Are you a woman fighting off a fat and ugly self image? When bathing suit season rolls ’round, would you rather die than bare your thighs? Locked in a clinch with your lover, is “Lights off, Honey” your mantra? That may mean that you’re really uncomfortable with your body. If so, you’re not alone.
Many women struggle with a negative body image. Because there are a lot of gals unhappy with their bodies, the diet industry is getting increasingly fatter, earning upwards of $60B/yr. That’s because the diet organizations make money when they succeed at making you feel fat and insecure.
Are you among the majority of the frustrated four?
When you look in the mirror, do you love what you see? Research shows that nearly 4 out 5 American women today say they hate their bodies. That’s 80% of the female population in the entire United States. Are you among the majority of the frustrated 4?
Why You Can’t See Yourself As You Really Are
The truth is we don’t really see ourselves and our bodies as we are, or even as others see us, because we’re only seeing our interpretation of reality, not what’s really there, because we’re unable to objectively observe ourselves. Our perceptions are colored or filtered by our experiences. If your family was a blue family, you were given “blue glasses.” If your family and your experiences are of being a part of a rosy bunch, you’ve been looking at the world through “rose colored glasses”.
We’re all different according to how our experiences have shaped us. Our brains are always making meaning out of everything we experience. The important thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter through which color glasses you’ve been experiencing the world; it’s just a starting point. You don’t have to remain stuck with those faulty perceptions. It may be time for an upgrade.
Self Image: The Mirror In Your Mind
Inside of each us we have the equivalent of a huge computer that stores all our life’s experiences, in your memory. This is known as the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is not an actual part of your brain, rather it is said to be present in every cell in your body. This data base in you holds a collection of beliefs and experience that is known as your self image. It determines how you feel about who you are, your body, your life and everything you believe to be possible.
To be happy, really happy and to live a satisfying life, you have to have an adequate and realistic self image with which you can live harmoniously. You have to be okay enough for you. This will give you a good strong sense of self esteem. This is an image of yourself that you can trust and believe in, like and admire, respect and honor.
When your self-image is intact, you feel good and you’re a secure person. When something happens to shake you up or threaten you, you become insecure. If you’ve been abused or hurt, criticized, or teased, you may still feel the impact of that emotional pain, depending upon what meaning you gave the experience, you may tend to feel shame and find yourself hiding your light. That’s only because that feels like the safest option for you.
If you’re caught in a body trap, hating some part of you, it’s because you believe that you are this negative, shameful, disgusting, unworthy, fat, ugly, stupid or incapable image that you may hold of yourself. It’s not true!
And unless you are actually able to see yourself differently, no diet, no exercise, no amount of compliments or anything else will make you believe something that a part of you is not ready to believe. In order to change these negative core beliefs that limit you, and feel different about your body, without doing anything radical like cosmetic surgery or dieting, you have to change the image that you have inside of you. The good news is that this self-image or subconscious mind is completely impersonal and impartial to the information it holds. So if you don’t like the way you look or the way you feel about your body, all you have to do is steer your subconscious mind or self-image in a new direction.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz, Plastic Surgeon Performs Facelifts without Scalpel
This incredible discovery of the power of the self-image and the scope of its influence, is credited to the work of one man, Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1960’s. At 61 years old, he wrote his first book called Psycho Cybernetics, which went on to become a self improvement phenomenon, selling over 30 million copies to date. Today you can’t pick up a self improvement book or program that doesn’t draw upon his ground breaking discoveries teaching how to change a negative self-image. Maltz said, “the self image is changed, for better or worse, not by intellect alone, nor by intellectual knowledge, but by “experiencing.”
That means that in order for you to think and feel differently about your body, you have to start being able to ‘see’ yourself doing things differently.
At the core, his ideas focus on visualizing your goals. It’s truly the secret behind “The Secret.” Here’s the origin of how this all came about. Before he wrote Psycho Cybernetics, Dr. Maltz noticed that many times after a cosmetic procedure was performed successfully, his patients would continue to obsess about their imperfections which they had agreed were already well corrected.
After examining many cases, he noticed a parallel. Each of those patients who claimed that cosmetic surgery did nothing for them, had very low self esteem. Deep down they believed that there was nothing that could be done to correct their flaws.
One day Dr. Maltz had a brainstorm and realized that what they needed was a perception correction. He made a deal with one of his clients named Jack, who was obsessing about his crooked nose. Dr. Maltz said that he would not consent to operating on Jack again until Jack took an interim step. Maltz offered to teach Jack how to re-create his distorted self-image, using a process of visualization. He explained that it would take 21 consecutive days to complete the process. After that time, if Jack was still unsatisfied, Dr. Maltz would do the surgery.
At the end of the 21 days, Jack was so happy with his nose that he didn’t even want the surgery.
So Many Sighs Over My Big Fat Thighs
In my experience, before I made the decision to stop dieting, I spent years obsessing about the size of my thighs. No matter what size I was, I swore that I must have had the biggest thighs in the world. No amount of weight loss or exercise was enough to alter my distorted perception of my body.
When I made the decision to stop dieting, my life was filled with stress. But I was going through extraordinary changes. I was sharing my discoveries with my clients and students in my Losing Weight Without Dieting course. Because they all used the stress-relief tools I taught them in addition to the intuitive eating techniques, they all lost weight. I gained weight. I was mortified and ashamed.
Through my NLP class, an opportunity presented itself to interview Connirae Andreas, Ph.D, one of NLP’s original co-developers. Connirae was well known for being the creator of the Naturally Slender Eating Strategy. It was through my coaching with Connirae that she taught me the value of self-compassion. After a lifetime of beating up on myself for overeating, it was unimaginable being kind to myself. It changed my life.
One day standing, looking at my fatter self in the mirror, I had an epiphany and realized that I had to either accept me and my thighs the way they were, or continue living a crazy life, hoping and praying that dieting and exercising would make me happy. I knew that I could never again continue to live under the tyranny of dieting, so the alternative was to learn to love myself now.
Just around that time I was attending an NLP coaching training and was introduced to Dr. Maltz’s work. I read his book, “Psycho Cyernetics” and quickly started visualizing myself as being a more confident and happier person. Through my NLP training I learned that it was my unresolved abusive past that was contributing to my very low self-image.
My lack of courage and fear of conflict caused me to lose nearly everything I worked for in the 18 years of running the family real estate business. I was a mess, grieving my losses for many years. I hired coaches, and got as much help as I could to make peace with my painful past.
With the help of my coaches and stress-relief tools, I was able to let go and forgive those who hurt and betrayed me. As I let go of more stuff, I felt lighter and freer and more able to handle anything. As my confidence increased, I started running programs for women and doing public speaking.
Seeing myself as as a more confident woman on a consistent basis was a self-fulfilling prophecy that was working in my favor.
One of the big challenges that cropped up for me occurred soon after the original version of this article was read by Dana Squilla, (now Dana Bevacqua), who was then an Assistant Editor for First for Women Magazine.
After reading the post, she contacted me and wanted to interview me on the phone. When we spoke, I explained to her that after making the decision to stop dieting, it made my confidence soar which transformed my marriage. We talked about how insecure I was during the majority of my then 18 year marriage always fearful that my husband, Angel would leave me for a thinner woman. Angel had always been very verbal about how attractive and beautiful he perceived me to be, but because I was so insecure, a part of me would not let me believe him.
I had been doing a lot of intense work with my coaches, and they were guiding me to feel safer in my body. They led me to question that many limiting beliefs that were keeping me so miserable.
When I made the decision to stop dieting, I had become very skilled at listening to my body. I learned how to trust my inner guidance, I finally realized that so many of the negative and hurtful criticisms that were told to me were not true. I was beautiful and my husband was able to see and recognize my beauty. That new insight into our relationship created a strong bond and connection where I began to really revel in Angel’s appreciation of my body.
The gift of being able to see myself as beautiful and sexy from Angel’s eyes, helped me to see myself that way.
Doing the photo shoot, sharing my story in a National magazine, coaching my clients, beginning to write my own book and breaking so many other internal emotional barriers and fears, associated with reinventing my old negative self-image, completely transformed my relationship with myself.
I now know for certain that my problem was never the size of my thighs. It was all the shame that I was carrying from years of being sexually and emotionally abused. It was the low self esteem and poor self image that I lived with me on a daily basis. It was those angry thoughts, those nasty words and criticisms that had been shouted at me as a kid.
Because those memories were so emotionally charged, each time I looked in the mirror or was reminded of anything to do with how I felt about my body, those tapes got replayed in my mind and I became my own worst critic.
That angry voice that had become my own was why I couldn’t stop eating. I knew that I had to change the way that I spoke to myself and find some compassion and gentleness within. It started with making the decision to stop dieting and a vow that I would learn how to trust myself again.
Today now that I’m no longer worried about following a diet or watching my weight, and I know that I can trust myself around any and all foods, I am very comfortable eating less and eating for energy rather than entertainment. I am still very much overweight, obese in fact, but I know that I’m on the right track because for the first time ever I am loving my weigh back to wellness.
Last February I stopped eating meat and I’m now very happy living as a vegetarian. I first made the change after learning about the cruel and inhumane treatment endured by animals in the food industry. Since then I’ve learned about the deleterious effects of eating a traditional American diet of fat, sugar, meat and dairy foods.
Recently I watched a Documentary called, “Forks Over Knives” and learned about the harm caused by consuming dairy and oil.
My philosophy towards changing my body is that I wasted a lot of years living for other people. Now at 55, time is short, and I have to make the most of the years I have. That means making lifestyle changes and eating differently. I’m totally into it. But I’m doing it at my pace.
After years of feeling victimized by my history of sexual abuse, now I have more respect and appreciation for myself exactly as I am: Andrea, the person. Going through all that and coming out on the other side reinforces a new empowering belief that I can handle anything. No more shame here! I will wear shorts in public. I won’t have a problem with wearing a bathing suit anymore.
I love knowing that I can have cookies, potato chips, ice cream and pasta in my home and be surrounded by tons of goodies and not feel the urge to eat them when I’m not hungry. I love having the sense of power that comes with being able to put a bag clip on my potato chips and put them back in the cabinet, knowing that I don’t want to continue eating them anymore and they will be there for later. And on the rarer and rarer occasions when I do eat either a little more or waaaaaaaay more than my body wants, I know that it’s not a cause for beating myself up, feeling disgusted or blaming because I haven’t done anything wrong. No forgiveness necessary.
When I do overeat, it’s merely an indication to me that something deeper is hurting. And by taking care of that, discovering what it is, handling those hurts, and treating myself in the most loving and gentle way possible, the desire to abuse myself with food disappears.
Let me help you get started on your way to embrace some new thinking so that you, too can begin loving your thighs or any other part of you at any size. For a much needed boost of self-love and confidence, I recommend joining my FB group, 30 Days to Lovin’ the Skin You’re In. There you will get a chance to learn how to manage your stress so you can get some much needed perspective. Check it out:
30 Days to Lovin’ the Skin You’re In FB Group