'I learnt to hate my body'
I wasn’t born hating my body. When I think back to me, as a little girl, my mind was occupied by thoughts about having fun. I wanted to dance, sing, dress cute and just enjoy what my body allowed me to do.
I learnt to hate my body as I grew up and became exposed to the influences around me. My mum, my grandma, their friends and all of my arabic family in particular, were weight and image focused.
I don’t think I remember a time when my grandma wasn’t on a diet.
I don’t recall my mum ever eating chocolate without scolding herself for it after.
My mum and grandma were often looking in the mirror and trash talking about their appearance.
These small but frequent lessons were reinforced at school amongst my friends and older sisters who also hated their bodies and were all on diets. This is where my body image really began to go down hill.
I started dieting at the age of 13 and my relationship with my body just got worse and worse the more I dieted.
On top of all this, the media I was consuming on a daily basis through adverts, tv shows, movies, magazines and social media was teaching me that only one body type was worthy of love… a thin one.
The one message that i learnt from all of these external influences along my childhood and teenage years was this:
My weight and body shape is more important than my physical and mental health.
Which is why I spent 10 years starving myself, feeling addicted to food and being really unhappy with myself.
What we know
No one is born hating their body.
It’s something you have learnt to do as you’ve grown up and absorbed messages around you.
We know that the way we perceive our bodies is influenced by 3 external influences:
These 3 external influences are:
Family- Often my clients tell me that their mothers or fathers were the first exposure they had to diet culture and the idea that we should eat in a certain way, or look a certain way.
Community- Your community has a huge impact on the way we think. We naturally want to fit in with everybody else, and if they are talking about their weight and their appearance then we tend to want to do the same too.
Culture- Different cultures have different ideals when it comes to appearance and our bodies. For example, the western culture is heavily cherishing and glorifying of small and thin bodies, while many african cultures are the opposite.
The bottom line is that we are heavily influenced by what we learn from others around us. But that doesn’t make it right.
In fact, the idea that thinner is better or healthier dates back to slavery and racism towards black people. It is something that is so deeply ingrained in our societies and our healthcare system that the vast majority of people are completely unaware.
You can be healthy at any size if you are engaging in joyful movement, eating a balanced diet and managing your stress levels.
When it comes to your appearance, the problem is not you.. It’s society.
Your body shape and weight is 70% determined by your genes, and it’s not easy to fight against your bodies natural set point.
Fighting against it, will only do harm to your metabolism and your relationship with food. This is exactly why those who diet are more likely to experience weight gain in the long-term than people who don’t diet.
Do you often trash talk about yourself or your body?
Do you hate things about the way you look?
Do you criticise your appearance a lot?
If so, that’s ok. Sadly, it’s so normal to hate your body in the day and age we live in… so please don’t blame yourself.
But let me tell you… it should not be this way.
You deserve to have a positive perception of your body and show love and care to it, honoring it’s needs.
If you want to get started on your journey to a more positive relationship with your body, here are a couple of tools for you.
1. Instagram overhaul- make sure your feed represents the real world. Women come in all different shapes and sizes so your instagram feed should show the same.
2. Gratitude- Write down 3 things you want to say thank you for to your body. This could be things that you like about it’s appearance or what it does for you on a daily basis.
3. Self-care- Treat yourself how you would treat your favourite pet or your BFF. Check-in with yourself every hour and ask your body what do I need? When you are hungry, eat. When you are tired, slow down.
By engaging in the 3 activities above, you are modulating how external influences affect your perceptions whilst also reframing your internal thoughts towards yourself and showing love & care for your body.
If all of this feels overwhelming to you, then it may be time to reach out for some help and guidance on your journey.
I am launching a new 12-week online course called Renourish.
Click here to get in touch with me and we can have a chat about the type of support you need.