Friday, August 13, 2010

Ending the Self Esteem Diet: Guest Post

Ending the Self-Esteem Diet

By Joanna, MPH student and blogger at LandAnimal

I have struggled with my weight my whole life. I remember sitting on the playground as child and feeling ashamed of my stomach and thighs. After years of miserable yo-yo dieting, I

succumbed to the idea of being overweight. I told myself that I was going to have to accept myself as I was or spend the rest of my life on a crash diet. It was after I had resolved to learn to live in my size 14 jeans that I became interested in my health and how the foods I ate related to it. I read “The End of Overeating” by Dr. David Kessler and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. I learned that much of the health and diet foods that I was eating were actually processed and severely lacking in any real nutritional value. I began eating clean and plant-based. I started drinking a green smoothie every morning. Within three months I lost 30lbs. I was astounded by how energized I felt and how big of a difference changing the foods that I ate had made--but I soon began realizing that my physical transformation was not accompanied by a mental one.

I had dropped about 1/5 of my body weight and compliments were being flooded at me by friends, acquaintances and strangers in passing, but I was still carrying around all the self-criticism of the little girl that was ashamed of her “shortcomings” while at the swing set. I found myself crying in frustration over the fact that had found health and was in the best shape of my life, but I couldn’t stop putting myself down. The old body insecurities and self-loathing were still welling up inside of me. Then a very wise someone in the health blog-o-sphere instructed me to give myself a compliment every time I looked in the mirror. Novel! Instead of zeroing in on my problem areas in the mirror and griping

over, I started focusing on my strengths. I also began to see that my self-esteem did not come from simply getting the physical results in your body that you want.

There are many reasons that I—and many other women-- wrongly think to look to the scale for self-acceptance. Take the women’s magazines for instance, and their ever present message that your best body is your thinnest body. Women’s magazines are filled with articles that falsely equate body-acceptance with body modification. currently features the article “4 Body Parts That Make Us Self-Conscious – And How to Love Them.” The first body part they identify, with aptly pejorative terminology, is your boobs. After a few lines about how lop-sidedness is normal and an uncited assurance that studies show men prefer real over fake, they offer you exercises to lift your bust naturally and instruct you to perform them while chanting, “We must, we must, we must increase our bust...” If you glance over the rest of the article, you will see that the formula of how to fix your body so you can love it is followed throughout. Articles like this encourage you to do more than just physically diet, they encourage you to put your self-esteem on a diet.

I now know that I spent years on a self-esteem diet. I was cutting calories, carbs, and starving my self-worth. Too much of what we are told is a healthy outlook is just like a fad diet: devoid of nutrients, unlikely to produce lasting results, and probably more detrimental than beneficial. The message that to love our body we must work until it becomes ideal is gravely wrong. This is not a prescription for health or for self-worth. If you truly want to learn to love yourself, you have to realize that you are already beautiful. Not only that, but your body is pretty amazing and already deserves appreciation. Did you know that your bones are 4x stronger than concrete (1)? Or that every 30 minutes your body gives off enough heat to boil a half gallon of water (2)? If those facts aren’t something to be marveled at, I am not sure what is. Next time you look in the mirror, please stop looking at what you have been told are flaws and give yourself a compliment. You and your body deserve it.

Thank you for that beautiful post Joanna! We adore your blog and appreciate you sharing your wisdom so eloquently!

Have you ever lost a significant amount of weight, but still not gained self-esteem or self-worth? How can we create positive body image while losing weight?

Have an excellent weekend beautifuls!

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