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Improve Body Image and THE BREAKAWAY by Jennifer Weiner

Name something you love about your body (other than your hair and eyes).

Cover of the book the Breakaway by Jennifer Weiner used as a teaching example for improving body image

Now, think about what you dislike about your body.


If it was easier to list the negatives, it’s time to change the way you see yourself. Continue reading for tips on improving body image.


Appearance is Just One Part of a Person


There is no “perfect” way to look; most of a person’s appearance is genetically based and determined before birth. Each person has a weight just right for them (“set point”), and the body can find and regulate this naturally correct weight. The weight that is just right for you may or may not be what you envision. Instead of forcing your body to fit an idealized image, shift your mindset to accept your body as it was meant to be while prioritizing other parts of yourself.


Let’s get one thing out of the way, just in case you were thinking, “What about diets?” Diets don’t work.


Diets…

  • Create a preoccupation and obsessiveness with food.

  • Increases food cravings –particularly for high-calorie foods like fats and sugars.

  • Are linked to irritability and depression.

  • Decrease metabolism.

  • Prompt ravenous hunger when rules are removed, at which point binge eating frequently occurs.

  • Disconnects people from hunger/fullness cues.


Ways to Accept Your Body


Respect It: Think about it this way; the main idea behind dieting is that your body says, “I have a need,” and you say, “NO.” Rather than rejecting your body’s wisdom, try respecting it. This means eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full, eating from all food groups, trying new foods, and avoiding assigning moral value to foods. There’s no such thing as a food that is “good” or “bad.”


Compare and Despair: Avoid comparing your body to anyone else’s by changing the script. Instead of engaging in body comparison, think of something positive about your body and how that positive thing impacts you. For example, if you sometimes think, “My legs are bigger than…” instead, think, “My legs are strong and muscular, which helps score goals in my soccer games.”


Prioritize Other Parts of Yourself


Mentors Matter: Think about the people you look up to. Maybe it’s a politician, sports star, activist, author or scientist. Perhaps it’s a family member or friend. Either way, list the attributes those people have that you admire. I’ll bet that you wrote down nothing that had anything to do with weight or appearance.


Practice Affirmations: List ten things you like about yourself. Examples include “I am funny,” “I am creative,” “I am smart,” etc. Read the list each day when you wake up and before bed.


Teaching Example: The Breakaway by Jennifer Weiner


Abby, a 34-year-old on a life-long mission for body acceptance, is leading the bike trip from hell. It includes her mom, a guy she hooked up with and ghosted, and her apprehensions about whether she should marry or end things with her boyfriend (because she may not be good enough for anyone else).


Abby first learned to feel bad about herself as a young child when her mom judged every bite of food she consumed and sent her to a “fat camp.” Society wasn’t much better. When Abby was out with her fit boyfriend, people openly stared as if saying, “What’s he doing with her?!?” Abby admirably tries to de-program herself from the onslaught of beauty myths and standards, but insecurity continually creeps up.


Applying the Skills


Abby does a great job respecting her body by feeding herself when she’s hungry and stopping when she’s full, no matter who she’s with (including her mom). In addition, Abby could avoid comparing herself to other women and instead focus on her body being so strong that she leads 60-plus mile-per-day bike trips.


Whenever Abby mentions respecting others, it is for how they give back to society or live their authentic selves. For example, she respects a librarian friend who helps people addicted to drugs. And Abby admires her older friend, who leads bike trips well into her 60s and decides not to marry to follow her wishes and dreams. When Abby describes these people, she never mentions their appearance, focusing on who they are. She deserves the same consideration.


Finally, Abby could put a few of these affirmations in her panniers (bike bag).

  • I am a problem-solver.

  • I know what I like.

  • I treat others with respect.

  • I am fair.

  • I am capable.






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