Three ideas for how to deal with possible negative feelings you might experience if your body changes or you gain weight.
Good news if your body has changed: Your body is working!
Your body changing means it is doing what it's supposed to do because bodies are designed to change.
Your body is not meant to stay the same for your entire life.
Unfortunately, our culture values thinness and obsesses over body size, so your body changing might make you feel bad or guilty.
The pressure is extra high when summer is around the corner and people are constantly talking about getting a "beach body" or "looking good in your shorts" or whatever it is.
This makes it even more challenging when you are trying to wrestle with the emotions that come along with your body changing.
It can feel unsettling to try on clothes that no longer fit your body. And this can spark negative feelings that you need to change your body or that you’ve "let yourself go."
How can you combat these negative feelings? Remember that...
Bodies are Meant to Change
You, as a person, are meant to change. Both physically and mentally.
Do you want your mind to be the same as it was when you were in high school or college or even a few years ago? Probably not...
Now try applying that thinking to your physical body as well.
As you age and grow as a person, sometimes your body will grow and change as well.
If your body changes, try to trust that your body is doing what it needs to do. [If you feel like something has drastically changed in a short time period, it might be a good idea to reach out to your health care provider]
However, I know this is not an easy task, especially if you have previously micromanaged your body size. Many people spend over half their life trying to manipulate their body size, so please be patient with yourself.
When Your Body Changes
There are three ways that could be helpful to cope with possible emotions you might feel when your body changes or the possibility that it might change comes up... 1) Treating your body well, 2) practicing self-compassion, and 3) redirecting the blame to where it belongs (and away from you).
Focus on Treating Your Body Well
Try to show respect for your body by:
- eating enough food in regular intervals
- sleeping and resting an adequate amount for your body
- moving your body in a way that feels good (not to burn calories or change your body)
- managing stress
- connecting with people you love and care for
- engaging in hobbies and other pleasurable activities
Self-compassion is so important in helping you feel better in your body and having positive mental & physical health.
The opposite of shame, self-compassion has many positive benefits and can help you feel better in moments like this.
Remember that shame is not effective at promoting lasting, positive changes or effects. And the more you shame yourself in this situation, the worse you will feel, physically and mentally.
There are three components to self-compassion according to Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher in self-compassion:
- Self-Kindness instead of judgement
- Common Humanity instead of isolation
- Mindfulness instead of over-identification
To practice this in relation to feeling uncomfortable when your body changes, here is a breakdown:
Self-Kindness: Treat yourself like you would a small child or friend in this situation. What messages would you tell them? How would you make them feel better in this situation? Maybe you'd remind them that bodies are designed to change, and it's perfectly normal and natural that theirs has. If being kind is too challenging, reframe your judgmental thoughts about your body to be more neutral, if possible.
Common Humanity: You are not alone in feeling negative or uncomfortable with your body changing. Your body isn't wrong; it's doing what bodies do. Our culture is the wrong one here because it equates higher value to a person who is thin. It implies that being fat or having imperfections is wrong, so it makes you feel scared or guilty if you gain weight. This isn't your fault, and we are all negatively affected by this.
Mindfulness: When you start blaming yourself for your body changing and thinking you are bad because of it, remember that bodies are built to change throughout life. It's normal. Unfortunately, we are taught that it is wrong if your body changes or shows signs of imperfection and we must unlearn these thoughts. It makes sense that you feel upset about your body changing. It's ok you feel this way, and this feeling will not last forever.
[There's an entire post on self-compassion and intuitive eating if you want to dive deeper.]
Your body is not the problem. Our culture is the problem.
Our culture tries to make you feel bad about your body size and looks, so it can profit off your insecurities.
You weren't born hating your body or worrying that your body was going to change or that you needed to have "toned abs" or no cellulite.
You've been taught that these things are "bad" so you will spend money on things trying to fix these "problems."
Notice when the negative messages come up for you, and consider if these messages benefit you. Who profits off this message? Does it make you feel bad about yourself so you will buy something (ex: a diet plan, a cream, certain types of foods, workout regimens).
If the message isn't helpful or respectful of your body (regardless of how your body looks), it is not serving you.
You can use this as a reminder that you are not a bad person if your body changes. It's normal that you feel bad because diet culture wants you to feel bad so you will spend money and stay stuck in this vicious cycle of body hatred.
You don't deserve to be shamed or punished for your body changing.
In fact, your body has kept you alive and that is something to celebrate. If you've gained weight, it is likely due to stressful experiences and/or because of routine changes. This is a normal biological reaction.
I know this isn’t easy. It’s incredibly hard.
It can be so challenging to accept your changing body, and it's made even worse when someone seemingly reinforces your fears that your body isn’t good enough with their comments.
Additional Help for Body Changes
How to Respond to Comments
People might think or say things to you or behind your back about your body.
It's frustrating, but those people are likely dealing with their own body image issues and projecting them onto you.
It’s very unpleasant, but you can’t change the way someone feels/acts.
If someone makes a comment, you can tell them you are treating your body well and you’d really appreciate them keeping their comments & concerns about your body to themselves because your body is none of their business.
If they say they are concerned for your health, let them know that shaming you is scientifically proven to be bad for your health. In fact, studies show weight shaming is connected with greater depression, poorer body image, increased binge eating, and concerns about rejection.
So if they truly care about your health, they will not comment on your weight or choices and will support, love, and care for you regardless of your body size.
If you find affirmation helpful or want to try them, you can remind yourself of a few truths to help you feel better in your body:
- I am good no matter how my body looks.
- My body is good no matter what size it is or how it performs.
- My body is what carries me from A to B in this life; it is not a measure of my worth.
You can also write affirmations in a journal every day, or try writing them on notes to post on mirrors. Also, you might find it helpful to buy an affirmations card deck like the one pictured.
If you want to dive deeper into feeling better in your body and freer around food, sign up for the waitlist for my course: The Path to Living Well!
MORE POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
- Why Emotional Eating Isn't Bad
- How to Enjoy Less Stressful Holiday Meals
- Self-Compassion in Eating
- How to Be Lazy and Live Well
- Self-Care Practice
Disclosure: I have a straight-sized body, so I do not experience the shame & stigma others with larger bodies receive. I see you, and I'm so sorry that we live in a world where your body size opens you up to such unpleasant experiences. I hope that someday soon people can respect all humans no matter what size they are.
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