How to be Kinder to Your Body During the Summer and Live with Intuition
Are you listening to the multi-trillion dollar diet industry that’s rooted in self-control? Are you feeling tired or just fed up with trying to fit into diet culture’s messages around what bodies “should” look like—especially during the summertime? Wouldn’t you rather listen and learn the non-diet mentality that is rooted in self-compassion? This blog post is written to encourage you, the reader, to fill your life with compassion and awareness of your intuition.
In our society, we are trained to be competitive, better, and to aim for above-average in order to be deemed “successful”. We are always told the message that higher self-esteem is better. What happens when we don’t meet our ideal standards and expectations? What happens when we oppress or put down other body types?
Some bitter facts about dieting:
Research shows that the number one thing women invest in is their self-esteem on their appearance.
On average, body image concerns for girls start in grade 3.
80% of 10 year old girls have already been on a diet.
33–35% of 6–8 year old boys indicate their ideal body is thinner than their current body.
The measurements of the male action figures young boys play with exceed even those of the
biggest bodybuilders. Talk about unrealistic.
Diet mentality and weight stigma. People in larger bodies often experience hurtful, shaming messages around their body and have higher chronic stress. Research shows that internalized weight stigma from our culture, rather than weight itself is responsible for most if not all of the excess health risks seen in people with larger bodies such as high rates of chronic diseases, heart disease or diabetes.
Diet culture disguised as wellness culture.
‘Wellness’ is just another way of teaching and attempting people to control their body with demands on how to eat healthy, prioritize exercising and control weight for ‘aesthetics’ instead of living with peace and being fine with the body you’re in.
Messages from diet culture are all around us: from the products we buy, food we label as ‘clean’ or ‘junk’, the ‘wellness diets’ that detoxes, cleanses, carb restricts... Diet culture thrives to shame and oppress people who don’t match its image of health. The consequence is the massive amount of time, energy, and money spent trying to shrink our bodies. Diet culture WORSHIPS thinness, as if thin bodies automatically equate to better health and higher power status. The "bikini body" in particular is an oppressive concept that seeks to squeeze women into a specific mold.
95% of diets fail us.
Yup, you heard that right: diets have a 95% fail rate (some say it’s close to 98%). Research follow-ups of ‘successful’ diet participants (those who lost weight significantly for a specific program or product) are only up to a year after their diet program is complete. What is not reported is that approximately two-thirds of people who lose weight will regain it within 1 year, and almost all of them will regain it within 5 years. While weight loss could trigger positive (short-term) outcomes, it is usually followed by weight regain.
Diet culture has engulfed quite a large chunk of my teenage life and mental wellbeing. Growing up, most if not all of my friends around me were in some form of a diet or complained about their body shape or size. Self-sabotaging language around why our bodies are not thin enough, pretty enough, explaining why they aren’t ready for Summer echoed through the media, family, friends, school or work—it seems so hard to find self-compassion in this mess.
False Self versus the True Self
The “Self” is not the only physical part! Why do we often neglect the intellectual, emotional and spiritual parts of the “Self”? All these parts are equally as important in understanding self- image.
The false self is like a shell, attempting to be molded into or shaped to achieve world ‘ideals’. This never-ending criticism of the false mind sees the body as an implication that we are not good enough, not thin enough, not perfect enough, not pretty enough...The false mind ignores feedback from the body, avoids awareness of emotions, and imposes harmful behaviours which could create social isolation, disordered eating, or body dysmorphia. Are you connecting to this false self by shaming how you look and hurting your self?
You may be currently seeking for external validation, and that’s okay. This is only the very beginning to getting closer to who you really are! External validations are opinions towards our self-image and our self-worth, but they do not define the true self.
So what is the true self? Well, the true self is looking within to determine who you really are. Instead of being outer directed of “who should I be?”, the true self looks to find the hidden self from your heart and soul where one’s true identity lies. To interact with the world, the true self is inner guided from the soul (where intuition lies), to the heart (where passion lies), to the mind (where intention lies) and goes outwards to the body (where action lies). Below are some topics for you to look into so that you can start practicing intuitive living and connect with your true self today!
Get to know the differences between self-esteem & self-compassion
Kristen Neffs’ definition of self-esteem is that it is a global evaluation of one’s self-worth. For the longest time, psychological research has been putting ‘self-esteem’ as the main marker of psychological health where low self-esteem was linked with higher levels of anxiety, higher risk of depression, and other psychological concerns.
The biggest obstacle to self-esteem is self-criticism.
“Self-compassion involves being touched by and open to one’s own suffering, not avoiding, or disconnecting from it, generating the desire to alleviate one’s suffering and to heal oneself with kindness.”—Ann Saffi Biasetti in Befriending Your Body
Instead of reacting to that destructive inner-critic voice that compares yourself to others or evaluating what you do at every step, start challenging it by practicing self-compassion. The 3 key components of self-compassion are self-kindness, common humanity (how am I the same as others instead of how am I different from others) and mindfulness.
Self-compassion acts as a buffer between difficult emotions and behaviours, helping you acknowledge and accept the pain. The practice of self-compassion actually allows you to move closer towards your suffering rather than away from it. Acknowledge how you are feeling, and take note of your struggles. Respond in a caring manner towards suffering. Don’t forget that imperfection and suffering are human experiences that all human beings connect with! You are not alone in this suffering.
Facing your pain, suffering, and what you are truly feeling in your current state is actually a very self-compassionate action!
Notice how you talk to yourself. Remember: you don’t have to be in a diet to be caught up in the culture of diet. Notice your own language and how you think of your body. Dismantle and challenge the way you speak about your body and see if you could talk to your body as you would to a good friend. Treat yourself the way you treat others! You’re allowed to be compassionate to yourself. You are allowed to embrace body diversity and move away from diet mentality.
Reaching inwards for self-acceptance
Self-acceptance is unconditional positive regard as would the view of your therapist or a good friend have towards you. It’s the journey to accepting your imperfections, and start embracing what makes you human.
Here is a mindfulness activity you can practice to invite in more kindness and acknowledge your pain: (adapted meditation from Ann Saffi Biasetti)
Come up with 3 phrases that you can remind yourself like a mantra to offer support to yourself each day. At this point, you don’t have to believe them: you are attempting to comfort your mind and your nervous system. You are learning and building the ground for self-compassion to develop.
Close your eyes and imagine someone you love, or a good friend who is suffering in some way. It can be the same thing you are dealing with or something different. Imagine this friend by calling the image into your mind.
Imagine your friend asking you for help, support and advice. Notice what their suffering feels like in your body, paying attention to the emotions that are coming up for you as you image what they are enduring.
What are 3 things you would say to him or her right now?