At the very nub of making peace with food and your body, is letting go of the pursuit of weight loss. Pursuing weight loss turns UP the volume of the noise in your head about what, when and how much you should eat and exercise to achieve that goal. It leads you away from tuning in to your own body, and listening to what it wants and needs. It turns you away from your intuition, and encourages you to override some of your needs.
When I talk with clients or prospective clients about this, they get it. They understand the logic.
Once explained, they also understand that diets don’t work, and why – and in fact that most people who diet eventually end up heavier than they were before the diet.
That desire for weight loss is like sticky weed!
I might hear ‘yes, I hear you. That makes sense. Perhaps I’ll try it when I’ve lost a bit of weight.’
When I ask why, often the answer I get (twice this week in fact) is that they ‘just feel more comfortable’ a few kilos or pounds lighter.
Unpicking this a bit, I ask: ‘would you think the same thing, if you’d never ever had anyone comment about your body and if you’d never ever heard anyone comment about anyone’ else’s body size or appearance in any way? Ever. Imagine living in a culture where that was not a thing that anyone had ever thought or said.
The answer: ‘I wouldn’t care about it.’
We then launch into a conversation about how the idea of feeling more comfortable a few kilos lighter isn’t a physical comfort (assuming the person has clothes that aren’t too small of course and can walk/move about quite easily). It’s based on conditioning from our culture. Being lighter provides an emotional comfort, which stems from a reduced fear of being judged by other people.
A big barrier to letting go of the thin(ner) ideal
The fear of other people’s judgements about your body is a big barrier to letting go of trying to lose weight. In other words, it can be in the way of your peace with food and your body.
So – how do you stop worrying about what they think?
Unfortunately, we are surrounded by a culture that tells us what to think, look like and want. Our economy depends on it, so it’s woven into almost every aspect of our lives.
Mind your own business!
Other people’s judgements or opinions are theirs. Whatever anyone else thinks, that’s their business, not yours, even if what they’re thinking (aloud or to themselves) happens to be about you. You’re not in control of what other people think or say.
My suggestion is to have an intention to ‘mind my own business.’ It’ll help to remind yourself of this intention multiple times a day.
Any time you notice a thought in your own head, about what someone else might be thinking about you, that’s your own judgement of yourself, which is a conditioned thought, from our culture. When this happens, simply say to yourself ‘Oh – there’s a conditioned thought about how my body should be.’ And let it go. Resist the temptation to follow that thought down the rabbit hole of a zillion other related thoughts. Put your attention on something else – like your breath, or your feet.
If someone were to say something out loud to you about your body (both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ judgements are unhelpful) this is a little more challenging because the person is standing in front of you, commenting on your body!
Take a breath.
Do your best to describe to yourself what’s happening: ‘so-and-so is making a body judgement.’ This helps create some internal space so that you can remember:
‘My intention is to mind my own business.‘
Unfortunately this person has shared their business with you :(. But it’s still not your business. If it’s someone you have a relationship with that matters to you, perhaps you can share how commenting on your body at all, is counter productive and unhelpful, and ask them to please stop. Here’s a blog I wrote for people who comment on weight loss. It’s equally valid for weight gain! Perhaps share it with anyone in your life who wants to support you but isn’t quite hitting the mark.
Do not engage in the conversation
Unless you’re willing to say something about how comments affect you or how your body is none of anyone else’s business, disengage from the conversation. Don’t give it any energy at all, not even a ‘thank you’ (for a so-called ‘compliment’), or ‘I know.’ You can pretend you didn’t hear, or even change the subject. You don’t owe anyone a response.
Refuse to feel ashamed
All too often, other people’s judgements trigger shame. Make a decision to refuse to feel ashamed! In truth, you can’t stop yourself feeling whatever you feel – the best you can do is to let it go the moment you recognise it. Remind yourself about what is true: Your body is not a shameful thing. It’s a miraculous thing that has carried you through each and every experience so far and it works hard for you, doing the best it can, even when it’s ill or injured.
Perform acts of non-compliance
In order to give your brain the message that you’re minding your own business and living life on your terms, I recommend performing acts of non-compliance with the rules of Diet Culture and Beauty Standards. Cut or style your hair the way you’ve always wanted to, but haven’t because you’re afraid it’ll emphasise your roundness. Wear something you’ve always avoided because the culture has led you to believe you ‘can’t get away with it.’ Choose a lipstick that you love, but haven’t worn because society tells you to ‘act your age.’ Basically, give Diet Culture and Beauty Standards the finger, and present yourself any way you please!
Remember that you belong
Probably the biggest reason why other people’s opinions of us matter so much is because it’s a very basic human need to belong. The need for belonging is hardwired in our brains. Any threat to our belonging is interpreted by the ancient part of our brains as a threat to our survival.
Remind yourself that you belong, no matter what size your body happens to be. You belong! You’re human, alongside other humans who also have bodies, and are also unique. You’re worthy of the space you take up, no matter what.
Need help from an expert?
If you’ve had enough of being on and off a diet, feeling ashamed of your body and how you eat, binge eating or emotional overeating — you’ve come to the right place.
I’ll help you discover how to let go of all the food rules, trust your own body and reclaim your innate worthiness — so you can live your life unapologetically and focus on what really matters to you.