Body Image–Shifting Negative to Positve, part 2

Last week I wrote my thoughts on the WW weekly topic relating to Body Image.  A tough topic.  Not one most want to talk about.  And it doesn’t matter our age, our weight, or our gender.  Many have negative thoughts about our bodies or parts of our bodies.  And those thoughts are so ingrained in our psyches, influenced by people in our lives or the many media forms, print and online. 

I spent a lot of time this past week thinking about the body image topic and working on shifting my thoughts about my own body.  I even went to a second workshop. 

That second workshop made me think.  The coach asked questions of us that were meant to get us thinking.

And I asked those questions of myself too.

How do those negative thoughts/beliefs/words impact our day?  What would change if we said/thought/believed something positive?  What impact would focusing on just the positive have on our journey, our day? 

And why is it so important to shift from negative to positive? 

How does one shift a mindset or shift the negative beliefs to positive ones? 

THAT is the question.  THAT is the difficulty.  If it was easy to change our beliefs, our thoughts, our immediate reactions, then we would never have a negative thought.  But it is NOT easy! 

Yet, it is so important.  Changing those negatives changes how we see ourselves and how we treat ourselves.  Getting rid of negative thoughts and changing them to positive thoughts changes our relationship with us and changes our relationship with the world around us including our relationship with food.  Yes, shifting a negative mindset will change everything! 

Think about it for a minute— if you started your day looking in the mirror and only seeing what you perceived as “wrong” with you, only saying negative things (“my hair is so frizzy and I hate that” or “ugh!  How disgusting!”  “I will never be pretty” “even sucking in my stomach doesn’t work” “my legs are to big so I cannot wear those shorts” or a host of other negative things!), how would those negative words impact your day?  How would you feel by starting your day that way?  What would your choices look like?  Would you choose the delicious healthy breakfast or go for the doughnuts?  Would you skip your workout?  Would you want to do anything to take care of you?  I wouldn’t….. 

Starting my day in a negative frame of mind, would set the tone for the entire day.  And it would not be a positive tone at all.  My choices reflect my thoughts.  They always have.  They always will.

But if you started your day looking in the mirror and seeing something beautiful, something positive, saying something that made you smile (“my eyes are shining today” “Hello beautiful” “Those stretchmarks, well they are proof of the miracle of life, those babies!” “Boy are my arms strong”  “Look at those strong legs that carry me everywhere I need to go” “Today I woke up and that is worth celebrating” or a myriad of other upbeat and positive things) how would those positives impact your mindset, your choices, your day?  Would you want that healthy meal?  Would you want to go for that walk with your friend or get in the pool for some activity?  Would you want to do things that take care of you?  I would……

So, with all of these questions and thoughts going through my head this past week after attending the second workshop, I set out to find a way to shift my mindset and my thoughts. 

How?  How do you stop negatives that have been with you for a lifetime?  How do you get rid of the voice in your head from long ago, telling you how ugly you are… telling you all that is wrong with you?  How do you let go of the images that are EVERYWHERE in our society that show us what a “perfect” body looks like (and an unrealistic body since most of those images are highly photoshopped/edited)?  I can tell you it is NOT easy.  It is hard!  But NOT IMPOSSIBLE! 

It starts with recognition.  It starts with HEARING your words and knowing they are not helping.  Only then can you begin to change those thoughts and shift your mindset.  Then it takes INTENTIONALLY saying something positive.  INTENTIONALLY focusing on the positive.  Every. Single. Day.  Making it a habit.  And that takes time, sometimes a lot of time.  And it requires COMMITMENT.  When we first say that positive thing in place of the negative, well we may not believe it….not that first time, maybe not the second time, maybe not until he 100th time.  Commitment to intentionally focusing on the positive means we keep doing it even when we don’t quite believe it, because eventually we will believe it.  Eventually we will automatically go to that positive place.  And that is when we know that we have shifted our mindset, we have made a habit change. 

To that end, I decided to do something I had started a while ago, but to take it up a notch.  I had gotten in the habit of writing positive affirmations on the mirror above my bathroom sink, using dry erase markers.  Those positive affirmations made me smile.  So, if they worked on my mind in a positive way, then maybe writing positive thoughts about the parts of my body I didn’t like would help too.  But the mirror above my sink wasn’t the best place to write those, because, it wasn’t across from the shower… I could avoid that mirror until I was clothed (I know TMI). 

But…. The mirror on the backside of the barn-door that covered the entry to my bathroom, THAT mirror I couldn’t avoid.  That mirror was the one that I hated.  That mirror was where I needed to write my positive thoughts.  And I did just that this week.  “Hello Beautiful” at the top.  Positives about my arms.  Positives about my abs/stomach.  Positives about me.  Yes, my arms are strong and can hug my loved ones.  Yes, my stretchmarks prove the miracle of life, that I had two beautiful boys.  Yes, I am strong. 

Seeing those words every morning and every night is changing something in my mind.  Changing my attitude.  Changing my view of the world around me and my view of me.  Those words start my day on the right note, a positive note.  And that positive start helps me to deal with stresses differently.  And the little things don’t seem to bother me as much as they had before.  My whole outlook is a little brighter and more positive (and I tend to be a pretty positive person anyway, except when it comes to critiques about myself).  And those positives at night, well it just ends the day in a brighter way for me.

Shifting negative body image thoughts to positive ones, does not mean we are choosing to stay where we are at in this moment.  I still want to lose more weight.  That is a goal of mine.  I want to be healthier, stronger and live longer.  So, changing to a positive body image does not mean I am giving up on my goals and accepting this is where I am supposed to be.  No.  It is about being happy and finding the positives now, where I am at now and still working toward my goals. Happy people make healthier choices.  And I said above that my choices reflect my thoughts.  By being positive, thinking positive, loving me where I am at right now, I am helping myself to move forward toward my goals.  Because, when I am in a positive mindset, I make better choices when it comes to food, activity and taking care of me.  That is why this topic is so important right now.  Loving our bodies in every stage, finding something positive about us and our bodies, actually helps us get to our goals.  What do you think?  Do your choices reflect your thoughts, too?   

With all of that in mind, how can you start to change your views about you?  How can you start to change your thoughts and make them more positive?  What would that do for your day?  How would that impact your choices?  What one thing can you do today that will help you to take a step forward in changing your negative thoughts to positive?

You can do it!  I can do it!  We just have to take that first step….

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Positive Body Image…. Getting There

This week’s topic in WW Workshops is on Body Image. A hard topic for many of us. And it does not matter if you are old or young. It does not matter if you are male or female. It does not matter if you are overweight or thin. Many of us struggle with those negative body images.  Some of those thoughts have been ingrained in our minds for years, said by others to us, or just said to us by us.  And it doesn’t help that we are bombarded, daily, by images on social media and on TV that show us the “perfect” bodies.  The struggle is real for so many of us. 

Do you struggle with finding positive things to say or think about your body? I do. 

Do you find yourself speaking negatively about your body?  I do. 

Maybe it is your arms, or your neck, or your legs or your stomach or ???

This week, WW helps us to identify the negative things we think and/or say about our bodies and then gives us tools to help us change the way we think. Techniques that help us turn the negative to a positive. A shift in mindset.  And one that is HARD.  It requires awareness and honesty with ourselves.  And it requires INTENTIONALLY focusing on something positive rather than ALLOWING the negative to define us. 

As I sat in a workshop yesterday morning, I heard the negative things I have said and what I still say about my body. I do not like my arms, those who attended my workshops knew that.  I have shared it in workshops when we had body image discussions.  And I have been working on changing that mindset.  I am finding it a little easier and sometimes even automatic to say a positive about my arms now, but it took me time to get to this place.  I look for the good my arms can do now, rather than focusing on the jiggling loose skin on my arms.  The more I have practiced saying the positives and focusing on the positives, the more it has become automatic.  I am starting to like my arms.  I am wearing sleeveless shirts at home now, but not yet ready to venture out into the world….. almost there. 

But yesterday morning in that workshop I heard other negative things about my body. Ugh! Too many.  When did this happen?  Have I always been so negative?  I never noticed before because it was ingrained in me and automatic…. Said and thought without noticing what was happening.  Like being on autopilot….it just happens. 

Hearing those thoughts hit me.  Hard!  I wasn’t aware before, but I am now aware.  And awareness is the first step in making a shift in my thoughts, the first step in changing. 

So, this week, thanks to the workshop, I am working on shifting how I see just one body part.  Just one.  That I CAN do.  I am focusing on how I see my stomach/abs. I do not like my stomach/abs. Period!  NEVER have!  Loose skin sucks— a negative thought.  Stretch marks are incredibly ugly—another negative thought.  Look at those rolls…. Ugh— another negative.  I look pregnant from the side in this shirt—negative!  And even more negatives run through my head, especially when I look in the mirror—with or without clothes, it really doesn’t matter.

The leader asked us to come up with something positive, something that part of our body can do for us.  Hmmm….. I struggled with this.  My first thought was- “Really?  What can this do?  Nothing.”  But then I really started to think.  And I came up with something—

-My stomach is strong enough to help hold my spine steady, keeping me from throwing my back out and landing in the hospital.  Okay—positive.

And…. Well….. nothing else comes to mind, just yet.  So, one positive right now.  And that one positive is better than none.

Now, to do an old activity from a WW Workshop in the past—this week, every day I will stand in front of my mirror and look at my stomach (THAT is going to be hard, but CHANGE is HARD!) and I am going to think about the positive, the one positive I have come up with (and I will try to come up with another).  By practicing saying and thinking about the positive, then it will become easier and eventually will replace the negative.  Eventually…..

What ONE body part are you negative about?  What ONE body part can you focus on this week?  What positive thing can your body part do for you, right now?  Once you pick the body part and find the positive(s), then practice saying them while looking in the mirror….or, if you cannot look in the mirror, then practice saying the positive while visualizing your body part.  The more you say it, the more you will believe it.  And that is how we shift our negative thoughts to positive!

Can you do this one thing this week?

Will you do this one thing this week?

I can and I will!  I am traveling this imperfect journey and changing my body image along the way! 

Swimsuit Shopping… Ugh!!

It finally happened.  My favorite swimsuit, died.  I have had that swimsuit for 10 years.  I wore it a lot!  And this week, I wore it for the last time.  When pool season started a couple of months ago, I noticed that my swimsuit was getting thin…REALLY thin.  Uh Oh! 

And this week I put it on to jump in my pool and the skirt hung down to my knees.  The material had separated.  It was done.  Time to throw it away and move on.

But THAT meant a trip to the store to buy another swimsuit. 

THAT was terrifying.  Trying on clothes in stores, looking at my reflection in the mirror, has never been my favorite thing to do.  Not when I was at my heaviest.  And not when I was at my thinnest.  Those mirrors are not flattering.  And looking at my flaws was discouraging. 

We are our worst critics and it is easier to see the flaws….. those things we don’t like about our bodies tend to stand out, making us notice them first.  I know…. It is a mindset thing…..  

So, the thought of trying on a swimsuit was just a bit stressful.  But I had to do it.  It would be far worse to buy the swimsuit that I had not tried on first and have it not fit or not cover certain parts of my body.  And I know that would be far worse, because I have purchased swimsuits, more than once or twice in my lifetime, that I did not try on first.  And those NEVER worked out!

I headed to the store and found a few suits to try on, in a size I thought would work and styles I felt would cover what I wanted covered and colors that would make me smile.  I was trying to see the positive. 

And then I stepped into the dressing room….. Ugh!  Those mirrors!  Swimsuit shopping is far worse than any clothes shopping trip.  At least with shirts, I could find layers to cover the parts I was ashamed of, the extra weight I was carrying….layers creating the illusion that it wasn’t there, that I was thinner than I thought.  Layers would hide the flaws.

A swimsuit though, hid nothing.  Yes, a skirted swimsuit would help to hide the hips, but the rest, well it was all there for anyone and everyone to see.  A swimsuit hid none of the flaws.

That is HARD to see.  REALLY HARD! Especially for a person who is hard on themselves.  There is so much body shaming in our world, so many faked and photo-shopped photos of how a woman’s body “should” look, that it is often difficult to see beyond those flaws, to see the positives, to love our bodies and celebrate what they can do.  And standing in that dressing room, reminded me just how hard it is and that I still have work to do, myself.

Because, if all I see or look for is the flaws or the negatives, well THAT is absolutely ALL I will see.  And I will NEVER see the positives or the beauty and strength.  I have worked long and hard on this.  I have struggled to change the mindset, sometimes successfully, sometimes failing.  I have done the exercises talked about in WW workshops, where I look in the mirror and find the things I love about my body, the strengths I have.

Standing in that dressing room, yesterday, trying on quite a few swimsuits, I realized that, yes I still have work to do.  I don’t know that I will ever fully switch my mindset, but I can be more aware and mindful of my thoughts and the words I say to myself.  And thanks to my journey with WW, I have the tools to help me change my mindset and the tools that help me to be mindful of what I am saying to myself and HOW those words affect me. 

Yes, I was stressed.  Yes, I was dreading the mirror.  Yes, I was dreading all the flaws that the swimsuit would highlight.  But I still went swimsuit shopping.  I faced the mirror.  I faced the criticism running through my mind.  I confronted the words of my dad, that I still hear, all these many years later.  And I tried on swimsuits.  Oh, some were awful!  Just awful.  But I found two swimsuits that didn’t make me completely cringe….. actually, they made me smile because they were filled with color, LOTS of bright colors rather than the solid black I usually picked. 

I faced my dread and shut down the negative thoughts as I stood there in that dressing room.  Okay, I may not be where I want to be.  I may not have that thin waste, and I may see too much loose skin.  But, there are positives and THAT is where my focus needs to be, something I have learned to look for and notice through my journey with WW (Weight Watchers).  And it is the lessons learned and aha moments  in workshops that helped me switch what I was thinking while standing in front of the dressing room mirror in a flaw-revealing swimsuit.  I could see some positives– I have legs I love.  My legs are strong.  I tan easily in the summer sun.  My smile brightens my eyes.  And my eyes come from my birth mom.  THOSE are the positives I will focus on for now.  Those are the images that will keep me going as I work toward my goals and toward becoming my best self. 

Changing my mindset.  Thinking differently.  Choosing differently.  THAT is a part of this journey I am on.  I may be my own worst critic.  I may not love everything about my outward appearance.  BUT if I stop looking for, purposely looking for, those negative flaws and instead CHOOSE to see the positives, well then I WILL reach my goals.  Because our choices reflect our thoughts. 

CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS AND YOU WILL CHANGE YOUR WORLD!

I am doing that now. I am refocusing on the positives, thanks to the death of my favorite swimsuit!