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Body Image: Healing From the Inside Out

By Raphael | In Motivation | on April 30, 2011

Body image. It can be a pain in the ass. We have a warped societal standard as to what constitutes beauty and then you have your own unique perception of your own beauty.  And to add fuel to the fire, people become enamored with Photoshop images of celebrities and models and then try to look like that make-believe image.

Body image is such a huge part of my message as it relates to fitness and health. That’s one of the reasons why this blog is called The Power of Healing Through Fitness and Nutrition. And it’s why the stuff that rolls around in your head is part of my subtitle.  For those who start diets and fail soon afterwards, you know how much your self esteem takes a hit every time you give up; and you know how much self esteem is so intertwined with body image.

I recently discovered Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem, commissioned by the Dove® Self-Esteem Fund. In 2008, the study interviewed a nationally representative group of over 1,000 girls ages 8-17 and found that there’s a self-esteem crisis in this country that spreads through every element of a girl’s life including her looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family. Take a look at a few of the staggering statistics from the report:

  • 71% of girls with low self-esteem feel their appearance does not measure up, including not feeling pretty enough, thin enough or stylish or trendy enough (compared to 29% of girls with high self-esteem)
  • 57% of all girls have a mother who criticizes her own looks
  • 78% of girls with low self-esteem admit that it is hard to feel good in school when you do not feel good about how you look (compared to 54% of girls with high self-esteem)
  • 61% of teen girls with low self-esteem admit to talking badly about themselves (Compared to 15% of girls with high self-esteem)
  • 25% of teen girls with low self-esteem practice disordered eating, such as starving themselves, refusing to eat, or over-eating and throwing up when feeling badly about themselves (Compared to 7% of girls with high self-esteem)
  • More than one-third (34%) of girls with low self-esteem believe that they are not a good enough daughter (Compared to 9% of girls with high self-esteem)

The report also stated that girls with low self-esteem are less likely to receive praise from either parent and more likely to receive criticism than girls with high self-esteem.

What begins in the crib overflows into adulthood.

Based on the fact that women have always been my primary clientele and that my job is to get someone to look great, I couldn’t help but stop and think about how body image issues evolve over time. I don’t have a problem with people being sick and tired of being fat and out of shape and wanting to do something about it.  But that’s a far cry from having a body image that never improves no matter how much weight you lose. What is the driving underlying issue and how does it get addressed?

The physical/external changes will not take place without an internal shift in thinking, and often times what people find is that the work it takes to address the internal issues is harder than the work it takes to lose the weight, so they quit the weight loss and continue to blame it for their unhappiness. The reality is, you have to take action. You can’t blame your past, your upbringing or anyone in it. Now it’s about you doing the work with that stuff that rolls around in your head, but that hard work will empower you.

Rest assured that there is a way to heal and to begin to look at your body image with fresh eyes. But you can’t try using old patterns that don’t work. Use a different approach. Each person will discover that they have their own approach. It might be group support, it might be counseling, it might be something unique to your situation.  But enter the door knowing that the process of losing weight alone will not magically fix it and you’ll need patience and practice.

I’ve seen my own clients make the shift. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Dove® is doing a great job bringing self esteem workshops and awareness to young girls and women alike, and this may help start the conversation if you have a young daughter, but you’ve got to bring it home each day.

It’s time for a call to action. Please leave a comment and share what first step you’ll take. You’ll find that the sharing of comments will get you thinking in a very different way

Click here for more information about the Dove® Self-Esteem fund and the full National Report on the State of Self-Esteem.

6 Comments to "Body Image: Healing From the Inside Out"

  • T says:

    April 30, 2011 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I’ll go first….

    Losing weight for me definitely became about confronting and adjusting the “stuff that rolls around in your head”. It was hard not to quit in the beginning, but once I realized how I was holding myself back it became clear I had to change my thinking if I ever wanted to succeed.

    My self-esteem is still low, but I believe I’ve made a lot of progress since the beginning (the time I chose to make a real change). I believe that as more and more of life’s lessons are tossed at me I will take them on. I may stumble a few times but I must remember forgiveness and patience. I feel I don’t have a choice now that I’ve seen the light. Facing the unknown, the fears and the struggles is how I continue to build my self-esteem.

    As you said, “you can’t try using old patterns that don’t work.” I will continue to choose to face my fears. I will also practice (and have been) letting go and controlling only what I can. I will practice giving up the resistance and moving WITH whatever life throws at me instead of trying to force it out of my way. I know there is good in all that I encounter even if it doesn’t feel that way at first. I will welcome this more freely.

    It’s a matter of continuously being brought back to the present and realizing that I never gave up on myself, and I don’t intend to start now. Even in this last statement, there is a louder message waiting to be fully realized.

  • Elizabeth says:

    April 30, 2011 at 9:52 am - Reply

    Raphael, thanks so much for posting this. I’ve struggled with weight and self-esteem issues for over 25 years, and only recently have I gotten somewhat of a handle on it. I have two daughters – 14 1/2 and nearly-8. The youngest is very confident, loves being active, and is willing to try new, healthy foods. The oldest is a picky eater, gets almost no exercise, and was an “early bloomer” as my grandma would say.

    Interestingly, she has not expressed concern or anxiety about her appearance. But at times I worry that I’ve gone too far the other direction…I’ve tried so hard not to superimpose MY body image issues on her, that basic health and wellness have gone by the wayside. She did soccer, dance, and martial arts…lasting about two years in each. In gym class, she does all right…they learn different recreational sports like volleyball, badminton, etc. and she does well with each but doesn’t seek it out when she’s not in school.

    Miraculously, earlier this week she asked about trying yoga. I’d suggested it a couple months ago, she said she’d think about it, and I said okay and let it go. She’s not a competitive person, and I think this will be a great form of fitness and relaxation for her. A yoga studio nearby has classes specifically for 13-17 year olds.

    So I have to agree with parental (especially maternal) influence playing a role in children’s esteem and fitness – either in a positive or negative way. I try very, very hard to lead by example by staying active and eating healthy, and speaking positively about myself (even if I don’t feel it).

  • Raphael says:

    April 30, 2011 at 11:16 am - Reply

    T, thanks for being the first to post. Your post is excellent and will inspire many who read it.

  • Raphael says:

    April 30, 2011 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Liz, thank you so much for sharing all this. I really like the fact that your daughter asked about Yoga. That says a lot. I know you’re setting a marvelous example.

  • Cathy W says:

    May 5, 2011 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Wow. As usual, wow. I’ve been sharing this video with friends. Especially my friends with daughters.

  • Raphael says:

    May 6, 2011 at 1:51 am - Reply

    Cathy, share away. Sharing of the video and stats is vital. Thank you!

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