Are you unhappy with how your body looks?

27th September, 2016

Trying to change your body is usually not the answer.

Whether it be through diet changes, exercise, or both, focusing on changing your body to reduce fat, measurements or change shape rarely leads to the desired result. You might see changes initially and start to feel more positive toward your body, but what happens when the changes stop? Are you completely happy with your body?

For most people the answer here is no, once the honeymoon phase of change has worn off and the compliments stop, you start to feel dissatisfied again and you want to see more change. This usually means more food restriction and more exercise. Even if you don’t up the anti, at some point it all gets too hard, or just impossible to stick too when other life problems arise, you go on holiday, or a special occasion pops up.

When any of these happen, which inevitably they do, you revert back to your previous eating and exercise patterns and nearly always regain the weight – I must STRESS that it not the individual that is at fault here, it is a pattern or eating and exercise that is simply NOT maintainable. How does this leave you feeling? Awful, discouraged, shameful, disappointed, angry, resentful, bitter and HATING your body even more.

And what if you put all that effort in with eating and exercise and don’t see any change, or not what you expected to see? You end up feeling much the same, disliking your body even more.

Unfortunately the messages fed to us by our culture and (sometimes) well meaning health and exercise professionals, is if we just lost a little weight, or toned up, we’d feel better about ourselves (and be healthier). The ironic thing is of course, we often end up hating ourselves more and are less healthy from an emotional and psychological point of view. Physical health can also suffer with food restriction, binging, extreme exercise and weight cycling (yo-yoing).

It’s a vicious circle that is so easy to get caught up in. The weight loss dream, or “better body” dream is so incredibly seductive, it’s like the high from a drug when you first start and it can become addictive. You think this one will be the one that works, despite having crashed many times before.

Combine this seductive lure of the “better body” dream with the image of the “ideal” body plastered everywhere we look, with people selling you “the dream”, and with the health message that fat equals death, and it’s not hard to see why that vicious circle exists for so many people.

So what would happen if you didn’t try to change your body, but instead worked on changing your relationship to your body? By this I mean changing how to view your body and learning how to be more accepting of the body you currently have. This is something I do with my clients and it’s amazing how when people start to change how they feel about their bodies, they start to engage in better self-care, including more sleep, not taking on too much, improved eating behaviours, being more physically and socially active and so on. These behaviour changes are what lead to feeling better about your body.

I am not suggesting this is easy or straight forward, it’s often not, and many people will require help from a health professional skilled in the work of body acceptance, I would recommend HAES® (Health At Every Size) professional. But if this different approach and extra effort gets you out of the viscous diet/exercise/body hate cycle, then it is so worth it!