When I began and completed my studies to become a Registered Dietitian I never thought I would talk about body image as much as I do . To be honest, a day doesn't go by that I DON'T talk about body image. It seems obvious now the connection: food fuels our body to function and the body is a big target for hatred among my patients. A lot of my work involves explaining how food functions in the body, what our body does for us on a daily basis, and how to appreciate the body you were given.
Over the course of our lives we are taught by our environment (culture, peers, family etc.) how to speak to ourselves about our bodies. Individual's environment often does not educate on body function.
Over time either positive or negative pathways are built in our brain, which become reinforced the more that we use that same pathway. So when we constantly berate our bodies we are reinforcing that exact negative pathway. I often work with clients on attempting to change these cognitive pathways by countering these negative thoughts, which are often associated with eating.
A common mistake is trying to counter these negative thoughts with positive and far reaching statements like "I love my body," or "My body is beautiful." The problem with the previous statements is my patients typically do not believe them. Instead of jumping to "I love my Body" start with these 5 neutral statements.
- Food provides me with the ability and energy to think, create, solve, and perform daily
- I am alive and able to do whatever I want to do today because of my body
- My body's muscles, tissue, and bones allow me to accomplish any physical demands the day may bring
- This is the body that God/my higher power gave me and I should respect this body
- I can spend my time and energy hating my body/trying to change my body or I can take that same amount of time and energy and tried to accept my body
There is not specific timeline that this process takes, so be patient with yourself. Changing negative thought processes is not an easy task and most of the time individuals will need to seek the help of a licensed professional.