Guest Post: Natalie Joffe on Giving Up vs. Letting Go. Tips to Feel More Confident in a Thin-Privileged World
Editor’s Note: Natalie Joffe is a long time friend, client, coach and all around inspiration. Our work to help every woman embrace her authentic inner voice and express herself has obvious cross over. Despite that, I learn something new from her every time we are together. Natalie is the friend you wish you had who knows all about food and having a healthy lifestyle, but who listens and advises with compassion and an understanding of what is actually realistic for your day to day. I’m a big fan. So I’ve asked her to do a guest post. Let me know what you think. I expect she’ll get you thinking.
As a nutrition coach, I often hear things like:
· “I just can’t accept my body at this size.”
· “I need to lose weight so that I can feel more confident.”
· “I will [start dating, apply for that new job, try that new class, etc.] after I reach my goal weight.”
The trouble with these statements and the fantasy of how amazing life will be at a smaller size is that they require us to put our life on hold, they perpetuate the weight bias in our culture, and they support the belief that we can shame our bodies into changing.
Sadly, we live in a thin-privileged society. This means that living in a smaller body one gains privileges and access to things that those in a larger body don’t. However, it doesn’t matter how small you are if you still struggle with critical self-talk, comparisons, and inner judgment.
Five strategies to help you feel more confident and empowered in the body you have now
1. Consider Your Clothing
Take a look in your closet. What percentage of the clothes in there fit your current body? Of those clothes, what percentage do you actually enjoy wearing?
Every time you squeeze yourself into something that is slightly too tight or find yourself adjusting your shirt or pants or bra during the day, not only is it uncomfortable, but it perpetuates the message to yourself that you need to change your body.
But doesn’t getting rid of the smaller clothes mean I’m giving up? Accepting my body as it is now? But I just can’t accept this body!
Giving up and letting go are two different things. Wearing clothes that fit is an act of body respect. Hating and rejecting your body hasn’t worked well so far, so why not dress comfortably? Also, you can both feel frustration and conflict about your body and still take care of it.
Experiment: Conduct a closet edit. Donate (or pack away if completely letting go feels like too much) all the clothes that don’t fit or that you don’t like. If you want to keep a size up and down from where you are to allow for natural body fluctuations, that can be helpful, but put those clothes in a box elsewhere. This can feel like a daunting task for many, so having the support of a stylist like Mellicia is invaluable!
2. Embrace Joyful Movement
When you move your body in a way that is fun or empowering, you connect with what your body can do and how movement makes you feel. This helps shift the focus away from “cosmetic fitness,” or the use of movement to manipulate body shape or compensate for food. We are far more likely to continue a movement routine if we find it overall positive versus if we are solely doing it to burn calories and lose weight.
But at the end of a long day I struggle to get started with my workout regardless of whether I enjoy it or not. Are you saying that I will always feel motivated if the movement is joyful?
No, it doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but there is a difference between willpower and discipline. Discipline is challenging ourselves to get out the door to do what we know will feel good, versus willpower which is the motivation used to get out the door to power through a punitive form of movement. Discipline is sustainable, but willpower is a limited resource.
Experiment: If movement had no impact on your external appearance, what type of movement and how much would feel the best? What would you most enjoy?
3. Practice Self-Compassion
If every time you look in the mirror, your inner commentary goes something along the lines of “ugh gross” and then some pinching and poking happens, you are perpetuating the belief that your body should be different.
But isn’t self-compassion just an excuse not to be healthy?
Quite the opposite. We don’t take care of things that we hate or dislike. Criticizing and judging our bodies only makes us feel worse. Taking out the judgement in our language allows us to still honor what we are observing without getting stuck in self-shaming.
Experiment: For one week, practice neutralizing your negative self-talk.
Instead of: “Ugh my stomach is so fat. I hate my muffin top.” And then analyzing yourself from a few different angles in the mirror.
Try: “My stomach is soft. My pants feel uncomfortable around my belly.” And then put on pants that feel more comfortable or walk away from the mirror and shift your focus to your next task.
4. Curate Your Social Media
As a culture, we engage with social media on a daily basis, some more than others. Media images are full of “fitspiration,” images of “ideal” bodies meant to inspire healthy lifestyle.
Studies show that use of social networking sites is linked to an increase in disordered eating and body dissatisfaction. While research is still being done to fully understand these types of findings, the results so far have been alarmingly consistent.
Experiment: Do an assessment of your social media outlets (Instagram, Facebook, magazines you subscribe to, TV shows you watch, etc.). What messages are the images communicating? What types of bodies are you predominantly seeing? How does it make you feel about your body?
5. Choose Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is a way of eating that has nothing to do with diets, meal plans, discipline or willpower. It’s about getting back in touch with your internal hunger and fullness signals and learning to trust your body again. It is a lot easier to sustain a way of eating where the goal is to feel well both in terms of satisfaction and satiation.
If you are dieting, you likely are either feeling hungry and deprived or uncomfortably full after a “cheat day” or after unintentionally “falling off the wagon.” When you are dieting it is sending the message on a constant basis that your body needs to be smaller. It also takes up mental and emotional space that you could be putting towards other more important things in your life.
But if I ate whatever I wanted, I would only eat pizza and ice cream and would expand exponentially!
There is a difference between the rebellious inner toddler that wants all the things all the time, and the compassionate parent who understands the difference between physical hungers and emotional needs and is able to balance them.
Experiment: If food has no impact on your external appearance, what types of food and what amounts would feel the best? What would both satisfy you and satiate you?
Start getting reconnected with your internal hunger and fullness cues. For the next two days, check in with yourself before and after meals and gauge your hunger level on a scale from 1 to 10. What do the sensations of hunger and fullness feel like for you?
The relationship we have with our body is ever evolving and complex. In a culture that encourages us to constantly strive to be thinner and prettier, letting go and treating our body with respect can be a radical act! Doing so helps create not only a larger societal change, but also allows for greater freedom in your life and positive body inspiration for those around you.
Natalie Joffe is a Certified Nutrition Coach, Intuitive Eating Councilor, and Body Trust Provider® based out of Seattle, Washington. She is dedicated to helping clients let go of dieting and create positive and sustainable relationships with food and movement. You can learn more about her work on her website or Yelp or sign up for a free consultation!