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As I sit down to read the paper, with my breakfast and coffee, I’m confronted with not one, but three, diet articles. That’s no surprise – it’s the fifth of January and I suspect half the population has set ‘weight loss’ as their New Year’s resolution. But one article in particular hit a nerve with me.
An economics journalist had written a book detailing how she lost weight and a short excerpt was featured in the paper. One of the methods she’d used (which I won’t mention due to potential trigger) was very similar to one of my previous eating disorder behaviours. Straight away, that ED voice popped into my head – “See Jodie, what you were doing was totally normal. And it works! Why don’t you try that again…” And it’s (partly) true – I did lose weight, but I also became severely unwell in both mind and body.
This journalist may or may not have a clinical eating disorder herself, that’s not up to me to determine and it’s most definitely not something to be decided based on this article; but I feel quite confident in saying this behaviour fits the criteria of disordered eating.
Trying to recovery from an eating disorder, or indeed any level of disordered eating, is made that much more difficult by the world we live in, which blatantly encourages disordered eating. Trying to accept, or even love your body, is countered by the multitude of messages telling us we’re not good enough as we are. It’s a marketing technique. Advertisers have to convince us of the need to change our bodies/hair/face/skin to be ‘good enough;’ otherwise why would we buy their products?
So we’re faced with the challenge of remaining (or trying to become) body positive in a very body negative world.
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These eight things have all helped me along the way, I hope they can help you too:
1. Remind yourself that everyone is on their own journey.
It took me a while to learn and to believe my behaviours were disordered. If you’d asked me 4 years ago, I would have said there was nothing wrong. Sometimes people need their own time and their own experiences before they can change their minds. In other instances, behaviours that are perfectly healthy for one person can be incredibly unhealthy for another. We all need to take our own path and decide what is *genuinely* healthy for us as an individual.
2. Surround yourself with body positive people and things.
Try to spend most of your time with friends and family who support and encourage body positivity. It’s a great way to counteract all the negative advertising and comments. The internet can be a crazy place, but use it to your advantage – there are lots of great body positive Facebook pages and blogs. Like or follow them as daily reminders you are ok just as you are.
3. Don’t partake in body shaming – of yourself or others.
The more you think and say negative things about your body or that of others, the more ingrained those thoughts become. Instead, learn to appreciate the beauty in other people’s bodies and in your own.
4. Wear clothes that make you feel good.
This one is so important. No matter what size you are, wearing uncomfortable clothes only makes you conscious of your body. Invest in clothes that feel good and show off your personality. If your body shape/weight changes, take the plunge and buy new clothes; I put it off for a long time and looking back, I really wish I’d done it earlier.
5. Use body positive affirmations and counter-arguments.
Whilst it might sound a little corny, I find these really helpful. My personal favourite is: ‘I’m choosing behaviours that nourish my mind and body.’ I also use, what I call, counter-arguments; if I hear someone else discussing their diet and it becomes triggering I tell myself “I’m on my own path and I’m doing what is right for me.”
6. Go on a media diet.
The less you see it, the less you know it even exists, the less power it has over you! Things like the ‘thigh gap’ craze or particular diets become such a craze because they are mentioned so often in the media (including social media). Distancing yourself from these things means you aren’t even aware of what the latest diet, exercise fad, or body part that needs to change is.
7. Appreciate your body for all the amazing things it can do.
Recognizing all the great things about how your body moves and works is not only good for your body image, it also encourages you to eat in a way that fuels and nourishes your body and to exercise in a way that feels good. Those behaviours in return further improve your body image.
8. Acknowledge you are not your body.
I believe this is the most important. Your body is simply the place that you live in. Your body is not who you are. You are your personality, your behaviours, your brilliance, your achievements, your kindness, your adventures, your friends, your intelligence, your humour…You are much more than your body.
Before I began ED recovery, I was very much body negative.
Whilst I’d never wish an ED on anyone, I’m almost thankful for it. If my body negativity hadn’t led me to an extremely unhealthy place, it’s likely I would have been like many others, living in the world of going on and off diets, never being content with my body, always comparing myself to others. Having been to a very dark place has instilled the desire to not play any role in our body-hating world. Even though I’m still working my way through recovery and am not quite there yet, I strive to be only body positive, for myself and others.
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