This week is Weight Stigma Awareness Week, designed to raise awareness of bullying, teasing, discrimination and negative body language based on a person’s size. The theme this year: “The change begins with you.” What better way to begin than to look at how we think about and talk to ourselves? In the process, we might find we change how we think about and talk to other people about weight, too, making it easier for all of us to view ourselves more positively.
These seven steps—one for each day of the week—will help you get rid of the negative thoughts and actions that interfere with taking care of yourself and perpetuate the idea that you are what you weigh.
Day 1: Raise your awareness. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself about your body. Sometimes self-criticism is so ingrained, we don’t even notice when we’re doing it. Once you detect a critical thought, take a hard look at it. What are you actually saying to yourself? Are you basing your self-worth on your body size? Is that fair? Are there other things about you that are worthwhile?
Day 2: Practice seeing yourself in an objective way, without self-judgment. Once you become more aware of the ways you talk to yourself about your body, practice thinkingdifferently to plant seeds that can grow into a new body image. Consider small steps if large ones seem unrealistic. Perhaps start by moving away from negativity and criticism and toward neutrality. Try looking in the mirror and refraining from making any judgment about your body. This will lay the groundwork for moving further when you’re ready.
Day 3: Create healthy self-talk. Make a list of affirmations that sound and feel authentic to you: “I am more than my reflection.” “I appreciate my body for what it does for me.” Give up fat talk: “I’m so fat.” “Does this make me look fat?”
Day 4: Practice self-compassion. Focus on your self-worth rather than your self-image. Acknowledge what you do well rather than thinking about how you look, what you don’t do so well or images that don’t fit you.
Day 5: Be kind to yourself. Step out of your daily routine by doing something spontaneous that you really enjoy. Instead of walking by the salon/spa at the mall, stop in for a massage, pedicure, manicure. Spend an hour or an afternoon reading that novel you’ve been wanting forever to read. Leave hubby home with the kids and enjoy the day with your girlfriend doing things you both love. Stop at an art gallery for five minutes and find one piece of art that sings to you. Sit in a chair with your child and tell secrets about wishes or dreams.
Day 6: Surround yourself with images and art that represent women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Toss those magazines touting a flat belly in just five days. Seek out books that feature heroines who look different than what’s usually pictured. Good resources: Pearlsong Press specializes in Rubenesque romances. Elizabeth Patch’s More to Love blog features art and inspiration for all sizes. Sculptor Joyce Ann Mudd offers beautiful depictions of women of size.
Day 7: Feed and move your body in ways that give you pleasure. Then keep doing it every day thereafter!
Marsha Hudnall, RD, MS, CD, is a nationally known nutritionist with more than 25 years experience as a weight management specialist. She is the owner and director of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a weight loss camp for adult women. Much more than a health spa or adult fat camp, Green Mountain offers time-tested solutions for long-term weight loss and weight management. She serves on the board of the Binge Eating Disorder Association, which is the sponsor of Weight Stigma Awareness Week.