the author

1

Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

post categories

nourishing body image awards

Nourishing Body Image Awards Badge

Tag: body image

25 Jan

How to Celebrate Love Your Body Month When You Don’t

Current Events 2 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

loveyourbody

{image via @yourbeautifullife}

For most of us, the thought of spending an entire month in a love-fest for our bodies is a little daunting. Heck, an hour of doing so might be a little daunting. Both research and talking to anybodyanywhere confirms that the majority of us are pretty uncomfortable in our own skin, and going from that to loving our bodies feels like quite a stretch. And who wants to spend an entire month stretching? Besides yoga teachers and gymnasts, of course…

I’ll be honest: when I first heard about February’s Love Your Body Month, I cringed a bit. I’m a believer that you don’t have to love your body to treat it well. And I believe that, for some, trying to love your body can actually detract from the process of treating it well.

Sound strange?

It’s because so many people get frustrated with what feels like an impossible goal — loving a body they’ve been conditioned to hate — that they throw in the towel altogether. Love my <insert derogatory remarks about said body> body? Pffsh… never. I might as well <insert self-destructive or unkind behavior> forever.

[Hear me out in more detail on why you don’t need to love your body in this post.]

 So I was ready to ignore Love Your Body Month when I realized… maybe there’s another way of thinking about this.

Hear me out.

Rather than thinking of the month like a command of your feelings (“You must feel love toward your body in February!”), think of it like a suggestion of action (“Hey, how about trying to treat your body as if you loved it?” or, “Let’s practice showing loving kindness toward our bodies, no matter how we actually feel about them.”).

Does it feel any different?

To me, there’s a huge difference. You can probably come up with a few people in your life that you didn’t necessarily love, or perhaps even like all that much, but you treated them with respect and dignity. You would never talk disrespectfully to them or take actions that would harm them in any way. You didn’t love them, but you could co-exist peacefully and treat them kindly.

So maybe you can’t get on board with the idea of loving your body just yet – or maybe you never will (that’s actually okay!) – but I do urge you to participate in Love Your Body Month anyway. And if you choose to do so, here are five ways that you can act lovingly towards your body (no matter what emotions about it you may have):

1.      Watch your language. Notice how you’re talking about your body to both others and  yourself. If you tend to complain to your girlfriends about your flabby arms or your ears that stick out, try dropping it this month. This doesn’t mean you won’t think about how upset you are about certain traits, but fight the urge to vocalize them. Fat and other body shaming talk is cyclical. Stopping the negative noise can really alter the environment and, ultimately, lead to healthier perspectives on our bodies.

2.      Challenge your body to try one new thing. I’m not talking about P90X (that’s still a thing, right? No?) or anything that pushes you beyond your limits. It could be taking on a new yoga pose, allowing your body to try a food you always assumed you’d hate, or getting a massage for the first time.

3.      Develop a self-care ritual. I know things are too chaotic in my life when I start to skip parts of my morning or evening routine. Taking care of our bodies – even through “simple” things like rubbing lotion on each morning or flossing each night – can be the first things to go when we’re feeling stressed. But that’s when we need to be treating our bodies the best – if we expect them to operate well for us. Creating a routine or ritual is a great way of combating the urge to put everything else before you and your body.

4.      Sit with your body (and no one or nothing else) for three minutes every day. Meditation and mindfulness are good for your brain, but they’re also great for your body. It can decrease cortisol levels (a hormone that’s basically toxic for your body when in excess), improves sleep and eating, and even reduce cold symptoms!

5.      Write a letter to your body. Okay, I know. It sounds cheesy, but give it a try. Take ten minutes and share with your body anything you feel grateful for, what your hopes and dreams are, and, maybe, how sorry you are for talking such trash about it all the time. Only write what feels genuine in the moment. The idea isn’t a love letter to your body (you can imagine how I feel about those), but rather to open up a dialogue between your mind and your body. You’d be amazed – once you start writing to your body as another being, it becomes much harder to be cruel. It might take a while, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

If you’re participating in Love Your Body Month in some way, I’d love to hear about it.

17 Apr

Could a patch make you feel more beautiful? Does it matter?

Current Events No Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

“I’ve been spending so much time thinking that if I could just get myself to like the outside, to feel satisfied with the external, then I would feel peace on the inside. But I realize that hasn’t work,” she said, shaking her head slightly and as her eyes shifted down. “Maybe it’s really about finding peace on the inside first, and the outside will follow. Maybe that’s the key to feeling beautiful.”

Her peer looked at her earnestly, her shoulders lifting into a shrug, and replied, “Or maybe when you feel peace on the inside, you just don’t care about beauty so much.”

I smiled at the reply, noting that I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s exactly right, I thought. When you feel peace, there are more important things that how I look today.

And I think that sort of sums up my feelings about the latest Dove project. If you haven’t seen the video, under-cover Doves give unsuspecting women a “beauty patch” that they tell them will make them more beautiful. After a few days, the women report not noticing any changes. But soon they say that they are feeling different, more beautiful. They even notice how their own behavior changes as a result of this sudden “beauty.”

(Watch it here.)

Of course, the patch is a sham and the moral of the story is that there is nothing external that can make you more beautiful. Beauty comes from within. La de da.

Okay, okay — when I first saw the spot, I got a little choked up. I think seeing any woman start to feel better about herself gets me a bit emotional. Seeing the women’s reactions to hearing that they didn’t need a patch to help them feel more confident? There were truly touching moments.

But something about the whole thing still leaves me feeling… conflicted… Maybe it’s the fact that these women believed themselves to be putting on a patch — assumably of medication — and didn’t question at the outset what “chemicals” were seeping into their bodies. I realize this happens every day with things like diet pills and special creams that are purchased with similar intent. But it still weirds me out.

Then there’s the fact that the project was created by Dove, a company, like any other hygeine and beauty company, who profits from women feeling that they need their products to feel beautiful and better. I’m not dissing Dove here, specifically. I think they make good products, and I like their soap. But my cynicism, usually buried deep, starts to emerge when I watch this. So you’re telling me that women don’t need anything external to feel good? Well then your sales just dropped… Oh, you want us to still buy your sixteen products though to feel good? I see.

And last, I think I’m a little tired of the message that if we feel good on the inside, we’ll be beautiful on the outside, for the reasons stated above. I think if we feel truly good on the inside, we give importance to things other than how we look on the outside. That’s not to say that anything is wrong with wanting to look and feel beautiful. It’s just what I notice when I think about the truly happy and content people that I know. They aren’t slobs, but they don’t pay a whole lot of heed to their appearance either. It’s not scientific fact, just an observation.

But I’m curious what you think… Do you like the Dove ad? Did you tear up at first like me? What do you make of it?

06 Jan

Is it okay to not love your body?

Ideas to Consider 7 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

3415909302_994e48e81f_z

{image credit: identity photogr@phy

I keep a digital post-it on my desk-top with interesting articles I come across and topics that I want to be sure to blog about when I have the time.

This post caught my attention way back in March, a couple days after my son was born, and since then the URL has been staring back at me each time I open my laptop. While the delay is certainly due to not being able to remember what it was about in my post-partum haze, it’s also due to the fact that the piece left me feeling conflicted.

First, I’ll tell you that on the whole, I love the post. Be warned that the author, Elyse Anders, is passionate about this topic and expresses that through the liberal use of expletives to show you just how much she believes what she’s saying. She’s a talented writer and got me thinking (for nine months apparently), so my hat goes off to her. But back to the post itself…

Elyse suggests that people should get off her freaking back about loving her body so much and mind their own damn business(es). She tells us she doesn’t like her body…

I don’t love my body. My body is awful. I will never love my body. I never have. And I’m 35 and maybe you think that’s too old to have real hang ups about my body. But I do. And I always will. And maybe you think that because I’ve lost a bunch of weight I should feel great about my body. But I don’t. And I won’t.

…and makes a fairly compelling case for why that should be A-OK to do so, pointing out the double-standards inherent in this instance on women embracing their bodies:

The problem is someone else telling me how to feel. The problem is being told that there is a standard of beauty, and I should ignore it. I should ignore it despite the fact that everyone is still holding me to it. I should ignore it and create my own. As long as it makes me feel pseudo-good, and makes other people feel okay with how I pretend to feel about me.

Really, just to read the post. I can’t copy and paste the whole thing for you. I’m not you’re assistant over here!

Okay, so you read it now, right?

So here’s the thing, I agree with Elyse on most of her points. We live in a world where women (and men) face impossible demands at every turn. Run six miles before dropping your kid off at school in your four-inch heels  with your perfectly blown out hair and don’t forget the holiday pot-luck at work! You did make that Pinterest recipe, didn’t you? So the idea that not only are we supposed to appear perfect, but we’re also supposed to appear as though we don’t care? It simply saddles us with more potentially impossible demands.

We don’t all love our bodies, and I get downright tired of hearing people say that we all should. In fact, some of us have been engaged in decades-long battles with our physical selves, for which there are all sorts of reasons. We’ve internalized the critical messages of our family. We’ve been the victim of sexual abuse. Our bodies have let us down when we needed them the most. To offer a blanket directive to love and adore our bodies doesn’t seem to adequately acknowledge the complexity of these relationships.

It can feel a little Pollyanna-ish, to be honest. And perhaps most importantly, I don’t know that it’s totally necessary. Hear me out…

If my goal in working with people was to change their feelings about their bodies from hatred to love, I could be stuck in my chair for a lifetime, and meanwhile, they’d be miserable. It would be like me trying to get my friend Lisa to like peanut butter when the stuff repulses her.

Instead, my goal is to help someone develop a sense of body neutrality. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have any feelings about their bodies — that’s just unrealistic. Rather, it means they have whatever feelings they are going to have about their bodies and they can still choose to make decisions about their bodies in a values-directed and educated way. For example, they can hate their belly with a vengeance but choose not to punish themselves with a ridiculous diet because they a.) know that it won’t work and b.) have more important things to do with their time and energy.

So I agree with Elyse that loving one’s body isn’t necessary, and it’s not helpful to others to put that expectation upon us. Where I start to bite my lip is here:

Stop telling women that we should find ourselves beautiful and that we should love ourselves when you are standing right there, judging us on how our knees look in short skirts and how prominent our boobs are in a sweater and how much makeup we are or are not wearing.

While we’re all part of the machine of culture, I find myself thinking of the many “body-love advocates” out there who are so often proclaiming to others to embrace their imperfections. These aren’t, on the whole, brazen hypocrites. They are people who who have found a true and deep appreciation for their own bodies and know that love is possible. I wonder if it can feel to some like that annoying friend who just got married and keeps telling you that true love is waiting for you! You just have to get out off your couch. But Prince Charming is out there!

It can be hard to swallow. And you may want to punch her in the face. But that doesn’t mean she’s judging your singledom, at least not intentionally.

The other thing I found myself thinking about is the fact that there’s a difference, to me, between love and gratitude. It may be a subtle distinction, but I think it’s important. I don’t have to love every line, every sag, every bulge, every soft spot. But I can still appreciate my body on the whole. I can wish to the heavens that my legs were more svelte while also feeling grateful that they allow me to dance until 2 a.m. with my girlfriends. If we don’t have a sense of our bodies playing a role in helping us to do the things we love and be the people we want to be, we won’t be motivated to take care of them.

I don’t think it’s a particularly helpful goal to set out to love your body (if you do, that’s great!), but I do think it’s worth aiming for neutrality and gratitude.

So what about you? Do you think we should try to love our bodies? And what place (or responsibility) do we have in the body-love of others?

 

06 Aug

Dear Women of the World: I’m Weightist and I’m Sorry.

Ideas to Consider 2 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

[This post is inspired by the brave and poignant apology by Iris Higgins I shared with you here.]

Dear Women of the World,

Sitting up here atop my perch — the one made with my fancy schmancy degrees, nestled next to my thin privilege — it’s easy for me to throw stones at the diet industry and popular media. I talk about how women’s magazines are ruining our lives and how utterly absurd diet companies are with their dangerous fads.

I’ll be the first to start a letter writing campaign to companies sexualizing little girls. I’ll stand up with my virtual bullhorn and tell you where (and where not) to spend your hard-earned dollars and vent for hours about how angry certain billboards make me.

But what I don’t talk about nearly often enough is my own part in making other women hurt. I’ve rarely told you about the ways in which I play a role in the epidemic of low self-esteem. And that’s primarily because I don’t like to think about it.

I’m of an average weight. My BMI falls in the “normal” range and I don’t have health problems that doctors attribute to my current size. Perhaps even more significantly, I’m not stigmatized for the way that I look to others. I get by without scornful looks or strangers watching what I order at fast food joints. I only have to pay for one seat on the airplane. I don’t have industries and billboards and governments and  shouting at me to change my size — or else!

Just to be clear, I’m not hear to apologize for my size. I’m not sorry to be my particular size and shape, because no one should be.

But those facts are important to lay out as context for my experience.

I’m acutely aware of weightism, one of the last remaining socially acceptable “-isms,” and not just in others. I’ve learned to see weightism in myself too. And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the times that I assumed you wouldn’t be interested in going on that hike because of your size.

I’m sorry for buying hundreds of products over the years that only use incredibly thin (and usually always white) women in their advertising.

I’m sorry for the many times that I’ve not said to stop the fat talk at the lunch table. I’m sorry for taking the path of least resistance and not wanting to “stir the pot.”

I’m sorry for subconsciously granting thin people more credibility and leeway than you.

I’m sorry for former years of watching The Biggest Loser and cheering on players.

I’m sorry for failing to intervene when someone starting making unsolicited comments about weight.

I’m sorry if I’ve noticed more acutely what you ate or how you moved.

I’m sorry that I browse those same magazines that tell us to get rid of parts of ourselves in the grocery line.

I’m sorry that I’ve lost my voice at times I most needed it.

I’m sorry for all of the things that I’ve done to make this a more hostile world for those of a larger size to live in. I didn’t mean to hurt you, or myself for that matter. I could sit here and further blame society, but I am society. So instead, I’ll keep my excuses in check and simply tell you, I’m going to do better. 

Love,

Me

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...