How to Stop Obsessing About Being Thin

Collage of confident women. Body acceptance: how to stop obsessing about being thin.

8 August 2016 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Filed Under: Body Acceptance

‘….and I said to my body, softly “I want to be your friend”, it took a long breath and replied “I have been waiting my whole life for this.”’

– Nayyirah Waheed –

In today’s world it is really difficult for women to feel good about their bodies and to stop pursuing the mythical ideal of thinness. When we are focused on thinness, it creates a dysfunctional relationship with food because we are so obsessed with the number on the scale dropping. When it’s not dropping then we starting thinking “cut out carbs and sugar” or “I am eating badly”. It is so difficult to find peace with food when you so desperately want to be thinner. So many of us associate thin with happy and a better life, as if all of our problems will magically disappear once we are thinner. Really, the only thing that changes when we are thinner is the size of our clothes.

How do we stop obsessing about being thinner in a culture that promotes it? Letting go of thinness is a process and sometimes it can take longer than we expect. Let’s look at the steps you can take if you are ready to let go of thinness…

Step 1: Accept that part of you will always have the desire to be thinner, in the same way we desire material possessions – cars, homes, handbags and shoes. It takes a long time for the desire to wane but eventually it becomes less important. Don’t fight or push away the desire, notice it, see what it feels like in your body, notice what you tell yourself and most importantly what triggers the desire to be thinner. Is it being in a swimming costume? Seeing other women who are thinner? Having a skinny sister or friend?

Step 2: STOP dieting. There is so much evidence out there that proves that dieting does not and never will lead to sustainable weight loss. Diets come in many forms: detox, cleanse, lifestyle change – whatever involves restriction, elimination or willpower will not work in the long term (unless you’re part of the 5% of the population) and in most cases, will just lead to a backlash and more weight gain. Dieting is harmful to our bodies and our minds.

Step 3: Pay attention to your judgements of food and people. Do you judge your food as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy? Remember that food is neutral – food is just a combination of ingredients that feel differently in your body.

Do you judge your own body or other people’s bodies? Notice your judgements about appearance and bodies when you see people. Can you change the dialogue to be kinder and more accepting? Perhaps focus on the person and not the person’s appearance?

Step 4: Put the scale away. If that feels scary, I know it did for me, then weigh yourself less frequently.  Don’t make the number on the scale mean anything other than feedback from your body. Your worth is much more than the size of your jeans or the number on the scale. Can you use a different measurement to define who you are – your kindness, courage, generosity?

Step 5: Get curious with yourself. What does being thin mean to you? How will your life change when you are thin? What will you feel?

Most people say that when they are thin they will feel happy, confident, free, less judged, proud, accomplished. Find ways to cultivate those feelings as you are now. To feel confident, go out there and do something challenging or scary. Find ways to feel what you want to feel by doing other activities that have nothing to do with weight.  Body confidence comes from accepting the body you have and not trying to achieve an “ideal”. If it’s happiness you want, see if you can find happiness in the ordinary things. Let’s be real here, I remember being at my thinnest AND being unhappy — so thin is not a guarantee for happiness.

Step 6: Stop comparing your body to other women – especially models because they don’t even really look like the photos in the magazines! Compare leads to despair. Resist hiding your legs or covering your arms. Watch what you say to people, instead of saying “You have lost so much weight, you look great” say “You are glowing, you look so healthy”.

Step 7: Practice gratitude for your body. Try and take the focus away from how your body looks and pay attention to your body’s functionality. It is very difficult to move from hating your body to loving your body, but hate has never achieved lasting results. Can you start by simply being neutral? Can you be grateful for the parts of your body and what they do for you? Can you accept parts of your body you are not crazy about? You don’t have to like them, but can you accept them?

Step 8: Watch that critical voice in your head. The voice that tells you that you are not good enough, that you should be thinner or different or further ahead. Don’t believe the voice. Question the voice and dismiss it. When we are obsessed with thinness, that voice becomes extremely critical – read this to learn how to tame the voice.

Step 9: Let go of the need for perfection  and embrace your limitations and imperfections. The main reason we pursue perfection is so that we won’t be judged. The desire for thinness is often linked to the need for belonging and acceptance. Perhaps this step starts with acceptance of ourselves.  Let’s embrace body and weight diversity!

Step 10: Practice patience and compassion for yourself as you embark on a journey of self-acceptance. The media and our culture is so focused on being thin and the billion dollar beauty industry feeds off of it – it requires courage to break away. Our relationship with our bodies and the difficulties we face are opportunities for us to grow and transform.

This Women’s Month and beyond, I wish you peace and acceptance of your body.

May you take care of your body with joy!

With love,
Xen.

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“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

Karen L, Denver, USA

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Karen J, Colorado, USA

“I reached out to Xenia because 2021 started on a tumultuous note for me. Between deaths, businesses suffering, hospitalizations, and job losses in our personal circle, I felt depleted and found myself being available for everyone but myself. Then I was hit with an unexpected health diagnosis, which was the last straw as it meant giving up “healthy foods” and workouts that I leaned on for my well-being and stability. Despite working in wellness (Yes, coaches and healers are vulnerable too!), I found myself reaching out to desserts for comfort. I like to live a life of permissions (not labels or deprivation leading to bingeing), so I wanted to work with someone who approached healing from a place of mindful compassion. I didn’t want to be my own client. Xenia was great in reminding me to be kind to myself. Working with her, brought me peace and helped shift my mindset. I love how desserts and I look at each other now.”

Sweta Vikram, New York, USA

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Daniela Velásquez, Ottawa, Canada

“Working with Xen was a game changer for me. After working together for a few months my relationship with food radically changed. I no longer felt like a failure. I now have the tools to nourish my body with foods that feel good in my body. I don’t feel guilty about eating cake or chocolate, I also don’t overeat cake and chocolate. I no longer feel the need to exercise to compensate for my eating. I feel much more free around eating and I am more accepting of my body. Xen has a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to coaching and really supports you in the process.”

Rachel, Dublin, Ireland

“Working with Xen has been very empowering. Her approach is so refreshing from the usual. I have learned that I am in charge and that I get to choose what I put in my body and how to move my body in a way that I like! I get to make my own choices. It’s so liberating. Once you get a taste of freedom with food, there is no turning back to old ways! Thanks Xen for guiding me along the way to freedom.”

Heather B, Cork. Ireland

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Michelle, Johannesburg, South Africa

“Xenia was a walking, living, breathing example of what can be done. I laughed and cried my way through a short course in this fascinating and invigorating programme with her, and have gained a designer tote full of coping skills that go way beyond containing kilogrammes. I feel infinitely lighter. I am doing this for me and, yes, you can do this for you too! And believe me, I’m cynical!”

Diana, Vancouver, Canada

“I don’t obsess about food like I used to. I am thinking differently about food and feeling so much more relaxed around all types of food. It’s wonderful to have pleasure and satisfaction from eating.”

Sarah, Illinois, USA

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