Fat talk. We've all done it. We have all looked in the mirror at one time or another and said negative things about our physical appearance.
In fact, we probably do it so often that we don't even notice it anymore.
We pinch our bellies and grumble about our thighs rubbing together and look at the dimples on the backs of our legs in disgust for years. We say it in our heads, we share it with our girlfriends, and even when our partners complement our bodies, we argue with their assessment. We do it so often that it seems totally normal.
But it's not.
We aren't made to be filled with self-hatred, self-loathing and negative self-talk; yet somehow it has become completely acceptable to be our own worst enemy.
So how can you stop this kind of talk? How can we go from bashing our bodies on a regular basis to thinking more positively and replacing those negative thoughts with loving ones? Start with these four strategies.
1. Recognize that you and your body are completely unique.
You were born with a completely unique genetic makeup and predispositions to certain physical attributes. You can influence some physical characteristics with your lifestyle, but some things simply can't be changed. (Learn more about how your genes affect your jeans size.)
But you know what's really cool? You hit the genetic lottery. Yep, it's true. Every single one of us hit the genetic lottery in something. Maybe you have gorgeous hair, or a stunning smile, or a killer wit. So what if you don't have six-pack abs or "perfect" legs? I can guarantee you have some pretty special qualities.
Maybe it's harder for you to lose fat or gain muscle than your best friend or your co-worker, and that can be frustrating. But maybe they are coveting your awesome squat form or your ability to run 20 sets of bleachers without breaking a sweat.
Action step: Find your own sweet spot where your health, lifestyle, performance and aesthetics intersect. It might not look like anyone else's—and that's just how it should be.
2.Set goals that aren't about losing weight.
For most people, losing body fat is their number one goal related to their health, fitness or appearance. If you have excess fat to lose, that's a great goal to have. However, somewhere along your fat-loss journey you will hit an inevitable and frustrating plateau during which your weight loss stalls or stops completely. This plateau may last a few weeks, or it may last significantly longer than that.
The problem? When your goal is body fat loss, and you're struggling (and sometimes failing) to achieve it, it encourages negative thinking and fat talk. You're constantly focused on what you don't like about your body and how it's not changing. You'll start to think that you're not dedicated enough, not good enough, or not working hard enough.
Setting goals that aren't directly related to fat loss can be much more positive and encouraging (and psst: they often lead to fat loss indirectly!). Plus, it's good to focus on something other than weight, especially if you tend to obsess or get down about what the scale says.
Action step: Choose one short-term goal (2-3 months away) and one long-term goal (6-12 months away) that aren't about weight, and commit to them fully. When you've achieved them, acknowledge that you've achieved them and allow yourself to feel very proud.
3.Stop and ask yourself, "Would I say that to someone I love?"
You've probably heard the saying, "We are our own worst critics," and it's so true. We say things to ourselves that we would never ever say to someone we love.
We tell ourselves that we are fat, disgusting, gross, worthless, and hopeless. We tell ourselves that we will never achieve our goals, that we quit everything we start, that we aren't worthy of being happy or loved.
It rarely sounds crazy or mean in our own heads, but when we see it in writing, it's easier to understand just how harmful that self-talk can be. With that kind of feedback, how could anyone succeed?
Action step: Start becoming more aware of your thoughts and internal monologue. Next time you catch yourself saying something negative to yourself, ask: Would you say that to your mother? Your sister? Your best friend? Your daughter? If the answer is no, then do not say it to yourself.
Develop a positive mantra that you can repeat to yourself until the negative thoughts are replaced with positive thoughts. Something as simple as, "I am beautiful and worthy," works perfectly.
4.Recognize that your thoughts and words impact everyone around you.
It's very easy to forget how much we affect the people around us. This is especially true with impressionable young children (especially girls). Some research shows that girls as young as five years old already have body dissatisfaction and express a desire to be thinner.
Where do they get these ideas? Sure, there are societal and media influences even at that age, but most often, they hear others (including their moms, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, etc.) talk negatively about their own bodies. Those flippant comments you make about your thighs, the way you react after stepping on the scale, and even your physical discomfort and shameful body language when wearing a bathing suit—kids pick up on all of this.
So how do we recognize and turn around a lifetime of self-destructive behavior?
Action step: STOP immediately any time you notice negativity floating through your head or coming out of your mouth. If you catch yourself saying something negative in front of a child, talk about it. Point out that it's not nice to say negative things about anyone including ourselves. Explain that we should be kind to ourselves just like we try to be to others.
Remember, you are beautiful and worthy right this moment. Not 10 pounds from now. Not two sizes from now. Not two months of calorie-counting from now. Right now. It's time you recognize this, and treat yourself like the amazing person you are. You deserve it.
Davison KK, Markey CN, Birch LL. Etiology of body dissatisfaction and weight concerns among 5-year-old girls, Appetite.
Dohnt H, Tiggemann M. The contribution of peer and media influences to the development of body satisfaction and self-esteem in young girls: a prospective study, Developmental Psychology.
Lowes J, Tiggemann M. Body dissatisfaction, dieting awareness and the impact of parental influence in young children, British Journal of Health Psychology.
About the Author
Molly Galbraith is a strength coach and co-founder of J&M Strength and Conditioning, a rapidly expanding, private gym in Lexington, Kentucky, for professional athletes and the general public alike. She is also co-founder of the wildly popular Girls Gone Strong group, a movement dedicated to changing the way women train. Her mission is to, ''Help women give themselves grace and compassion when it comes to their bodies, and to help them discover and accept what their best body looks like, with minimal time and effort.'' She has also been an expert contributor to magazines like Oxygen andExperience Life. No stranger to the gym herself, she has competed in both figure and powerlifting and her best lifts include a 275-lb. squat, a 165-lb. bench press, and a 341-lb. deadlift. You can find out more about Molly by visiting her website, and you can keep up with her latest adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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