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How to Be At Peace With Your Body

body image podcast Nov 12, 2019

Can't listen? Here's the transcript: 

This week we’re talking about how your relationship to food and your body is really a microcosm of your relationship with yourself. So let’s talk about your body thoughts--Even if you don’t have issues with weight, this is a very useful topic because much of what we experience about being alive takes place in our body. 

Our experience of everything in our life gets processed through our brain. Anything that happens throughout our day first gets interpreted by our thoughts. So when you’re talking about your body and what you think about your body, you are actually talking about your thoughts about your body. 

As we are looking at how to feel the way we want to feel in our lives, we need to resist the urge to trying to fix or change the outside world to try to fix how we feel.  In our culture, we are taught from a young age that the external world determines how we feel. First, we look to our parents to make us feel loved and valued. Then we get to school, and we are taught to look at our grades to determine our worthiness.  And then we learn to look towards our peers to feel valued. And then our culture tells us that our worthiness is determined by how we look, what we wear, what kind of car we drive, and the list goes on and on.  

In fact, the diet industry is just one example of a multi-billion dollar industry with the sole purpose of keeping people at war with themselves, perpetuating the idea that the “right” size equals your worthiness.

And how many times have you labeled food as “good” or “bad”? (We’ve all done it, right?)

We live in a culture that is based on grandiose fantasies about the ideal way we’re supposed to be living our lives. And to be clear, we have all been spoon-fed these beliefs by messages all around us. We see phony wealth, where people living in mansions are up to their eyeballs in debt. We see phony beauty in plastic surgery. We see airbrushed images in magazines. We see athletes who are taking performance-enhancing drugs. We see what people’s lives look like on Facebook and instagram, which is not in any way, shape or form real life.

So, all of this becomes the evidence we use to prove our Inner Critic right. In my work as a psychotherapist, I see so many women who feel so much shame because they are comparing themselves and their lives to the ideal image of life that their Inner Critic has constructed.

Are you someone who listens to your Inner Critic convince you that you should keep trying to reach this ideal? Are you being hustled by your Inner Critic, who says you should keep fixing, perfecting, improving yourself so that you can get to that ideal and then finally feel good enough? 

This is the exact autopilot, habitual thoughts of your Inner Critic that keep you on the hamster wheel. And the more you try to fix, change, perfect, the more anxious, overwhelmed and dissatisfied you feel.  

This is what causes many people to eat while listening to their autopilot Inner Critic thoughts. You’re really using food to numb shame, fear, and sadness. Even exercise can be a way for us to run from our emotions of being not good enough.

I used to be a runner and until I was about 40 years old, I didn’t realize that I was running as a way to keep my body a particular size so that I could feel good enough.  When I started to do the work of Dethroning my Inner Critic, I realized that I actually hated running...and I had been a runner for 15 years.

For me, it was how I tried to control feeling good enough, but it was really just keeping me at war with my body and beating the crap out of my body because it was causing a lot of physical problems like sciatica.  

I would like to see more women who cherish their bodies and treat them with love and kindness.  

It’s no surprise that a recent Weight Watchers study found that as many as 75% of women dislike their bodies. As a result, the women surveyed were more likely to feel not just shame about their appearance but were more likely to have problems in their relationships and feel inadequate in a lot of areas of life.

And yet what many of us still believe is that the way out of this mess is to just “eat healthier” and “exercise”.

Don’t get me wrong--I’m all in favor of eating nourishing food and moving your body to stay strong, healthy, and flexible. But we have to understand the ways that our thoughts about food and exercise are impacting every aspect of our lives.

If you don’t stop to look at the beliefs and emotions you have about fitting into your skinny jeans, you’re putting the cart before the horse. And if you’re so focused on the number on the scale, and what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, then you are oblivious to the thoughts of “not good enough” that are actually in the driver’s seat of your mind. 

It is so easy to believe that if you just had this body and not that one, you would finally feel good enough. Which is exactly why the diet industry is such a huge industry--because people gain and lose the same weight over and over because once they lose the weight, they find the next thing that makes them feel like they’re not good enough.

This is all just your Inner Critic once again finding evidence to convince you that her belief is true and that you really aren’t good enough. And I am here to tell you that your Inner Critic will never ever leave you. She has been speaking to you since you were a little girl, hustling you into believing her evidence that you’re not good enough. 

And the diet industry counts on your Inner Critic!! It’s how they make their money!!

Because if you keep trying to reach your Inner Critic’s ideal picture of ANY part of your life, your body, weight, money, relationships, success, status….you will NEVER feel good enough. Because once you reach your Inner Critic’s goal, she will be onto the next reason why you’re not enough. It is an unwinnable game.

If you are willing to examine your Inner Critic's thoughts about eating and your body, you will find that it opens the door to the deeper pain in your relationship with yourself. And in our culture, we have multiple generations of self-loathing women in which we always feel inadequate.

As I am trying to raise my 11-year-old daughter to love herself and to love her body, I feel like I’m pushing a boulder up a mountain. We are not taught how to master the thoughts in our minds. Our Inner Critic takes over the power of our mind. We spend decades listening to the voice of our Inner Critic and mistaking it for the truth. So when life gets hard, our Inner Critic wants us to run away from the pain, to numb it, or to distance ourselves from what we’re feeling. 

And since we KNOW the pain of perfectionism or feeling fat or out of shape or like we need to drop a few pounds, we know how to handle that pain. We aren’t taught to look deeper.

So the bigger question is: How do you face the feeling that you don’t want to face? Because numbing yourself or avoiding the feeling you don’t want to face is at the heart of everything we struggle with. It’s how we keep weight on, how our relationships remain less than satisfying, how we stay in jobs we don’t like, how we struggle with money.

Being either miserable or happy has nothing to do with what you have, what you look like, or what you achieve. Those are all the fantasies of your Inner Critic. And your Inner Critic will have you chasing a future that never comes...or if it does come, it’s not the answer. 

Everything that you need to be happy and content boils down to learning how to intentionally direct the thoughts in your mind to make you feel how you want to feel. You don’t need to fix or change anything. You can access it right now. You just can’t see it because you are too busy listening to your Inner Critic tell you that you need to be someone else first.

Your brokenness is learned. You are not born with it. It has been created by listening to your Inner Critic tell you who you are for your whole life. You have to find your way back to who you already are when you stop listening to your Inner Critic tell you who you are.

That is your authentic self and many of you listening have never seen your authentic self because your Inner Critic has been the one governing your mind 100% of the time.

The most powerful life you can live is when you know the difference between YOU and your Inner Critic.  But most people go through life believing that criticizing yourself is what will lead to fixing yourself and then you will finally love yourself. In other words, if you just keep feeling like you’re not good enough, that will lead to the peace and contentment you crave. And the thing about your body and food is that when you change what you believe to be true about you, the change in your weight will be an accidental side effect of that. When your beliefs about you are not governed by the size and shape of your body, the weight will come off as a result.  

Here are some questions to ask yourself the next time you’re stressed about your weight:

What is your Inner Critic telling you about your habits?

Often, the voice in your head is the one labeling a food “good” or “bad”. She’s the one who tells you that you’re a failure if you’re too busy to go to the gym. When you start to see the patterns of thought behind what she’s telling you in these moments, you begin to loosen her grip. A great way to begin this work is to journal about what you’re seeing and feeling.

What would you tell your best friend if she was struggling with her appearance?

I guarantee you wouldn’t tell a friend or loved one that they were lazy if they were too tired to take a walk. You won’t tell her that she’ll never get her dream body if she eats that cupcake. It’s amazing what can happen when you treat yourself with the same love and respect you give to those you care about. Try writing yourself a love letter you can read the next time your Inner Critic starts to scream about your weight.

How will you respond next time?

Just because your Inner Critic won this time doesn’t mean it has to happen again. By paying attention to how you respond in the moment, you can figure out how you’ll react next time. It can be helpful to write down a few positive affirmations in those moments you can rely on in those moments of insecurity.

Ultimately, feeling good about yourself begins with examining the false story your Inner Critic has convinced you is the truth. When you can know the difference between YOU and your Inner Critic, you are on your way to living your most powerful life. 

Is Your Inner Critic Keeping You From Success?

Find out what your Inner Critic is saying to sabotage your success and how you can move past her limiting beliefs. 


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