Take a few moments and think of 3-5 words to describe how you feel about your body. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
What came to mind? Was it strong, able, fit, beautiful, muscular, healthy? Or did your descriptive words have a more negative slant?
In our society today we are bombarded by advertisements and messages that encourage dieting to get “skinny” and achieve the “perfect, bikini-ready” body. Photo shopping is the norm in magazines, only supporting this sadly warped view of body perfection.
As we approach Spring and bathing suit/beach/shorts season many of us have a sense of dread. We self-sabotage with unkind, negative self-talk that gets us absolutely nowhere. For many of us, these negative things we say to and about ourselves come from our past experiences starting early in childhood that we have held on to through adulthood.
It may seem easier said than done, but just changing how we talk to ourselves can have a huge impact on how we feel and our choices when it comes to food and being physically active. A study published in the journal NeuroImage, found that study participants who engaged in self-criticism showed more brain activity in the regions associated with depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Unfortunately, according to behavioral psychologists, as much as 77% of self-talk is negative, and it takes as many as 20 positive statements about yourself to counter-act even one negative personal statement.
The things we say to and about ourselves not only impact us they also can have an impact on the people around us. As Moms, Dads, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, etc. it is important to be good body image role models.
The stats are pretty scary. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, and taking laxatives.
Children are like sponges. If you are perpetually dieting, talking about dieting, and speaking negatively about yourself, the likelihood is high that those same behaviors will rub off on them.
Many people also use negative self-talk when it comes to exercise. If you focus on the dread of being physically active and all the negatives you are definitely less apt to start or stick with it. Instead of saying “I don’t like exercise”, try “I will find something new to enjoy about physical activity each time I do it.” There are so many benefits to exercise. Try to pick just one that matters to you and let that be your motivation.
For the next week, try to become more aware of the things you say to and about yourself. If you notice negative thinking try to STOP in those moments and switch your thinking to one that is more supportive, kind, and nurturing. If we can gradually shift our thinking to make eating well and moving our bodies more about good health and longevity than weight, we can set ourselves up to be healthier both mentally and physically.