Body Image Blues

February 9, 2018

every body is beautifulI’ve got body image blues.

I work in the field of health and am surrounded by self-aware friends and colleagues. And yet, fat talk--and it’s modern day proxy, health talk--seem to follow me wherever I go.

An email from (of all places!) my OBGYN’s office, marketing a cellulite-reducing treatment.

A Facebook post from a friend finishing a month-long “detox,” followed by 30 congratulatory comments.

A fundraiser at my child’s school in which fourth graders calculated the calories in snacks they were selling.

A conversation between colleagues about the health benefits of Paleo vs. Whole 30 diets.

A fitness instructor asking us to imagine delicious Super Bowl snacks to motivate us to work harder in class.

And, I admit, a cruel whispering in my own mind, criticizing my body, the fit of my pants, my missed workout, my extra helping at dinner. I shut it down almost instantly, but that tiny, fearful bully is in there.

This minefield surrounds me, barrages me on a daily basis with the message that

  1. I am defined largely by the weight and shape of my body,

  2. there’s one very specific ideal body that I could achieve if I just worked a little harder or had better discipline, and

  3. the main purpose of food and physical activity is to help me try to achieve this unattainable goal.

This message is so ingrained in the fabric of our society that it usually goes unnoticed.

It’s especially difficult to detect because, more and more, it’s buried beneath more socially acceptable concepts like personal health, environmental sustainability, or even economics. Modern media further complicates the message because it’s sophisticated, fast-paced, and ubiquitous. No wonder we’re confused!

Fortunately, there’s lots of positive stuff happening to soothe the body image blues:

If you’re struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, come to University Health Services’ Eating Disorder Clinic.

To request a body image presentation or workshop for your group, submit an online request form.