Did you find yourself labeling your food choices differently after last week’s post? I hope you started seeing food more neutrally, or found yourself catching when you attached judgment to what/when/why you were eating.
In keeping with the same train of thought, let’s now focus on what words we use to describe ourselves.
I have heard countless times the words “I feel fat” or similar statements from both women and men. Early in my career, I jumped in with trying to convince them that they were not in fact fat. However, despite my good intentions, my interventions weren’t overly effective.
Thankfully my knowledge and skills have grown over the years and I have learned over time to look beyond the statement to challenge my clients to delve a bit deeper.
First let’s discuss some reasons why we might engage in negative body talk:
- It is often ‘safer’ to attach these negative feelings to our body than it is to acknowledge or deal with them. If we aren’t used to or taught early on that like food, feelings are neither good or bad but rather an indication of what’s going on for us in a particular moment, it can be easier to transfer that negative feeling to our body.
- The negative body talk seems more prevalent with individuals engaging in dieting behaviors and struggling with their weight. This is because dieting tends to make us more disconnected from our body.
- Our cultural attitudes toward our body and size also contribute to this behavior because it is acceptable to focus negative attention/labels to a body especially when our body does not conform to the societal standard of beauty/acceptance.
- The belief that we can motivate ourselves to change if we shame, blame or target negative feelings to our body or ourselves. I can tell you, this DOES NOT work! Research has clearly shown that disparaging ourselves does not work in the long run and in fact can actually worsen the problem.
Now, the next time you say to yourself “I feel fat”, “I feel heavy”, etc, remember that “fat or heavy” is not a feeling. Instead go deeper and ask yourself what is going on? Are there negative emotions that are making you uncomfortable?
If there isn’t a particular feeling triggering the negative comment, consider if this is a habit that you have created (where you let your harsh critical voice pick at you.) Then, every time you notice yourself saying something negative about your body, take the opportunity to change your thinking.
You likely wouldn’t speak to your child or loved one with that critical voice, it is just as important to not subject yourself to those harsh comments.