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Throughout my adolescence, our family moved around a lot. Each new town brought the anxiety of meeting a whole new class and group of people. I imagine for any new kid in the class, so many thoughts are running through their mind. For me, those thoughts surrounded how I looked. What will they think of me when I walk in? Will they think I’ll fit in? What will they think about the lunch I brought? Will these kids think I’m chubby too? Looking back now, I wondered if I was too young to be thinking of these thoughts but according to NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

Implicit Messages

When thinking about stigmas related to the, “ideal body type,” or weight, generally, American western culture refers to the understanding that, “skinny is good,” and, “fat is bad.” As a woman and a person of asian/pacific islander descent, I’ve grown up hearing the implicit message that being, “thin is ideal.” Studies have shown that Asian American Women describe high levels of appearance anxiety that impacts their eating disorder symptoms. Studies have also suggested that societal characteristics play a part in this contributing to disordered eating and that women of color are more susceptible to eating disorders due to intersectionality such as trauma and adverse childhood experiences.

Shame and Self-Blame

What if I gain the weight back? What happens when my plans to lose weight fall through? Why can’t I control my appetite or cravings? These are all questions I’ve asked myself throughout my experience of my own weight fluctuation. When I’ve felt that I’ve failed or backtracked, shame and self-blame naturally come and do its work. The consistent experience of shame can lead to risks for other psychological problems. Research has found a relation of behavioral and self-blame to depression and anxiety, as well as stressful life events.

Health at Every Size

As I’ve recently learned about these statistics, I’ve come across publications by Lindo Bacon, PhD, that have given me opportunities to reflect on how I view my physical body and what relationship I have with it. Lindo Bacon (formally known as Linda Bacon), is the author of Health at Every Size, Body Respect, and Radical Belonging and founder of Health at Every Size (HAES). HAES is a movement that supports people of all sizes in adopting healthy behaviors. This movement’s principles aim to advance social justice, create an inclusive and respectful community, and support people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves.

HAES includes the following basic components:

Respect

  • Celebrates body diversity
  • Honors differences in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, religion, class and other human attributes

Critical Awareness

  • Challenges scientific and cultural assumptions
  • Values body knowledge and lived experiences

Compassionate Self-care

  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active
  • Eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite, while respecting the social conditions that frame eating options

Striving for Sustainability

To clarify some of the thoughts shared earlier, health can be found in every size. My personal journey and relationship with my body might look different for another person. I admit that even today, there are some moments where I have to fight some of the negative self-talk that are rooted in old implicit messages, but I now have different ways of responding. Personally, the diets and restrictive eating I’ve tried to stick with weren’t always sustainable for me. What has proved to be sustainable is the new way I’ve chosen to view myself. Through identifying, processing, and deconstructing some of the unhelpful thoughts I’ve had, I’ve been able to continue along my journey of appreciating, respecting, and caring for my body in a healthy way.

If you feel like this blog has resonated with you in any way and would like to reflect on your relationship with health and the perception of yourself, please reach out to myself or one of the therapists here at Optimum Joy today!

Written by therapist Melissa Del Carmen

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