Freedom is… being grateful.
When we start to worry excessively about our calorie intake or exercise, soon we become consumed by our faults. We’re not thin enough. Beautiful enough. Muscular enough.
Looking online doesn’t help. We see fitspiration, calorie counters, and countless advice about how to achieve the most recent “acceptable” body. Not only is all that negativity tiring, but it also leads to disordered eating and seeing our bodies as a curse, rather than a blessing.
I recently checked out the 2015 Body Image Report.
The study was informal, but that makes it a little more true to real life and how we actually think. Every time we post a selfie on Instagram or tweet on Twitter, we’re not being watched by scientists or studied by sociological experts. We’re simply interacting in our world.
A key point of the survey was that people younger than 35 were more likely to want changes to their body or share grievances about their lives than older participants. The older group expressed more of what they were grateful for, including their miraculous bodies.
Maybe with age truly does come wisdom.
Sadly, 39% of the people (who were 350 participants, mainly women) also reported being clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder… but almost half of the respondents believed themselves to be “disordered eaters.” Only 20% said they would eat whatever and however they want. Even a few who said they eat how they want admitted that they sometimes feel like they “cheated” on their diet.
Why do we assign so much value to what we eat? Society tells us there about “good” and “bad” food, as if food constitutes our moral worth. Listen to your body, eat a slice of cake, and suddenly you’ve committed a sin.
Whereas if you had not listened to your body and avoided that cake, you’d feel deprived and unhappy. But, hey, you’d be “good.”
This all ties back to wanting control.
Eating disorders are about controlling how we see ourselves and how others see us. We hide the meals we missed or our binges in order to give a façade of order and calm. When everything else in life descends to chaos, at least we have the identity an eating disorder grants us. We have our rituals and our habits.
And this extends farther than clinically diagnosed disorders. In the Body Image Report, NO ONE selected that they no longer diet. That means all 350 people—regardless of whether they “ate what they wanted” or not—adhered to some form of rules about their eating, even if it was just being vegan or paleo or a “clean” eater.
While there are legitimate medical reasons to adhere to a certain diet, we’ve made diets the only way to eat. We pin gluten-free recipes on Pinterest—even though our bodies are perfectly capable of eating all the gluten we want. We hashtag our dinners with #cleaneating or #paleo, even though all we want is a little piece of chocolate.
Only 6% of respondents believe that their bodies are fine just as they are. Why the dissatisfaction?
We all have bad body image days. But when we let those control how we eat or what we do, we miss out on the excitement of life. It’s hard to be thankful for what we have when all we see is what we lack.
This week, take a moment every day to write down something about yourself that you are grateful for. Did you put together an awesome Powerpoint at work? Have a nice chat with a friend? Go for a 3 mile run in the sunshine? Whip together a delicious dinner? Do a handstand? (And you can feature it on this blog when you’re done!)
If we accept what we can do—instead of what we can’t or how we can’t measure up to others—then we become just a little more thankful, a little more comfortable in the skin we’re in. And perhaps one step closer to preventing eating disorders.
So, what did you do that you’re grateful and proud of?