Why Body Image is so Complicated and What it’s Telling You
Summer temperatures often bring the bad body image boiling right to the top.
I get it, you are sweaty and exposed and damn, that’s uncomfortable.
That’s why I have to talk about body image this month…and probably next.
Today I’m going to share with you 3 things: Why body image is so complicated, what your bad body image is actually trying to tell you, and why your attempts to fix your body image likely isn’t working.
What makes the issues surrounding body image so complex?
Here is my incomplete list, informed by my Body Image Healing Model that I use in my Body Image Training program (see below):
- We carry our familial histories and legacies in the cells of our bodies. Literally. Whether it’s a legacy of restriction or bearing the blows of racism, the DNA of your cells reflects your family lineage.
- Relatedly, your body also holds your unique personal history and lived experiences. Trauma, medical and mental health conditions, and your own unique temperamental tendencies happen inside that body of yours.
- If this wasn’t enough, we then have to navigate the larger world via systems, constructs, and cultures which let us know in no uncertain terms whether you are acceptable, welcome, safe, and desirable based on the identities you hold. Please keep in mind that if you hold identities that are marginalized, the issues of safety are far more complicated and very real and why many “body image tips” likely fall flat for you.
It is my personal belief that negative body image is your nervous system’s way of trying to alert you to danger and steer you toward safety.
Let me explain.
As humans, our ultimate needs are for connection, safety, and belonging. We traverse this wild planet using our bodies as our vehicles. Thus, it is via our bodies that we try to capture that safety. THIS MAKES SENSE.
The trouble lies in our pursuit of seeking safety by trying to achieve something that is impossible by design (thanks capitalism!). The unattainable body.
Our culture shows us that safety and connection are found in aligning with the norms and standards of our day: thinness, youth, whiteness, strong, able bodies, cisgender presentation, etc. So here we are, striving for safety by fixing and correcting our bodies, yet never actually feeling safe at all. Our bodies simply refuse to get in line in precisely the ways we “need” them to.
So here is the hard truth – none of us will get to a place of complete safety and stay there for good.
But accessing aliveness and a sense of “safe enough” in and with our bodies is possible, even if in moments.
This requires nervous system work and social system work.
What in the world do I mean by that? Stay tuned for a follow-up article where I break it down for you. (Get on my newsletter list to get notified when this article is ready.)
In the meantime, I’d like to offer you two things to help:
- Show your body some kindness, especially when you don’t feel like it. Make it a specific action. Practice a loving kindness meditation with your body in mind, rub lotion into your shoulders, set a boundary related to overwork by taking a nap. Indicate to your body that you are showing up for it IN ACTION.
- Join our Body Image Support Group. Back by popular demand, Christine Laker, one of the dietitians here at Marci RD Nutrition, is offering not one, but two, support groups for folks in larger bodies. One group will be in-person in our Cambridge, Massachusetts office, and one will be virtual. You can learn more about the Food and Body Image in the Real World: A Group for Folks Living in Larger Bodies and be sure to register before the spaces fill up.
I’m sending so much love to you and that body you live in.
But I Hate My Body: Cracking the Code on Body Acceptance
Has this article got you thinking more about the notion of body acceptance?
I want to help you get started on a journey to discover the world of body acceptance with my guidebook, “But I Hate My Body: Crack the Code on Body Acceptance, One Teeny Tiny Step at a Time,.” It includes resources for you to explore and a list of what to watch, read and listen to on your Journey to Body Acceptance. Click here to download your copy today.