Treat Your Self with Compassion

Body image starts to form in early childhood, and it can affect how you view your body’s attractiveness and health. Many of us struggle with body image concerns, and this preoccupation can lead to eating disorders, low self-esteem, mental health problems, and obsession with weight loss.

Since dieting doesn’t work and some research indicates that losing weight doesn’t change negative body image, experts suggest using self-compassion. Self-compassion is being warm, kind, and understanding with ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. Treating ourselves with compassion includes honoring and accepting that we are human, and that we will have frustrations, make mistakes, and fail sometimes. In terms of body image, initial research has shown that self-compassion is related to fewer body concerns and less guilt about eating.

For many of us, self-compassion is a new skill that we must learn and practice. With practice, self-compassion becomes easier to access on a regular basis. Some ways to start practicing self-compassion include:

  • How would you treat a friend? Think about how you would help a friend who is struggling. Then think about how you treat yourself when you are struggling – is there a difference? Consider treating yourself the same way you care for your friends when they are going through a tough time.
  • Keep a self-compassion journal: Write about difficult or stressful situations in your life, recognize that everyone struggles some of the time, and write some kind, understanding words of comfort.
  • Use kindness phrases: when you notice you are being critical toward yourself, say (aloud or in your head) a phrase of kindness. Examples include: May I give myself the compassion that I need; May I forgive myself; May I be strong.

More self-compassion exercises, including guided meditations, can be found here.

Event: Night Against Procrastination

Looking for ways to combat procrastination and get to work on exam prep and end of quarter projects? Check out this Infographic with 15 tips on beating procrastination.

Also, join the Night Against Procrastination on Wednesday, 2/22 from 6 p.m.-12 a.m. at the Ames Library. Come to NAP to work on projects, study, and/or get help from a writing or a subject tutor. In addition, there will be snacks, pizza, raffles, and study breaks like Yoga and Zumba! More details at www.spu.edu/NAP2017

Why Diets Don't Work

There is a common assumption that anyone who is determined enough can lose weight and keep it off. Research has shown, however, that most people who try to lose weight actually end up regaining it, regardless of the diet or exercise program. Approximately 95% of people who lose weight regain it within 5 years. Some studies even show that dieting, or temporarily restricting food in order to lose weight, is a strong predictor of future weight gain. Here are some of the reasons that researchers have shown that diets don’t work:

  1. Popular diets that restrict whole categories of food can be harmful because they restrict essential nutrients. Usually these diets last a predetermined amount of time, and after you are done you go back to your normal eating habits. If your normal eating habits are unhealthy, this leads to a cycle of “yo-yo dieting.”
  2. Restrictive diets can take the pleasure out of eating and enjoying your food.
  3. Obsessing over your food or exercise can lead to eating disorders. In fact, people who diet are 8 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who don’t.

Dieting also leads to a number of biological changes in your body. First, when you are dieting, your brain becomes overly responsive to food. You are more likely to notice food, and it begins to look more appetizing and tempting. Second, when you lose body fat, your hormone levels change. Hormones that make you feel full decrease, while those that make you feel hungry increase, so you become more likely to feel hungry. Third, your metabolism slows down when you are dieting, increasing the amount of stored fat, making it harder to lose weight.

Diets don’t create long-term, sustainable change. Many nutrition experts and researchers recommend mindful eating, rather than dieting. Mindful eating is an approach that promotes bringing your full attention to the process of eating, including the tastes, smells, thoughts, and feelings associated with a meal. It can also help you develop a positive relationship with food. Mindful eating can be tricky to learn at first, but there are some simple things you can do to start:

  1. Chew each bite 20 to 25 times
  2. Hold your fork or spoon in your non-dominant hand
  3. Put down your fork after each bite
  4. Try to identify every ingredient in your meal
  5. Eat without distractions, not in front of the TV or your laptop

These tips can help you slow down, enjoy your food, and become more mindful of your eating habits.

Health at Every Size

There are a lot of messages out there about what an ideal body type is and is not. Some messaging promotes negative cultural biases against being overweight and the assumption that if someone is overweight, they may be labeled as out of control, lazy, or undisciplined. This message can be extremely harmful and lead to patterns of disordered eating, body preoccupation, and negative thoughts about oneself.

Health at Every Size is a movement that rejects these messages and supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being rather than weight loss. This movement celebrates body diversity, challenges cultural assumptions, and promotes compassionate self-care. There are some simple things you can do to improve your own body acceptance:

  1. Accept your size: love and appreciate the body that you have
  2. Trust yourself: learn to listen to your internal signals about when you are hungry or full
  3. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits: fulfill your social, emotional, and spiritual needs; find joy in moving your body, seek out pleasurable and satisfying foods, eat when hungry and stop when full, enjoy nutritious foods
  4. Embrace size diversity: people come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, support others in recognizing their unique beauty

Media Influence on Body Image

Body image concerns impact many college students. Body image refers to how you see yourself when you look in a mirror or picture yourself in your mind. It can include beliefs you have about your appearance, feelings about your body, and how you feel in your body. Some students have a negative body image, which may include feeling ashamed, self-conscious, or anxious about your body, or feeling awkward or uncomfortable in your body. Some students have a positive body image, which includes feeling proud and accepting of your unique body, appreciation of your natural body, and feeling comfortable and confident in your body. Some of us may go back and forth between these two types of images, feeling positive about our bodies sometimes and negative other times.

Increasingly, media, including social media, has influenced how college students think about what an ideal body should look like. Among young women, media messages are largely aimed at promoting the “thin ideal.” In fact, the average American sees more than 5,260 “attractiveness messages” each year. Among young men, there is mass media pressure to have a muscular body type. These messages from the media can have a huge influence on how you see and feel about your body. The problem is, is that these messages often promote unrealistic body and health expectations. The body type promoted in many advertisements is only achievable by 5% of the population, meaning it is unrealistic for 95% of us (that is, almost everyone).

Luckily, there are many campaigns and organizations that are combatting these unhelpful messages and promoting health and wellness that go beyond just what your body looks like. The Body Positive is one such organization that aims to end the harmful consequences of negative body image and promote health as the interconnection of the psychological, emotional, and physical aspects of a person’s life. They focus on understanding your own body image, listening to your body’s wisdom, and cultivating love for yourself. To learn more about The Body Positive, check out their website here.