Do you remember the humorous Kellogg commercial featuring men sitting around a bar obsessing about their bodies as though they were women? It certainly got a laugh, but was it actually funny? Women and body image is complicated at best. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? If your response is negative, know that you are not alone. For many of us, the reflection we see tends to be as distorted as that of a funhouse mirror. How we perceive ourselves is often quite different from our true physical appearance and often drastically different from how others perceive us.
“My arms look like hoagies,” “My ass is huge,” “My thighs slap when I walk” and “My boobs are sagging.” What are some of the everyday messages you gush about your body? Most of us own a cache of torsette-shaping camis, slimming panties and shaping bodysuits. We stockpile heaps of slimming apparel to arm ourselves against bulging fat and cupcake of the flesh, gasp…the dreaded muffin top!
So we cross our fingers, hold our breath and let Spanx work their magic. Yes, in a parallel universe our asses are tight and everything we slip on and off looks fabulous, but over the years, our bodies change. And while our derriere may no longer bear any semblance to Kim Kardashian’s, we are our hardest critics about our body parts, yes, even our private parts. The damning messages we chant every day only serve to reinforce a negative perception about our self-image. There is strong disconnect between what we see in the mirror and what is really there. Funhouse mirrors are not creating the distortion; we are. Our running mantra only serves to leave us feeling wounded, helpless and worthless. Learning to love what you see in the mirror may seem difficult, if not impossible to achieve, yet is crucial to our happiness and well-being. How we feel about our bodies affects how we feel about ourselves in general. A positive body image generates confidence and comfort in our skin. It allows for appreciation and celebration of our natural shape, and pride and acceptance of our unique bodies. Not to negate their beauty, but do we enjoy shoes and handbags because they always fit and never make us look fat? Allow yourself to imagine experiencing the same thrill from a new pair of jeans. Did we just hear you say “Ughhhhhhh”? It is possible.
We stretch, jog, do Pilates and countless chatarungas in the hopes of achieving our ideal body image. But what is our ideal body image? What would need to happen for us to know that we achieved it? Is it even possible to achieve? Chances are it is like money: the more we make, the more we spend and the more we crave. It is never enough. How about standing up to our culture that brainwashes us into believing that serial dieting is a surefire way to achieving the ideal body, and that aging is tantamount to a death sentence? Consider what it might feel like to look in the mirror and see past a bit of sagging here and there, and find a beautiful and healthy woman looking back at you.
Changing our body image is not necessarily about changing our bodies, but about shifting focus from appearance to health. Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. How would you define healthy living? What steps can you take to live a healthier lifestyle? What would it take for you start making those changes now? Allow yourself to imagine how you might feel if you did. The next time you are trying on a pair of jeans and wonder if they make your butt look big…try new jeans.
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