I really struggled with my weight. At 12 years old, I started becoming obsessed with my weight. All I could think about was losing weight. I started working out for hours on end and severely restricted my calories. I lost weight but I quickly dropped to a dangerously unhealthy weight. I remember only wanting to look like the girls in “Seventeen” magazine.
I knew this was turning into a problem when everyone started telling me I was too skinny and I still saw an overweight girl in mirror. I wondered, “Why can't I see what they all see?” In my mind I still didn't look like the girls in the magazines and I thought I had to work even harder. Although I was never officially diagnosed with anorexia, I was clearly struggling with an eating disorder.
Then something strange happened. After years of extreme dieting, I started getting fatigued, sleeping all day and I stopped working out. I didn't feel like going anywhere and was getting depressed. I started eating normally again, but by my 16th birthday I started putting on lots of weight which made me more depressed. I went to the doctor. It was the middle of the winter and he said “take off your coat.” I will never forget the look of shock in his eyes when I took my coat off. He said “oh my god, you have the thyroid of an 80 year old woman!” I was 16. He immediately diagnosed me with hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid condition and I had a visible goiter, to boot. I was prescribed a medication called Synthroid and have been on it for over 30 years.
Since I didn't have a family history of this disorder, I wanted to know how I developed this condition. I started doing research and discovered that anorexia, thyroid problems and depression are all linked. Hormones play a major role in all three issues. I probably destroyed my own thyroid through extreme dieting and screwed up my hormones and in turn which created both depression and an underactive thyroid.
So why am I sharing this story with you? Well, I think it is significant that this crazy cycle started when I was a teen with a poor body image. My only goal was to look like the girls in the magazine. I didn't value my body and that is really my concern about the effects of body image distortion. Comparing ourselves to others sets us up to devalue ourselves and then we do things that punish, instead of nourish, ourselves. So, we end up severely depriving our bodies of nutrition and we mentally beat ourselves up because we can’t compare to the images we see in the magazines. This sets us up for failure and keeps us trapped.
Why Diets & the Media are Bad for You
Also, exposure to thin models is related to body image distortion, as well as, eating disorders. We see the standard of beauty that exists in the media and we internalize it. When we compare those images to our our own bodies it causes body dissatisfaction. You and I both know that many of those images are “photoshopped,” but we still compare our bodies to the ones we see and we undervalue our bodies. Research suggests that advertisers are basically betting on the fact that you will compare yourself to the models in the ads and when you realize you don't measure up you will go out and buy that product so you could be more like the model!
How to Love your Body
1. Believe it or not, one of the best things you can do for your body image is to surround yourself with other people who have a positive body image. Being around other people who feel good about themselves will rub off on you.
2. Think of yourself as a WHOLE PERSON and don’t just look at, and critically evaluate, parts of your body. You are amazing, beautiful and incredible. You are more than the sum of your parts. And don’t you forget it!
3. Start becoming aware of how you feel in your body. One of the best ways to get in touch with what your body needs is to drink water. When you start properly hydrating, you will learn the difference in your body’s signals between thirst and hunger. Getting in touch with this will give you more confidence about making healthy choices because you will learn how to listen to internal rather than external signals about what your body needs.
I know you will SPARKLE this holiday season. I would love it if you would share with me your thoughts on tackling the body image blues to get better health. You can leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be back soon to talk about how important our thinking is to better health and wellness.
To learn more about ways to deal with emotional eating and what you can do about it, get Toni’s eBook:
Creating Calmness in the Storm: Five Ways to Tame the Chaos.
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