What would you do if you effortlessly had your dream body?
Would you go to the beach in a swimsuit?
Would you eat ice cream in public without thinking twice about it?
Would you go to social events with joy and anticipation for the connections you’ll make and the fun you’ll have?
What would you wear?
Where would you go out to dinner? What would you eat?
How would you dress?
Who would you spend time with?
Would you wholeheartedly go for your dream job?
Would you make the first move with a potential love match?
Most importantly, how would you FEEL?
For the most part, the reason we dream of a different (smaller) body is because of how we imagine we will FEEL that size. We might feel happy, excited, open, peaceful, relieved. And we would feel these things because we’d be TELLING OURSELVES something about how we look:
Like this I’m acceptable, lovable, worthy, valuable, valued… and safe.
We believe this because we’ve internalised a narrative from childhood: being pretty is of utmost importance. Being pretty is the currency we use to buy freedom, love and worthiness. Prettiness looks a certain way.
When we achieve this, we ACT in a confident manner, as if we deserve to take up space. We might take less shit from people because we don’t think we should be grateful that they’re paying us attention. We might be more protective of our time and energy, because we act as if we matter. We don’t feel we need to make up for our perceived flaws by bending over backwards for people and overriding our own needs. (OR, none of this happens because we never feel good enough, no matter how small we get but we still believe in the promises of an even smaller body…).
The good news is that you don’t need to change your body to be able to feel happiness, excitement, openness, peace or relief. You don’t have to change your body to behave in a self-caring, self-honouring way.
You do have to change your mind though.
You do need to unhook your self-worth from your appearance (or anything for that matter).
And in the meantime, while you’re doing that inner work, you can ACT as if you’re already worthy of fun and joy and connection, wearing nice clothes, swimming unapologetically in the sea, eating ice cream in public with gusto and ALL THE THINGS you think you’d be entitled to in a smaller body. Because you already ARE worthy of all of that.
I do get it, you’re scared of ACTING as if you deserve to take up space and to live your life fully in your here-and-now-body because of your FEAR of what other people may think. People do judge, though not all people will be judging you as harshly as you judge yourself. The truth is that you are not in control of what other people think. Not even if you manage to shrink your body. What goes on in other people’s minds is their business, not yours. It only becomes your business if/ when they verbalise it to you. Then you have a choice about whether and how to respond. Mostly, I’d suggest being super kind and gentle on yourself and refusing to take on the shame-shit-pie that’s being handed to you.
Also… it’s not all in your own mind. We do live in a world of rampant fatphobia and anti-fat bias – and we are working on changing this culture. We are working on teaching people the truth about weight and health. We are working on building a more compassionate and accepting culture where all bodies are treated with dignity and respect. You can be a part of that culture change by treating yourself and living your life NOW as if you had the body you believe will make you happier, more loved and peaceful inside.
Before you hop on the email and tell me that you don’t care about how you look – that you’ve long since moved past wanting to ‘look pretty’ (whatever that means) – all you want is to be able to MOVE! To not be in pain. To be able to go about your business in a body that can function in a way that enables what you want to do… I hear you! Although it’s not my lived experience, I do understand that this is incredibly hard. Of course a smaller body may well mean you can move better and do more things. Unfortunately that doesn’t change the fact that attempts at shrinking bodies almost always backfire – and up to two thirds of people increase their body size as a result of these attempts. The best thing to do is to work towards increasing strength, stamina and flexibility and to advocate for equitable, stigma free treatment, while continuing to do the inner work of self-acceptance and self-compassion.