5 Tips to Navigate Body Comparisons
You are worth so much. But if you're struggling with your relationship with food and your body, it doesn't always feel that way does it? In fact, it can feel down right scary when a big part of your self worth comes from the size of your body and your overall appearance. Bodies do change. How we look shifts throughout life.
It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others in different areas of life. We are human after all. When I first begin working with new clients as a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, clients often tell me that they compare their bodies to others - whether those bodies are on television, magazines, and movies, or a random stranger at a bar. Given that we're surrounded by diet culture, this can be easy to do. Throughout our lifetime, diet culture tells us that we're "good" when we possess a particular body size, and "bad" when we don't. That we're more valuable when we're in the "good" group. Which is utter nonsense. ALL bodies are good bodies, and are worthy of love, care, and respect.
NAVIGATING THE BODY COMPARISON GAME
While my clients come from different backgrounds, they share something in common with one another when it comes to comparing their bodies with others. The body comparison game doesn't feel good. Feelings like envy and inadequacy are frequently expressed. Not fun. Engaging in making body comparisons can also slow down the process of rejecting the diet mentality - which is big part of becoming an Intuitive Eater. With this in mind, I'm sharing the following tips for lessening the amount of times that you spend on making body comparisons:
1. Write down the qualities that you appreciate about yourself - which have nothing to do with your appearance. Do you consider yourself to be a good listener, talented at your job, honest, smart, a good parent, funny, brave, thoughtful, genuine, a loving family member, a hard worker, a good friend, determined, compassioante, organized, creative, terrific at Karaoke, a team player, someone who wants to make a difference, etc.? Write a list of qualitites that you like about yourself - which have nothing to do with your appearance - in a journal or notebook. Review this list regularly - including when you find yourself engaging in body comparisons, or when you're having a tough body image day.
2. If you find yourself comparing your body to someone else's, acknowledge thoughts that come up - and get to a place where you're not "less than." We will forever be surrounded by people who are living in smaller bodies and larger bodies. Always.
What thoughts come to mind when you are looking at someone else's body? My friend, colleague, and mentor, Haley Goodrich, RD, once taught me a beautiful technique pertaining to body comparisons. If you look at a person's body, and a thought comes to mind like, "That person is more slender than me," acknowledge that you perceive the person to be slender. Work on saying, "That person is slender," - versus saying, "That person is more slender than I am." See the difference? You're acknowledging how the person's body looks to you, versus comparing it to yours. You're letting the thought exist - while separating yourself from the thought. It can take some time to get to this point with your thinking, but it's a good exercise to work on!
Remember, if you perceive a person's body size or shape to be different than yours, this does NOT mean that you need to change your body. We each have our own unique genetic blueprint. You are so valuable NOW. Plus, your genetic blueprint makes you interesting - and YOU!
3. Look away. You've acknowledged your thoughts. Now it's time to look away from the body that you were staring at, and focus on something else. Remember that list of qualities that you appreciate about yourself that have nothing to do with your appearance? Remind yourself of some of your strengths. You are far more interesting than your appearance - and are worth so much more than the shape or size of your body. Focus on your awesomness versus what diet culture wants you to do.
4. Can't look away? Some people do have difficulty shifting their gaze when they catch themselves comparing their bodies to others. If you can relate to this, it could be beneficial to work with a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor or a therapist with a Health at Every Size (HAES) perspective - who will provide you with a safe space to explore your thoughts pertaining to body comparisons.
5. Follow socia media accounts that promote body diversity - and a general flexbile approach towards bodies and food. If you've read my blog at all, you've noticed that I've encouraged this A LOT! Did you know that social media use is "...strongly correlated with body dissatisfaction and disordered eating"? It's the perfect environment for comparing your body to others, which is what we want to avoid. Given that feeling bad about yourself may contribute to doing potentially harmful things - like over-exercising and restricting your food intake - this is really worth paying attention to.
An empowering step is to follow social media accounts that make you feel good about yourself, and unfollow those that don't. An example of this would be following social media accounts that offer different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds - who also promote flexibility towards food, bodies, and exercise. Why? Among many things, you'll be seeing more body diversity online - which can be really powerful as you work on developing a healthier relationship with food and your body. You might also end up connecting with other like-minded thinkers who work with Intuitive Eating and HAES - which can be an additional form of support throughout your non-diet journey.
The bottom line is that you deserve to live a more fuliflling life. To focus less time on playing the body comparison game, and more time on doing things that bring you joy and fulfillment. It might take time - but you're worth it!
If you would like to work with me to develop a healthier relationship with food and your body, or address general wellness concerns, click here to learn more about my private one-on-one sessions.
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