When new patients come into my office at the Park Avenue Center for Wellbeing in New York City, I consult with them at great length about what makes them unique, including their medical, emotional, nutritional, physical, immune, and allergic history. When the conversation turns to weight and self-image, though, it’s as if a cloud has overtaken an otherwise sunny day. In other words, patients begin to radiate extreme dissatisfaction with their bodies, relentless self-criticism, and sometimes even hopelessness.
Such thought patterns can be deep seated and therefore might take some time to shift into a more positive or neutral zone of greater self-acceptance. (After all, this negative self-talk didn’t start yesterday—more likely when they were young children or teenagers, right?) However, with personalized nutritional strategies, restructuring of thought patterns, and honest conversations about these issues, I often witness their empowered transformation to a better balanced, happier way of perceiving themselves. This new thinking can ripple throughout every aspect of their lives, including more meaningful, authentic relationships with others and a huge increase in business and financial success.
If you have been less than kind to yourself because of a negative body image, read on. These questions are designed to help you get to the root of the problem…and put you on the road to personal acceptance through forming a new way of looking at your oldest and best friend—you.
QUESTION #1: What do you hate most about your body? OK, come clean. When you think about your body, what part(s) leave you with a shudder, sigh, or inner scream? Is your least favorite feature your arms, your thighs, your abdomen, your…?
Now take a minute to look at your “bad features” more closely. What do you say to yourself about them? Do you fixate on minor things that really don’t matter? Are you able to give an honest assessment of your flaws and see a ray of hope, or are you cruel and unforgiving over imperfections? Do you believe you can change the parts that are less than ideal, or do you feel hopeless?
Some people think that a rock-hard attitude toward problem areas will help focus attention and hard work to correct them. But that’s not how I’ve come see it. Overly judgmental thinking is truly defeating. That kind of negativity is powerful and dangerous and can quickly squash any good feelings you have about yourself. Self-deprecation blocks you from growing in self-esteem. I’ve seen this effect firsthand in my patients:
When Julie came into my office, she said that she felt “stuck” in her job as an administrative assistant. We used NET (Neuroemotional Technique) for just a few minutes. It became clear that Julie had always been unhappy with her appearance and, as a result, was now hiding from opportunities to be seen in her workplace—and in her relationships in general. This pattern had begun way back in grade school, a reaction to children who teased her about her weight. By hanging onto this negativity into adulthood, Julie had turned her gifts, skills, compassion, and great sense of humor into her best kept secrets, along with her beautiful eyes and hair and sharp mind.
When Julie realized that her “invisibility” was the result of old thoughts about her weight, she understood that was what had prevented her from moving ahead in her job. She began to actively take greater initiative and felt freer to seize opportunities to be noticed for her abilities. Julie’s happy ending: She is now a manager.
Julie’s case demonstrates that, left unchecked, a focus on what’s less than perfect can create an unrealistic perspective, so much so that it jeopardizes all the positive actions you’ve taken to become healthy, balanced, and successful.
The fact is, no one has a naturally perfect physique. Give yourself a break. A body that functions well is a gift. Don’t underestimate the value of that gift by concentrating on imperfections that don’t affect your health or ability.
QUESTION #2: Are you married to the scale? (Sharon, photo of yayscale)
So often, people come to me saying they want to lose weight. Along the way, they reveal that they step on the scale a minimum of two times per day. The problem? Constant weight-monitoring is actually self-sabotaging. One’s self-esteem or mood for the whole day can be determined by a number that is simply not representative of an actual physical condition.
Fact: Your weight can vacillate by a few pounds at any time because of hormones, salt or sugar intake, medications, and many other daily variables. A person who plays this “beat the scale” game is guaranteed not to win when the number doesn’t go down. (I’ve even seen situations in which a smaller number is equally damaging, with a patient testing over and over to be sure it’s really true.)
Other dangers are inherent in too-constant attention to weight, in addition. Reliance on a scale can mean false dependence on an outside mechanism to determine where you stand at any given second. It suggests to me a lack of trust in yourself to make optimal, healthful choices. My suggestion: Weigh yourself no more than once or twice a week. This way, your frame of mind won’t be so influenced by an external measure of success. Besides, what we are looking for is a trend of weight loss, not actual ounce-by-ounce measurements.
Instead of stepping on a scale, think of more positive, confidence-building ways to start your day, like reading an affirmation; planning out your rewarding, productive day; or packing healthful treats to take with you so you won’t wind up stuck starving or making poor choices. And don’t worry. Even if you give it a vacation, your scale will still be there tomorrow.
Thinking that these are good ideas but that a big change in mindset is too hard to accomplish? You’re not alone—or at least, you shouldn’t be. Support can be the key to success. With guidance, you can see where to make changes that will improve your image of your body—and yourself. In addition, being armed with the knowledge that you’re taking steps to do your best with the body that you have today can make a difference in the way you feel about yourself and in the confidence you project in all areas of your life.