Body Image Myths and Walking the Walk

At the gym the other day I overheard two women discussing the importance of inner-beauty. Minutes later, their topic shifted to a fad diet one was following in hopes of landing a “guy like this.” Perhaps she was referring to the guy’s wit and intelligence. But judging from the half-naked celebrities they were gazing at in a magazine, I had to wonder.

Many of us claim we value inner-beauty and health over appearance. But if our values mismatch our words and behaviors, which speaks louder?

There’s nothing wrong with admiring physical attractiveness, and for all I know, the women weren’t terribly serious. But their ellipti-chatter got me thinking. While there’s no shortage of “how to boost body image” information on the web, I’ve noticed some holes.

5 Myths About Low Body Image

1. It’s normal, and thus “no big deal.” Common, yes. But poor body image isn’t any more “normal’ than having a perpetual cold or flu. Also like illness, cases range from mild, short-lived and annoying to severe, chronic and life-threatening. Chalking body dissatisfaction up to “normal insecurity” makes us less likely to seek solutions and more likely to fuel the growing epidemic.

2. It’s a female (only) thing. Not anymore. Recent research shows that over 500,000 men in the United States undergo cosmetic surgery each year—many opting for more than one procedure. Magazine covers routinely feature men’s “rock hard abs,” and “miraculous” ways to get them. In any given week, the latest Hollywood “it” guys likely boasts a physique as unattainable for most men as super model physiques present for women. And the stats on male body image issues are low-ball, because men are far less likely than women to reveal these insecurities.

3. It’s less important than weight control. Imagine if rather than resolving to lose weight or bulk up next New Year’s eve, we resolved to embrace our bodies as is. Sound foolish? It isn’t. Self-acceptance makes way way for self-care. Healthy weight and muscle tone are common by-products. But many of us believe that if we just lost those 5, 10 or 100 pounds, or grunted our way to a six-pack, we’d feel better, look better, be better. On the contrary, countless studies link physique fixation and dieting with binge eating, increased stress, anxiety, sleep problems, weight gain, depression and obesity.

4. It’s the fashion/entertainment/advertising industry’s fault. It’s easy to point fingers, but it’s more complicated than that. If we didn’t support these industries’ ideals, they’d change. They can’t function without our support ($$$). Some argue that we’re brainwashed. In my opinion, that’s passing the buck rather than sharing it. Stronger contributors to poor body image include the diet and weight loss industry (another public-reliant machine) and our upbringing—such as the behaviors and attitudes modeled by our parents and other role models.

5. “If I accept my body as it, it won’t improve. I’d probably go off the overeating/weight gain deep-end. And besides, I can’t accept a body that looks like…this.” If this sounds like a quip from your mental diary, I empathize. But I also know what it’s like to prove these beliefs wrong. Little is as empowering as turning self-loathing into respect. And unless we flip that dark coin over, we’ll never know what we’re capable of. If this myth applies to you, imagine taking all of the energy, time, money and thoughts you invest into disliking, shrinking or sculpting your body into your wildest dreams.

12 Effective Ways to Boost Your Body Image Here’s the good news. With awareness, desire and effort, we can improve the way we feel about ourselves and bodies. Not sure where to start? Consider the following.

1. Make a list of wonderful things your body does for you. Keep it on your refrigerator, your dining table, in your car—where ever you tend to experience negative self-talk.

2. Look away from the mirror and into yourself. The more we fixate on our appearance, the more we judge ourselves and others. Spend as much time as you need before the mirror. Smile at yourself while you’re at it. 🙂 Poor body image often symptomizes a deeper problem—work stress, loneliness, perfectionism, fear… Addressing underlying issues makes way for improvement.

3. Trash your scale. Weighing ourselves can seem like a useful way to track physical health and weight loss progress. But weighing-in often is risky. We’re likely to mistake normal fluctuations for undesirable loss or gain. And health is far more complex than our weight in pounds.

4. Trade fashion and fitness mags for something better. Yes, there are exceptions. But by and large, the images, ideals and tactics presented in popular magazines aren’t helpful. Read empowering non-fiction and fantastic fiction instead. Get your news from magazines and health tips from qualified sources.

5. Just breathe… In effort to present a flat stomach, many of us have learned to “suck in.” This interferes with breathing, which can increase stress and other problems—including body image. Breathing exercises, on the other hand, promote emotional well-being. To learn more, check out Harvard Medical School’s Relaxation Techniques: Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response.

6. Give back. Volunteering can go a long way toward keeping our personal complaints and stressors in perspective. When we fixate on our bodies and appearance, we are highly self-involved. Becoming others-involved provides a positive means of distraction and emotional gratification.

7. Fight negative self-talk with gratitude. Counting blessings is more fulfilling than counting calories or body fat ounces. Every time a negative, judgmental thought enters your brain—about you or others—jot down something you’re thankful for. Gratitude is powerful medicine.

8. Swap porn for empowerment. There are many way to celebrate and nurture sexuality while enhancing body image. Generally speaking, hardcore, mainstream porn isn’t one of them. Read the Vagina Monologues. Practice self-pleasure. Try something new with your partner. If all of this is way out of your comfort zone, seek guidance from a qualified sex therapist. (If you do watch porn, consider feminist porn or consider these tips.)

9. Eat a healthy, happy diet. Eating well provides a broad range of benefits, including positive body image. Avoid dieting. Instead, aim for a healthy, balanced diet that contains a variety of foods. Pleasure, flexibility and “gentle nutrition” are important parts of a body image-boosting diet.

10. Exercise, but not too much. Physical activity helps the brain produce feel-good chemicals, improves overall physical health and guards against low body image—immediately, according to studies. And you don’t need to spend hours in the gym. Over-exercise can detract from body image as much as staying sedentary. Seek exercise you enjoy. Hike. Dance. Walk your dog. Play with kids. For most people 30 minutes or more most days is plenty.

11. Pursue your passions. A sadly common thread among people with severe low body image is a lack of passion. We can’t fix body image issues and recognize or our passions when we are enraptured by self hate and illness. Even mild body dissatisfaction can hold us back. The more we focus on our passions the less likely we are to view body shape, size or muscle mass as top priorities. And the happier we are, the more attractive we are to ourselves and others. 

12. Seek support. Body image issues are contagious within families, classrooms and communities. Surrounding ourselves with people who over-value physical appearance increases our likelihood of the same. Seek friendship and support from others with positive values you hold and desire. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Self-help books, support groups and therapy are valuable resources.

So what do you think? Does your body image walk match your thoughts and talk? Any trials or triumphs to share?

Leave a comment

77 Comments

  1. It was a nice article….. All the best.

    Reply
  2. This really resonated with me: On the contrary, countless studies link physique fixation and dieting with binge eating, increased stress, anxiety, sleep problems, weight gain, depression and obesity.

    I lost a lot of weight last year and got down to my dream size. Since then, I let about 18 pounds creep on. I’ve lost 10, but I’d really like to get down another 8 or so. And I’ve been trying to do that for at least a month. I lose a pound, gain it back. Even with exercising, I have to eat like a bird. And I’m tired. Food is constantly on the back of my mind, and sometimes I think I’m setting myself up for failure. I keep saying I just want to get to last summer’s size so I can fit into all of my clothes, but it’s really tough to do this time around. It’s frustrating, and I’m too the point where I’m ready to give up. And yet I know if I do, I’ll feel even worse. So it’s a vicious cycle for me.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry that you’re enduring all of that, Stacy. It’s what dieting does to too many people. Chances are that giving up on those last pounds you’re desperate to lose won’t make you feel worse, but empowered stronger and even thinner. The benefits may not appear immediately, but they’ll appear. Probably sounds foolish, but I can’t tell you how realistic it is.

      Why not stop fighting those pounds for now, knowing that down the road you could address any weight gained in the process? (Fear of weight gain is the reason most people stay on the dieting cycle, which more often leads to slow metabolism, low moods, weight gain, etc. Reminds me of not quitting smoking for fear of overeating…) In either case, I hope you find your way to peaceful, happy wellness.

      Reply
  3. Marc Schuster

     /  May 7, 2012

    Great advice! Along these lines, I recommend Kim Brittingham’s book Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting, and Live Large.

    Also, “ellipti-chatter” is a great term!

    Reply
  4. gingercalem

     /  May 7, 2012

    Great post, August! I can’t agree enough about trashing the scale. That is one of the biggest road-blocks for many of my clients, women and men! There is so much emotion and value misplaced on that silly number. As you state, better numbers to focus on are how many attributes can you list about yourself, how many things are you grateful for every day, how many people have you made smile … etc. 🙂

    Reply
    • How many people you’ve made smile—love that. Thanks for chiming in and for being a positive light in the fitness world, Ginger. (You totally made my smile list! ;))

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  5. Thanks for posting this August. While I don’t suffer from it (at least very often 🙂 ), I do have some friends who over-exerise, diet excessively and are always talking about their fat thighs and muffin tops (one, in particular, has a fabulous figure, so I’m not sure where it even comes from). I’ve had to stop spending time with these people; it frustrates and annoys me and to be frank, it’s BORING to listen to!

    Reply
    • Poor body image has become sadly universal, affecting people of all shapes and sizes. And stepping out of those “toxic” circles is so important for our own emotional well-being. The fact that that kind of talk bores you is a good sign! 🙂

      Reply
  6. oooh. self-acceptance is a tough one. =) I will say I’ve gotten much better at being comfortable with who I am…until some well meaning person reminds me what I look like. =) There’s always someone!

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  7. Love this post, August, and such good advice. You’ve convinced me to stop weighing.

    Reply
  8. paywindow7

     /  May 7, 2012

    Good post August and loaded with good, sound advice as usual. Let me offer you another point about working out. Not for any cosmetic effects but for the health benefits that naturally occur when you are “pumping iron” consistantly. I’m 72 and I’ve been a “gym rat” most of my life and I can tell you from experience that physical conditioning can also greatly increase personal independence when you get my age. I do not need assistance from anyone now. I like to travel so whenever I want to go I “saddle up” and go. Most of your readers are my childrens age and the thought of being as “ancient” as myself are not even worth considering but believe me it starts “now” where ever “now” is.
    I gotta go I’m running out of apostrophes.
    signpilot

    Reply
    • Fantastic point. Physical strength at any age can improve the way we feel about our bodies. I think it’s especially important for women and, as you pointed out, older adults. I haven’t given much thought to its importance in regards to independence—other than self defense—until now. Thanks for that!

      Reply
  9. Great post! I feel my best when a size 12 – the norm of women in America! I am struggling to get back to that, currently a 14. I will never be thin but feel good at the size that’s right for me. The thinnest I ever have been was a size 10 – but then there goes any bra-fill up! 🙂 However, I would rather be firm than thin and since having a child this is something I struggle with. I would love to weight train but need to do at home and havent put that plan in place. I do know men who worry about their weight and we boost each other up with our weight loss and motivate each other to eat healthy and exercise. Eating healthy is the best thing we can do – as it also affects our mental health which is just as important as we need to love ourselves as well as other. And so the march to take care of ourselves goes on! 🙂

    Reply
    • Self-care really is what it comes down to, Donna. In many cases, this means embracing a healthy size instead of a skinnier personal ideal. Ironically (or not), healthy, happy people tend to appear more attractive and feel lighter than dieters. Thanks for valuing your wellness!

      Reply
  10. Great post August – the fallacy of having a A lister’s physique making you a better, happier person is something I have never fully understood and yet mulit-billion dollar industries have identified, fed and bastardised these innate insecurities for years now. Strange. Eat a bit less and do a bit more.

    Reply
    • I’m glad you’ve never understood that desire—probably means you’re on a healthy track! The diet industry is a powerful machine that works hard to keep us feeling insecure. Emotions can be more powerful than logic, and we’re highly emotional about our bodies and food. But, we’re not defenseless. If more people pointed their frustrated at these industries rather than themselves, we’d have a healthier world.

      Reply
  11. What a fine post, August!

    Scales help when what they “report” is understood within the body’s fluctuations, as you say. They help me monitor my inflammation now but before, they might as well have been my daily horoscope.

    Also, your wonderful examples about exercise and self-image are so practical and thus, so empowering for if we like ourselves enough to create our best health, who knows what is possible.

    Truly inspirational, August.

    Karen

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  12. Good info here, August, as always. This is a complicated topic because so many people are overweight, which is not in any way healthy and can be downright dangerous. Such a balancing act…

    Reply
    • So true, Diane. Much of the excess weight gain in our country results from dieting, poor behavior modeling and other factors that promote poor body image. And many of the 1/3 of us who aren’t overweight lead unhealthy lifestyles and struggle with similar issues. Accepting and loving our bodies as is facilitates positive change.

      Reply
  13. Tough subject and you tackled it well, August.

    Reply
  14. Coleen Patrick

     /  May 7, 2012

    I try to stay in the balanced area–but it’s not always easy, so I consider it a triumph if I’m at least leaning in the right direction 🙂
    I was way out of balance in high school and college, but when my kids were little I was determined to be normal about health and fitness. I was careful not to say I thought I was fat, etc, but still my kids have their own obsessions in this realm. It’s so not easy!

    Reply
    • I wish it was easier, Coleen. But I have no doubt that your kids are better off because of your efforts to normalize your health and fitness attitudes. You should feel great about that. 🙂 Leaning in the right direction is an awesome place to start. Before we know it, tiny inches of progress turn into miles.

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  15. Having worked in pediatrics, it always amazed me to see the young ages of children with eating disorders and poor body-image. Very sad and yet easy to understand given the images they are bombarded with. Add to this a family member’s inadvertantly callous comment such as, “Ooh, someone’s getting a little chubby,” and you have a recipe for disaster. Even my 12-year-old son, a boy for whom even slim pants can be too big, has voiced his desire for 6-pack abs. I have to remind him of the work these guys put in to maintain that appearance and of the strict diets they are consuming. Or that sometimes the abs are even created by make-up!

    Great post!

    Reply
    • Grrr, right? I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve come across with similar attitudes. We can’t change the whole world, but we can create a positive, nurturing place in our own homes. Many parents don’t realize how much their attitudes and behaviors affect wee ones. They get passed down generationally until someone has the wherewithal to stop it. I also think that body image should be taught at every grade level in schools. The more efforts we make, the better.

      Reply
  16. EllieAnn

     /  May 7, 2012

    Brilliant. So much awesome, practical advice. Thanks so much for this wonderful post.
    Ditching the fashion magazines was a big one for me. Also, I stopped doing P90X, which I really hated but I thought it made my body look better, and just stick to running, which I LOVE to do.
    My spiritual mentor tells me, “don’t say anything about yourself in your mind that you wouldn’t say to someone else.” That’s helped stop a lot of harmful words.

    Reply
    • Good for you, Ellie Ann. We won’t stick to exercise or diets we hate—even seemingly beneficial ones. (Why should we?) Hats off to your spiritual mentor, and you for taking those words to heart.

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  17. Great post, August. It was hard for me to read, having struggled with body-image and weight issues for decades, but I am going to try to follow your advice, beginning with throwing away my scale. I’ll work up to the rest 🙂

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles, Elizabeth. Know that you can move past them. It’s hard to imagine the awesomeness on the other side, but trust me, it’s there! One baby step at a time… 🙂

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  18. What a fantastic article, August. I am one of the people who needs to print this article…and tape it to my forehead…so it’s there whenever my eyes are open. It’s also a reminder that I’ve recently decided to shift my focus to good health rather than fighting to achieve a physical appearance that continues to elude me. There’s no guarantee that I’ll have the body I’ve battled for, even if the doctor gets my thyroid under control someday. That being the case, aiming for good health….in spite of hypothyroidism…is my new goal.

    And just to add my two cents worth….I can’t say enough good about breathing exercises. They helped me stop smoking ‘real’ cigarettes, electronic cigarettes…and helped me get my blood pressure down during an exceptionally stressful time in my life. Now it helps me relax during normal periods of stress…and is an excellent way to help me fall asleep! 🙂

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  19. You know I always love your fitness/nutrition posts and this one especially! I’m a bigger gal, not at a weight I love, but I’ve learned to love my body anyway. I’m taking little steps to improve my HEALTH and if that leads to weightloss, I’m happy. Funny thing about ditching the scale ~ I told myself not to get on it at all in April and when I weighed myself this morning, I was three pounds down. I’m not doing anything different except looking at everything I eat and asking if it will help me be a strong, sexy woman, or if it will hurt.

    My trainer and I are going on a sugar binge together; meaning we are cutting it out of our diets. I am shocked to see how much sugar is hidden in foods! I read a blog post from Ginger Calem (love her!) that addressed sugar and it got me thinking about everything we eat on a daily basis that we don’t know the ingredients to. I’m trying to be more cognizant of what is going in my fabulous, wonderful, slightly chubby body.

    The down side? I have to buy smaller clothes since some of mine are getting too loose. Bummer, I know! 😉

    Keep up the awesome posts, August. We are listening!

    Reply
    • I have no idea why I said ‘binge’ when obviously I meant ‘purge’! Ugh.

      Reply
      • Your enthusiasm is contagious, Tameri. And I totally read your meaning! 😉

        Knowing not only what we eat, but where it comes from can also promote mindfulness and gratitude. We take so much for granted…

  20. Raani York

     /  May 7, 2012

    This is such a great article – I always like those (besides all the others of course)!! I really read them with greatest interest – they’re not only informative but also written in a great easy-to-read-style!
    Thank you so much!!!

    Reply
  21. journalpulp

     /  May 7, 2012

    “But if our values mismatch our words and behaviors, which speaks louder?”

    That was very well put.

    It reminds me of that certain man who had two sons and said to the first: Son, please go work today in my vineyard. No, the first son said, but shortly after he said it, he felt poorly over his decision, and so he went after all and worked out the day in the vineyard.

    The father, meanwhile, said to the second son: Son, please go to work today in my vineyard. Yes, sir, the second son said. But in the end, he didn’t go.

    Which of the twain did the work of his father?

    Reply
  22. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes

     /  May 7, 2012

    Beautiful post. You’re right on about the myths and these are all wonderful suggestions. Trashing the scale has the be the first one!

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  23. You always keep us on top of what’s important. Nicely done. Very important to look inward first and foremost. Thank you, August.

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  24. why do we think that we will accomplish our goals by yelling at ourselves (mentally) and calling ourselves names and generally being nasty? research shows much greater results come from focusing on what is working and what is right and building on that, rather than trying to remove supposed ‘defects’. I continue to work on this point of view and as a result i don’t weight what is healthy for me but I’m not berating and beating Louise. great post August. thanks

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  25. I read, yet wasn’t in a mood to ponder value and emphasis on looking healthy. I agree though, there are so many ways we can invest in ourselves that render healthy dividends – pursuing passions is as good a start as any. it seems to beg for a clear mind, which begs for sleep and sound nutrition, and recreational, fun activity, which begs for joy and happiness, which begs for sharing life and natural sexual activity, which….. Inch by inch it’s a cinch, yard by yard, its hard. Start with creative, soulful passion!!

    Reply
  26. I recently wrote about a nasty experience in the dressing room where I received some unsolicited feedback – specifically that my ass looked fat in the dress I was trying on.

    Um…what?

    Often women are our own worst enemies. We need to stop looking at each other with judging eyes and see that inner beauty to which you were referring. Sounds so easy. If only…

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  27. Oh I want to Like this post and Heart this post too! Why isn’t this mandatory curriculum for all middle school girls, for all women for that matter. So many good points, I don’t know where to start.

    My faves: The point about ditching beauty mags for something better. I gave up the beauty mags and LOVE reading SELF and SHAPE for healthy living and personal success stories. But I also love Women’s Health and Yoga Journal because they’re full of mantras and the Yoga one is where I got crucial info about sleep deprivation, which I think you and I have chatted about before.

    Second point I love: Read The Vagina Monologues! I’ve actually performed in it 4 times. My college did it every valentine’s day to raise money for the women’s shelter. I’ve read the piece on birth, the Vagina Workshop, the Burt Reynolds fantasy woman, and I even “graduated” to the coveted role of the female prostitute/moaner role. LOL. But truly, this play/book is an amazing thing to hear and even more so be a part of. I made amazing friendships with the women that took part in this with me. I also highly recommend Eve Ensler’s book on body image, which I’ve seen performed live. And then you can pick up a copy of That Takes Ovaries!

    Ok, I’ll stop ranting. But I’m so happy you posted this!

    Reply
    • How in the world have I missed That Takes Ovaries?!? Of course now I’m curious to know which monologues you performed. 😉

      Ensler is a force to be reckoned with, in the best of ways. We’re so blessed to live in a time when we have such incredible opportunities for open discussion and empowerment. Thanks for your super support and enthusiasm, Jess!

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  28. Kourtney Heintz

     /  May 7, 2012

    August, I can testify to the importance of #11. The past year I’ve spent more time writing than ever before. And my last visit to the Endocrinologist showed the best numbers she’s seen in 8 years of treating me. She even allowed me to come back in a year instead of 6 months. My weight may be 10-20 pounds higher than previous years, but on paper I am “healthier” than ever. A growth on my thyroid has actually shrunk over the past year as well. Good signs. 🙂

    And I am going to think of all the lovely things my body does for me. Because frankly it’s an awesome piece of machinery. 🙂 Thanks for reminding me!

    Reply
  29. Fantastic post August and love your myth busting and your tips and tricks. I think it’s important to always stop and look at our thinking and the real feelings behind it. I know I believe I have very healthy self esteem and body image but even I can get down on myself and catch myself beating myself up or being overly critical. It takes a reminder that being healthy is more important that being skinny. And that in embracing our bodies, as they are, we truly free ourselves of the guilt and negativity that often inhibits our ability to get fit and achieve our healthy lifestyle. Positivity breeds a healthier you!
    Love it! Another stellar post.

    Reply
    • Well said, Natalie. The more we stick to living healthy, happy lives (and negate those “skinny equals beautiful” ideals) the less prevalent the negative self-talk becomes. You’re a prime example of how much inner beauty can radiate out. Keep it up! 🙂

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  30. Running from Hell with El

     /  May 8, 2012

    I like how you turn it around: have a positive self-image and the reality will follow (assuming you work at it of course). It takes compassion, rather than self-hatred, to fuel self-care. We do not need to hate what we have or who we are in order to improve; in fact, true self-improvement occurs in a loving, rather than hating inner world. When I run marathons, I do not yell at myself, “I hate you, you suck, if you fail I will hate you.” And I do not hate the old self that could not run. Instead, I run with love and positive thoughts. We must love our intrinsic self-worth and not look for extrinsic proof of our own worth as the measure of ourselves. Lovely post.

    Reply
    • Beautiful insight, El. I especially love this: “We must love our intrinsic self-worth and not look for extrinsic proof of our own worth as the measure of ourselves.” Self-hate isn’t only unnecessary but damaging to the nth degree. It grows like a disease until we stop it—which, as you mentioned, takes work.

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  31. You bring up some really good points! I would say that balance is the key word to life and yet it seems that when stressed by outside forces, we get knocked down. We have to remember to love ourselves enough to get back up again!

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    • Great thoughts, Susie. Balance really is important. So is getting back up—every darn time. 😉 If we persist, it all gets easier.

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  32. This might sound crazy and off-track, but it sounds like taking up an instrument would contribute positively to an improved self-image. If you learn a wind instrument or a brass instrument, you learn how to breathe properly and you also learn proper posture. Both of those help you feel better and more confident. Even with something like the piano, a good teacher will help you learn the proper posture for sitting, which can contribute to an improved sense of well-being when you don’t hurt as much from slouching in chairs. From personal experience, I know how much better I feel about myself physically while performing. I don’t necessarily understand the connection, but I know it’s there.

    Reply
    • I don’t think it sounds crazy or off-track at all, Marcy. Developing skills unrelated to our appearance can definitely build confidence, give us an outlet for expression and gratify us emotionally. The stage played a huge role in my own battle with low body image and self esteem… Totally with you here. 🙂

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  33. Informative and inspirational post again August! Well for most part my body walks my mind’s talk. I might be subconsciously harboring some of the myths you’ve mentioned. Healthy life style & evolved attitude has contributed a lot to the boosted confidence about the image. I do have a change my walk sometimes to appease general perception and times to be appropriate for the place. I like to wear stubble, but work & significant other won’t approve it.

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  34. Thanks for the reminder, August.

    I began to exercise regularly years ago as a way to handle stress, maintain cardio health, and do everything I could to stave off Alzheimer disease (that struck my mother at an early age). Doesn’t hurt my feelings at bit that the side benefit is a more fit, healthier me.

    As for food, I gave up on the fad diets decades ago, and can barely tolerate the ads for most weight loss plans. I’ve witnessed to many friends struggle through the meal-in-a-pack routines, lose weight, and catch more pounds on the uptick than they started with.

    If I find an article for an important nutrient — especially those helpful for the brain — I don’t visit the vitamin shop, I Google on-line to see which foods are rich in that nutrient. Toss the white! The more colorful the diet, the more balanced your nutrition intake.

    Reply
    • I love that you research foods containing vital nutrients, Gloria, and that you’ve honed such a happy, health-promoting lifestyle. It’s sad to see people we care about endure compulsive dieting and its consequences… Hats off to you for responding in such a positive way. Every time we take care of ourselves and turn away from negative influences, we become better role models. Collectively, we change the world.

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  35. Love number 12. My teenage best friend (from about 13-18) was pretty concerned with looks. She was thin, blonde hair, blue eyes, wore makeup, curled her hair…everything I wasn’t. I was (in my head) a plain brunette and fat.

    The funny thing is, someone posted some ollld photos on Facebook just last night – I’m in a couple and I can’t help but wonder how in the WORLD I thought I was fat and unattractive. I think being friends with someone who was so concerned with looks at that important period of my life really affected how I viewed myself.

    Surround yourself with people who don’t focus on the exterior, people. Makes a world of difference.

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    • I remember longing for my BFF’s curly red hair… It’s often easier to see beauty in others than in ourselves. When we have down days or moments, treating ourselves like our own best friend is important.

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  36. Good article, August. I think you’re right about the “fashion/entertainment/advertising industry’s fault,” people keep buying the stuff so the industry that wants to make money keeps churning it out.

    I’m not quite with you on “trash the scale,” though. Yes, you don’t have to be a slave to it, but it’s an objective measure, and with so much of the population overweight ignoring that number may not always be good.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Nigel. I know many people agree with you regarding scales. In regards to body image, however, I’ve never known it to help. It can be a valuable tool for some people within an appropriate context, but overall, I’ve seen it do more damage than good. I’d also argue that the more we fixate on “the numbers,” the more likely many of us are to fall into negative thoughts and behaviors that perpetuate dieting, overeating and weight gain. But again, not everyone functions the same way. Thanks for weighing in! (Ha! Pun not intended. :))

      Reply
  37. I love this post August! I recently started snacking on nuts, with a bit of dark chocolate – so I can still have my fix. The nuts keep me satisfied from 3pm until dinner. I love ice cream but I’ve switched to frozen yogurt – which tastes great also.

    I ride my bike to work, and I bought a spinning bike for home use. It takes me 1/2 hr to get home and then I get on my spinning bike for another 40 minutes or so.

    I stopped obsessing over my weight. I stopped dieting and I lost a dress size since winter! I am one size away from my “goal” dress size. I haven’t weighed myself in months. I feel so much better about myself. I can’t believe I lost weight by cutting back on junk and exercising.

    I feel like your post is a reflection of what I have been doing, and it really does work.

    Reply
  38. Great blog, August. After decades of brutal low body image self-talk, I realized how awesome my body is. It beat cancer, it gave me two children, and it perseveres through allergy season in spite of the evil grasses that try and convince it to self-destruct. When I started thinking of it that way, I started loving my body. When I listen to what it needs in exercise and nourishment, it does well, and it looks and feels healthy regardless of the slight menopausal muffin top. I won’t be winning any beauty competitions, but so what? My husband’s not complaining.

    I will say, though, that trashing the scale was crucial in getting to this point, and I do still stress when allergy season hits and puffs me up like a blowfish. Thanks for your post. 🙂

    Reply
  39. This is a well-thought-out and well-written post, as usual! In my years when I worked as a personal trainer, I heard it all, saw it all, when it came to “diets” and obsessions and body image problems and eating disorders – and not just from gym members or clients, but also from staff.

    I love exercising – I love how it makes me feel and I love a strong body, but I also know I have to have balance; and I know I have limitations that I either will work through or will never be able to overcome and then I accept them (sort of – laugh – )

    Our bodies are wonderful beautiful biological machines . . . respecting them and honoring them and finding the gratitude in ourselves and our lives will make us much happier and healthier and saner! 😀

    Reply
  40. Karen McFarland

     /  May 10, 2012

    Well as you know August, I’m late to the party again! I know, how rude. Just a crazy busy week. Please accept my apology.

    Wonderful post girl as always. You have a nice, gentle way of making a good point without making people uncomfortable. This isn’t the easiest of subjects to write about. But I know one that you and a lot of us have a problem with. And it is why I link your post with mine this week.

    It seems that there is just so much we need to work on August. It’s an ongoing process. But gratitude goes a long, long way in helping us get there. Well done! 🙂

    Reply
  41. ‘Giving back: When we fixate on our bodies and appearance, we are highly self-involved.’ This is so spot on! We spend so much time obsessing about how we look, how great would it be if we used that same energy and gave back to others and the rest of the world?
    Excellent post August, I used to be skinny years back but over the years I have put on some weight. And while I’m not obese or overweight or anything, that extra weight I put on does cause me some anxiety and I do get depressed when smaller-size clothes don’t fit me. I will be following your great advice though.

    And I couldn’t agree more. We can’t keep blaming fashion mags when we keep buying and supporting them!

    Reply
  42. What a marvelous, much needed post. I have to admit that I once suffered from poor body image and nearly died from an eating disorder. I had to learn to combat the negative thoughts on my head and replace them with something positive about myself. I also had to learn to throw away the scale because I was too focused in the number. I had to come to the realization that I AM NOT A NUMBER! Now I am an advocate for girls and guys that suffer from poor body image that ultimately end up becoming eating disorders. This post is so necessary for everyone to hear. Would you mind terribly if I shared this post on my site? I understand if you dont want me to so feel free to say no. Thank you again for thus wonderful post!
    Wishing you abundant blessings,
    Kimmy
    http://www.withoutalabel.me

    Reply
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