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Learn to Love Your Body The following 650-word article is available for publication in print or online. There is no cost to use the article, but full credit must be included as it appears at the end of the article. Please let us know in advance of your intent to use the article, and when; then a hot link or two copies of the article must be sent to us after publication.
Learn to Love Your Bodyby Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
Many New Year’s resolutions have to do with losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, and dozens of other methods girls (from 6 – 96) use to change the way they look. With today's misleading role models, many girls experience poor self-esteem starting at a very young age.
I know all too well the problems that arise from having a negative self-image. As a psychotherapist who works with patients who qualify for weight loss surgery and some of whom appear on the hit TV series "Big Medicine" on Discovery Health, I find many instances of women who truly dislike the way they look. Their dissatisfaction can profoundly impact their lives. I also run several food addiction groups and binge eating groups, and in my general practice I see many young girls who are constantly struggling with body image issues. In fact, body image issues are a central of In the book I co-authored with Janine Sherman, Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever.
Since this is such a large issue in our society today, I have created a few tips for anyone struggling with her body image. Learn to love not only who you are, but also what you look like.
1. Avoid criticizing yourself. Replace the phrase or "tape" in your head that says "I’m fat" with something like "I exercise and eat right.”
2. Stop scaring yourself. Replace "I bombed on a test" or "I’m stupid and fat" with "I’m smart and can do better.” Think of one thing you can do next time (such as prepare for the exam and talk to the teacher to find help).
3. Make a habit of complimenting yourself. It isn't bragging; it’s called being your own best friend. Maybe you have a great sense of humor, maybe you get along with everyone, maybe you are a budding artist. Everyone has special talents and qualities.
4. Be gentle and patient with yourself. At the end of each day, think of three things that went well that day. Write them down. It’s a rare day that doesn't offer something good.
5. Praise yourself. Make a list of all of your strengths, and repeat them each morning or evening. Add to the list as you get better and better. I recommend listing at least 101 good qualities about yourself.
6. Set an easy goal. An easy goal is one that is achievable and will make you feel better about yourself. Most of the time we focus on being thinner because we think it would make our confidence higher. Your confidence grows first and then comes a healthier life style. Always pay more attention to being healthier rather than thinner.
7. Do something with your mom. Talk to her about how she used to feel about her body. Ask her for some ideas of what you can do.
8. Practice talking in front of a mirror. Come across as strong and assertive. When you feel badly about your body, your posture may slump and you may talk softly or act timidly. If you become more assertive, you will feel more in control of your body.
9. Love your imperfections. Even the most successful models and actresses would tell you they wished their noses were smaller or that they weren’t so tall or so short. No one has the perfect body, so make peace with the one you have.
10. Take care of your body. Find one active friend who will exercise with you every day or someone who will eat lunch with you and join your efforts to eat better. Diets don't work. A change in your life-style will.
Love yourself now. Don't wait to show yourself tenderness. Don't continue to abuse yourself with food or unhealthy living. You are a light. If you can be brave enough to shine, you will allow all of us to shine too.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.
Start Talking features succinct yet lively answers, sample conversations, and real life stories to help open the door to better mother/daughter communication. Rapini and Sherman have compiled more than 113 questions girls (and their moms) routinely ask – or should be asking – about health, sex, body image, and dating.
February 21-27, 2010 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
The aim of NEDAwareness Week is to ultimately prevent eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment. Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses — not choices — and it’s important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder.
Their website states, “In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Approximately 15 million more are struggling with binge eating disorder. Because of the secrecy and shame associated with eating disorders, it is very likely that many more go unreported.
In the United States, we are inundated with messages telling us that to be a happy, valued person, we must be thin and fit our culture’s impossible beauty standards. Did you know that 80% of all ten year olds are afraid of being fat? The average age of sufferers is dropping rapidly (as young as elementary school), with peak onset among girls ages 11-13. As a culture, it is time for all communities to talk about eating disorders, address their causes, advocate for access to treatment and take preventative action.
Reprinting the above article by Mary Jo Rapini, or arranging an interview with her on this topic, is one way to bring awareness to this issue while also offering specific steps anyone can take to start moving in the right direction.