Your Body Is NOT The Problem

Your Body Is NOT The Problem

1 July 2022 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Filed Under: Body Acceptance

Summer is here. We yearn for it but we fear it too, especially if summer brings up challenges around body image. This time of the year there is so much pressure around how our body looks. Our culture’s preoccupation with body size triggers feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness amongst so many of us because we aren’t meeting society’s impossible standards.

I don’t know about you, but I have been feeling the heat. I am going to be visiting my mother after a 3-year absence this summer, in Greece. My mother always gives me the “once over” to see if I am larger or smaller, despite me telling her for the past 12 years how harmful it is. As much as I long to see her, I am filled with trepidation. At age 85 she still believes that losing weight is the answer to all her (and my) problems.

In all the years I have worked in this field, I have learned that making peace with food is one thing and making peace with your body is quite another! For most people, the food journey is a bit easier than the body journey. Research shows that 55% – 80% of women and 35% of men don’t like how they look. Our body image can have a deep effect on many aspects of our lives. It can impact our relationships and our mental and emotional well-being. We may not want to see people because of weight gain or we may avoid activities like going to the beach and social events.

How do we navigate body image challenges in a culture that perpetuates the judgement of people on the basis of body size? How do we even begin to accept ourselves in a society that is so focused on unrealistic beauty ideals and appearance? Diet culture makes us feel that our appearance should be our number one priority, so no wonder we struggle with body image challenges. The pursuit of weight loss will always make us feel we are not enough as we are.

If you are struggling with body image, it is helpful to remind yourself that:

  • You can choose which of society’s values you accept or reject. You can empower yourself to define your OWN values around appearance.
  • Your body is NOT the problem, society saying your body is unworthy, IS the problem. Your body does not define who you are and you are worthy, lovable and belong in any type of body.
  • You have valuable qualities that have nothing to do with your appearance and you are way more interesting than your body alone.
  • Your body will change throughout your life and that’s normal. You don’t have to look a certain way to lead a meaningful life.
  • Bodies of all shapes and sizes deserve care, pleasure and nurturing. Value how your body functions rather than how it looks.
  • It is completely normal for our bodies to change throughout life.
  • You have valuable qualities that have nothing to do with your appearance, and are way more interesting than your body.
  • You really don’t have to look a certain way to live a meaningful life.

Think back on all the messages you have received over the years about body size and appearance. Who says that this appearance standard is ideal? How much time, energy, money and effort have you invested in your in pursuing this “ideal”? How would your life be different if you didn’t pursue this ideal? What are other things you could focus on instead?

“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we are already and become it”.

— Steven Pressfield —

To heal your body image, you need to focus on what you feed your brain not what you feed your body. You can be happy or miserable at any shape and size. What really matters is your beliefs, your thoughts and your values. Body acceptance requires action. We need to confront and challenge our beliefs and negative thoughts, stop comparing our bodies to perfectly photoshopped images. We need to get out of our comfort zone and go for that swim!

My questions to you are:

  • If you were more accepting of your “here and now” body, what would you eat?
  • What would you wear?
  • What would you do?
  • What would you think?
  • What would you pursue?
  • How would your life be different without this struggle?

So this summer, do we hide, blame and shame ourselves?
Do we deny ourselves the joy of the sea?
Do we deprive ourselves of pleasurable food?
Or… do we go swimming, eat ice-cream and live meaningful lives?

Regardless of my mother’s assessment, I am going to put on my swimming costume, eat whatever the hell I want and be unapologetically me in my 54-year old body.

Will you join me?
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.”

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Rachel, Dublin, Ireland

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