By Alison Ross, LMFT, CEDS
You know you're living in diet culture if you think your body has "problem areas".
The diet industry promotes these insecurities because they profit when we feel ashamed of our bodies and spend money trying to fix them.
When I was a kid, I was exposed a Special K commercial that was very effective at selling insecurity to get me to buy cereal. In it, a woman's husband repeatedly pinched her side, signaling that she had a problem area and needed to eat Special K to fix it.
This message helped shape my body image. As a kid, I, too, started pinching my waist, thinking I had a problem, and eating Special K to try to "fix" it.
Today, different versions of this same message promote the notion that our bodies need correcting. Adopting these body-negative messages benefits others financially, while we are left feeling ashamed and stressed, believing we have body problems! But if we keep our eyes open to this common marketing strategy - create shame to get people to buy stuff, we might not internalize the toxic messages so easily.
If you have been made to feel that you have body problems, and want to make peace with your parts, I've included a simple exercise below that can get you started in the right direction.
Exercise: Make Peace with Your Body Parts
This exercise aims to help you accept and appreciate parts of your body that you were taught to dislike. It is not meant to be a substitute for therapy, but rather a complement to it. If this topic causes strong emotions, please seek support from someone you trust or from a therapist.
Close your eyes and take a few, deep breaths.
Gently, place your hand over a body part you find difficult to appreciate. If placing your hand on it feels uncomfortable, visualize your hand softly touching that area instead.
Now, think back to your relationship with his part of your body over time. Can you remember what caused you to start viewing this part as a "problem"? Was there a specific source of stress or pressure that made you feel this way?
Take a moment to see if you want to improve your relationship with this body part. If you do, keep your hand on that area or imagine doing so. Then, say the following words three or more times: "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you." This is known as ho'oponopono, a Hawaiian prayer of forgiveness.
How did this exercise impact you? Let us know in the comments below.