Body Imaging 101

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I am going to go on a little rant - I apologize in advance, but hang in there with me!  Not only am I sick of the bullying that goes if you’re overweight, but I am also sick of people putting others down for being small, fit or choosing healthy options to fuel their body instead of junk!

STOP JUDGING. IT IS NOT YOUR LIFE TO JUDGE. 
Let’s accept it. Healthy comes in all shapes and sizes.  Hormones, chronic stress, increased toxins in the body, genetics and autoimmune diseases are just a few issues that can make it difficult to lose or gain weight, but that does not make someone unhealthy.  Just because someone is a size 2 doesn't mean they don't eat, are unhealthy or "need a cheeseburger."

Body Image & Mental Health

Body image and mental health go hand in hand. Consider the stats.

  • People who are overweight know they are overweight and most likely already regularly talk down on themselves, so saying just the slightest comment can truly break a person.  

  • The CDC has seen a 24% increase in suicide rates from 99' to 2014, with a massive peak after 2006. 

  • On average there are 123 suicides per day, equating to the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

  • Females attempt suicide twice as much as men; however, men are four times more likely to die from suicide than women.  Click here for more suicide awareness.

Things Not to Say

Putting people down by saying some of the examples below can have serious effects on someone's mental health. Don’t say:

  • Anything that someone could take wrong or anything that you would not like someone to say to you (even in jest).

  • Just because you observe that someone is "tiny" or "skinny" doesn't mean that's the right thing to say.

  • "You could lose a few pounds."

  • "You should start working out."

  • "You need to eat something." 

Stop judging. Stop bullying. Lift one another other up. Empower one another.

Things to Say

We all know words have power. When considering body image, your words could have a tremendously positive impact on a person’s mental health. Say:

  • "You're beautiful."

  • "You look healthy." 

  • "I am proud of your health decisions."

  • "You have good self-control."

  • "You look strong."

  • "You look happy."

My Personal Story

I work hard for the way I look. Even before I was told I have multiple food intolerances I led a highly active life and ate healthy. Sadly, for most of my life I heard "you're too skinny," "someone get her a cheeseburger," and other defaming and isolating slander. Even after my "diagnosis" I lost weight, likely because I eliminated most processed dairy, grains and sugar from my diet.

However, just because I have a small waist and a flat stomach does not mean I do not work hard to be healthy.  I try and work out as often as I can; more so, I move my body as much as I can and feed my body with whole, non-processed foods. I am healthy. I am not "skinny," and I will refuse to let my intolerances, size or other people's comments define me. 

For me, being healthy is eating whole foods, self care, gut health, sleeping well, removing toxins, and eating when you're hungry. 

Our Reality

So many Americans under-eat, which can often lead to weight gain. While nearly half of Americans are overweight or obese, there is more health-conscious food and information available than ever before.

So, why is it that so many of us feel forced to make unhealthy choices just to fit in? I think it all comes down to the mind-body connection: body image and mental health.

If you are struggling with self-esteem issues or any mental problems in regards to weight, here are some suggestions: 

  1. Take part in daily self-care:

- Decrease your stress levels and increase your sleep. 

Find something you love to do and do it regularly.  

2. Stay away from people who are constantly putting you down or pulling you down or away from reaching your goals. Don't surround yourself with negativity 

3. Stay away from weight magazines and watching runway shows; and don't surround yourself with people who are obsessed with weight/dieting.

4. Avoid "dieting" or fad diets.  Diets usually aren't sustainable, so try and focus on healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle overall by eating when you are hungry with healthy nutrients that your body needs. 

5. If you are a mom, be sure to set a good example for your children at a young age. Self-love and intuitive, mindful eating is the best thing you could do for yourself and your children. 

Remember the mind-body connection. Remove negative thoughts and replace them with uplifting, encouraging ones.

Confidence is key. Smile. Be brave. Yours is a beautiful body; embrace it. 

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Jordan Hostetler

Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist who owns a blog where she encourages others to live their happiest and healthiest life through nutrition tips, recipes, and education.

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