My Perfectly Imperfect Body

Hello, my name is Riem and have struggled with my body and weight for most of my life.I bet you can relate to this.

Thighs are too big,

Breasts are too small

Too short or too tall

Nose is too pointy

Lips are too thin

Eyes too small or too far apart

Arms are wobbly

Belly is big

Legs are too long or too short

Too many pimples

Too hairy

Love handles

Double chin.

And the list of complaints we have about our bodies goes on.

Welcome to the story that almost every woman on this planet is telling herself one time or another. Actually, let’s be more realistic; this is also a story that many men and a lot of young children are telling themselves too.

When my beautiful niece was three years old, she started questioning if she was fat and decided to go on a diet.  According to current studies, girls as young as kindergarten age have body image issues and fear they are fat. *  Can we blame these children when this is what we expose them to, whether directly or indirectly? Children learn from their surroundings. When adults get together, we dedicate much of our time talking about weight, either our own or someone else’s gain and losses.  So, it is no surprise that our kids are developing eating disorders and are suffering from low self-esteem when we seem to give into unrealistic standards .

Have you ever told yourself that you are not good enough for a job or to be in a relationship because you are overweight or not pretty enough? You make promises to yourself that your life will be perfect and complete once you have lost those few extra kilos. However, it seems like the more you try to lose these few kilos the more they double. You try this diet and that one, but every time they fail, you go back to it and are still hopeful that the next one will be the miracle diet. Or maybe you opt for surgery which has its own set of consequences.

Are you any closer to that perfect body?

Are you any closer to happiness?

With all the pressure that is put on us (or mostly we put on ourselves), is it any surprise that we tend to us feel depressed and anxious?

In a scene from the movie Mean Girls, three high school students started body shaming themselves while looking in the mirror. The first one complained that her hips are huge, the second girl objects that she hates her calves, the third replied in envy that she had man shoulder. A fourth high school girl who was observing the scene thinks to herself “I used to think there is just fat and skinny. Apparently, there is a lot that can be wrong with your body.”  The criticism continues: “my hairline is so weird”, “my pores are huge”, “my nailbed suck”. Then all three girls turn to the fourth and wait for her to express discontent with a body.  The 4 fourth girl who up until then was always home schooled and wasn’t exposed to society’s pressure had nothing to say except that she had bad breath in the morning. This scene says a lot about how we are pressured into feeling bad about our bodies.  It’s almost as if we compete with who has it worse: the big hips or the man shoulders.  What if there was another way to feel content with our bodies that does not consist of starvation, self-loathing and obsessing about looks?

Enter the Body Acceptance

A few weeks ago, I came across a quote that I absolutely loved:“All the nutrition knowledge in the world is meaningless if you still have a disordered relationship with food” @kristamurias. What an incredibly true statement! We spend years of our lives dieting, reading and exchanging tips and recipes, but that hasn’t brought us any closer to feeling good about ourselves. I know this was my case. Recovering from an eating disorder, I was an expert in hiding evidence and in using extreme dieting tips. But even in my thinnest and healthiest phase, I’d still go back to my old eating habits because the negative self-talk and beliefs were still unaddressed. This is where the body acceptance comes into place.

The movement, which has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years, stems from the idea that kindness and compassion is an essential way to make peace with our bodies.  Rather than focus on weight loss or tweak our body parts, we focus more on accepting ourselves the way we are, and we remove the unhelpful negative talk we surround ourselves with.This is not to say that people with extra weight have emotional issues, while those who seem to be in their “ideal “weight are fit and healthy individuals.  On the contrary, shape, and size does not determine physical and emotional health or level of satisfaction with our lives.

Body Acceptance vs. Fat/ Body Shaming:

With fat shaming, a person is made to feel bad over their looks and their body.  This could take a number of forms, making fun and joke, mocking, bullying, discrimination, even restore to making threats …etc. The current belief is that this behavior leads to feelings of depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and eating disorders. Body acceptance, on the other hand, calls for accepting others the way they are and to remove the stigma that is associated with not following society’s current standard of beauty.  It practices the golden rule “it’s none of my business,” and I should focus on my well being and how I treat myself and others. The movement has come under fire for promoting obesity, ugliness, and unhealthy lifestyles. However, rarely do these attackers criticize extreme diets and unhealthy thinness with the same passion. According to Linda Bacon MD, a lot of the research we have today on the dangers of obesity and weight is highly exaggerated because they are funded by lobbies that benefit financially from people’s addiction with weight.     (to read more about this topic, check out her book Health at Every Size)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look good or enjoying the latest fashion.  This only becomes an issue when the desire to lose weight or look a certain way is associated with negative messages, or it becomes the center of our daily lives and the lenses in which we see the world with.

On a personal level, focusing on a healthy body image has helped a lot with removing a burden of not being good enough. Yes, there are days when I am faced with criticism or judgment but my reaction to these comments are becoming less personal, and I am finding a much lesser need to subscribe to society’s beauty standards.

Ways to practice body acceptance:

  • Buy clothes that actually fit

  • Be aware of what thoughts you have about bodies and weight.

  • For every single body part you hate, you have to mention physical traits that you love

  • Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel bad about yourself or your body.

  • Start using the word diet correctly! Contrary to the widespread belief, dieting is not a weight loss method. It merely means the sum of food consumed by a person.

  • Practice meditation and deep breathing

  • Be active, in any way that makes you happy and feel good* Choose to stop participating in talking about other women’s bodies

Activity time:

  1. Put into action points from the above that resonate with you. (make it a group activity: D)

  2. Pick a person and compliment them on a physical attribute and something about their personality. It has to be a real compliment.

  3. What message about the body would you like to convey to your daughters or other females in the family?

I am perfectly imperfect!

In honor of this month’s article, we are hosting a screening of the 2016 documentary “Embrace” where Body image activist Taryn Brumfitt explores the global issue of body loathing. It will be followed by a small group reflective discussion.Date: Sat  28 April 2018Time: 10 am to 1 pmLocation: TBASeating will be limited. If you would like to attend,  feel free to leave your contact information below or send us an email at or . A detailed email will be sent out soon.  ___________________________________________________________________________________Kids as young as 5 concerned about body image. February 13, 2015.

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