A healthy, balanced body image
By Michelle Hernandez
Summer is a time for warmer, longer days, more time outside, travel, and time with family and friends. The warmer weather and increased social gatherings often dictate wearing less clothing (shorts, swimsuits and flip flops). As much as we may enjoy this time of more leisure and relaxation, there are those of us who dread showing more of our bodies to others, whether at the ballpark or other large gatherings, or among our close-knit unit of family and friends.
My genetic makeup included a thin athletic build and high metabolism. I grew up with an overall healthy and balanced body image. I was an athlete and very active. I sometimes thought being too thin was unattractive (having a flat chest made a middle school girl self-conscious), but I could not gain weight. In any case, I was medically healthy.
My good Cajun mom loved to feed everyone (although she did not like to cook) and would say she liked people with “meat on their bones,” adding to my concerns about being too thin. Around the time I turned 40, my metabolism started to slow down. Eating as many sweets as I desired (I also inherited a big sweet tooth!) after 40 started to look different than when I was younger. I am now in my fifties and have born and raised three children (still raising the last one). My body has certainly changed over the years.
It is normal for our weight to fluctuate from day to day. It is NOT normal for us to obsess about our weight or about how our body looks or about calories and food. These topics have a place in our lives, balanced with all the other things we need to focus our thoughts and energy on. There are some things I can control: what I eat, how much I eat, when I eat. If you are not sure what a “balanced” diet looks like, I would recommend talking to your physician or making an appointment with a dietitian.
Having worked with clients with disordered eating over the past decade, I have seen many plans to lose just a few pounds, perhaps for a trip to the beach or to fit into a particular piece of clothing, become an obsession and turn into an eating disorder. How do we prevent this from happening in ourselves and our loved ones?
Start with radical acceptance. Radical acceptance means accepting things as they are. The Serenity Prayer starts with “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Set Point Theory says just like my height and shoe size are predetermined and out of my control (unless some medical advancement has escaped me?), my body is made to be a certain shape and a weight RANGE. We know there are a variety of body shapes or “types.” If the women in my family have wide hips and I have wide hips, that is something I cannot change. No matter how many diets and/or workouts I try, no matter if I cover my hips or not, they will be MY hips, the ones God gave me. What insanity to try to change this!
What do you tell yourself about your body? Is it balanced? Is it realistic? What influence might you have on others (especially younger generations) with the attitude you present toward your body/their bodies. What do you need to accept? Do you need help in this area? Sometimes a good friend can help ground us, but if you or someone you love is in need of professional help, it is out there.