Remember how we talked about how if you don't like your body, it may mess up your eating?
Obviously, the follow-up question is: how do I start liking my body?
And that’s a hard, multi-faceted task. Today I want to talk about one important way: purposefully looking at a variety of women’s bodies.
Why This Is Important
This may be obvious but it’s worth saying: if you are judging others because of their weight or body shape, you are probably judging yourself. And all of those negative judgments cause pain, for everyone involved.
The only way that I know to break the cycle of judgment is to notice. Notice, notice notice. And that’s hard, because often when we truly notice, uncomfortable thoughts come up. Thoughts that we feel like a completely terrible person for thinking, like “she doesn’t look good,” or, “I hope I never, ever look like her.”
But it’s worthwhile to ask yourself: Is that true? Is it true that only thin women can be beautiful? Are all thin women beautiful?
And, perhaps most importantly: What does beauty mean, anyway?
I’m not trying to tell you what beauty is, and I can’t give you a pill or a quick 2-step tip to reverse what are deeply, deeply ingrained beliefs about what is beautiful and what is not in our world. You probably don’t want to be having unpleasant or even mean thoughts about other women’s bodies, and telling yourself to just knock it off doesn’t generally work (at least for me).
In my experience, the only way to even begin to work on this process is to gently, very gently, begin to pull at the strings of this knot, by noticing what is already happening, in a delicate, thoughtful way.
And maybe, just maybe, looking at women in a variety of shapes will remind you that your weight has much less to do with your beauty that you might have thought. I know that it did for me.
1. Once a day for the next week, spend at least 5 minutes purposefully looking—really looking—at a range of women’s bodies.
If you don't know where to find pictures of beautiful ladies who are not “typical” models, here are some great sites with real women in a range of shapes, from slender to more full-figured:
- What’s Underneath. One of my favorites. A mother and daughter team do video interviews with real women, exploring their feelings about their bodies, and then the interviewees strip down to their underwear.
- Some fabulous fashion blogs. Amara Chiukachu, A Curious Fancy, Kendi Everyday, and Nicolette Mason.
- Real ladies in a variety of shapes re-creating a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and modeling lingerie.
- Everything in Refinery 29’s Anti-Diet Project, but especially this.
2. As you do this, notice what thoughts and feelings come up about their bodies. Write down as many of them as you can, without judgment. It’s okay if your thoughts sound like a Mean Girl; the point is to notice them.
3. For now, your work is just that: look at pictures, have the thoughts come up, write them down, look at what you wrote down. That’s it.
But Katie, spending 5 minutes didn’t fix all of my body image problems!
Have some patience there, buckaroo.
This probably something you will have to keep doing. You’ve spent hours each week for your entire life consuming images of mostly very slender people. You are probably going to need to make a conscious effort to look at other bodies, to remind yourself that it’s not just fat-you and Heidi Klum out there.
But I deeply believe that it is worth it. Because as long as you don’t think that you are beautiful in your body, and you don’t think that other women are beautiful in their bodies, you will struggle with your weight.
So let’s look at some fantastic women together. And let’s keep doing it.
If this post resonated with you, I’d love to hear in the comments: What was it like for you to consciously look at women in a variety of shapes? What thoughts or feelings came up for you?