People start discussing our bodies at a very young age. I can recall family members and friends making comments about how I looked very early on in my life. While they meant to be positive, it simply showed that it was okay to give unsolicited advice about my health. I’m surely not the only person this has happened to because so many myths about the way we discuss health and body image have been developed, and I think by now I’ve heard and said them all. Grasping the reality of these myths was a huge step in overcoming them. If you’re struggling with body image, here’s seven myths you can start reframing.
1. There are “good” and “bad” foods
Obviously a salad full of greens, vitamins and antioxidants is going to nourish your body better than a plate of french fries. But, by looking at certain foods as inherently “good” and “bad,” we add an emotional connection to food. It’s one thing to think of pizza as an unhealthy food, but another when we tell ourselves that we are unhealthy for eating a slice of pizza.
2. Being overweight means you’re unhealthy
If you’ve never read Health at Every Size, you need to. This book and its author, Linda Bacon, focus on eliminating the misconceptions the idea that being overweight means you are inherently unhealthy. Our focus should be shifted from a diet culture that promotes weight loss to feel good about oneself, and instead relearning that one can be healthy regardless of size.
3. You have to make a change to feel body positive
Remember in the first season of This Is Us when Kevin asks Kate what he can do to make her feel better and she says that she needs to “lose the damn weight.” As obsessed with Chrissy Metz as I am, this quote couldn’t be more wrong. Losing weight, dying your hair, buying a whole new wardrobe — while these are all things that might contribute to temporary happiness, learning to love yourself takes more than just changing how you look.
4. It’s okay for your doctors to body shame, too
Just because they’re doctors doesn’t mean they can make you feel less than. I know I’ve been to doctors who tell me my endometriosis or other ailments would be solved if I just “lost the weight.” While doctors can help you discover which habits you can change or omit to be healthier in your own body, the rules aren’t changed for them.
The Health at Every Size community has a list of resources and a registry full of body positive medical professionals all over the U.S. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable and accepted when speaking with a doctor, so if your doctors make you feel less than, don’t be embarrassed or nervous to search for another.
5. Using “willpower” to describe food
This is another example of ascribing human feelings and emotions to food. When we tell ourselves to have “willpower” and only eat one piece of cheesecake, we tell ourselves that we need to overcome the urge to eat the cheesecake. It adds a specific emotion to this food, indicating that you should feel shameful eating it.
Because you don’t need “permission” to eat certain foods, instead, think about foods in moderation. Thinking of food as fuel, as a way to nourish rather than an emotional craving, makes eating a less indulgent process. Focus on how your body feels when you’re eating instead of feeling like you’re doing something wrong.
6. Confidence means always feeling your best
Being confident is understanding that you’ll have good and bad days. Sometimes, I wake up and struggle to find an outfit and wish I could stay in bed all day. Other days, I know exactly what I want to wear, and I’m excited to tackle the entire day. Confidence doesn’t have to always look like Jordan from The Bachelorette.
7. How we see ourselves is exactly how others see us
The thing with body image is that it’s usually inaccurate. The way our brains understands our bodies is formed in the parietal cortex of the brain. We get our perceptions of our bodies from stimuli, and this stimuli can often get confused.
Part of boosting your body positivity is comprehending that body image is basically just how we see ourselves, and how others see us is basically irrelevant. Your body image can be improved, as we change how we view ourselves.