to go to the park. It really is pretty outside and I have a good book I want to read while we walk. *moves on with day*

Sometimes I can go weeks without having these intrusive body thoughts. Sometimes I have multiple within one day. Sometimes it is easy for my brain to relax into the new safe place I have made for my body. Other times I have to engage in a lot of tools (meditation, gratitude journaling, prayer, talking with AJ, etc) in order to get out of my head about it all.

But at the end of the day, I am still me. It doesn’t matter if my arms are bigger than they used to be. If my stomach is now my “squishy belly” that my kids love to snuggle on. If I have had to go up multiple sizes in clothes and then go up a few sizes again. If my feet grew. If my face is rounder now. If I can’t squeeze through tight places like I used to be able to.

My body has changed, but I am still me. And I am happy and okay with this reality.