THE BODY IMAGE YOYO

THE BODY IMAGE YOYO

| 'health is a feeling'

an everyday moment:

Whether it's dressing up for a night out or during my pilates session, there comes a time where I have looked at my body and gone ‘I like what I see.’ But that judgement can turn sour from there. In that moment, I like how my body looked at a specific angle, in a specific position and then moments later where I'm freely moving around, my body looks different and I judge it - pressuring myself to be ‘perfect’ and feeling that since one image of my body looks nice or conventionally attractive, then all images of my body should follow that pattern. Society ideals often glorify a body that looks conventionally attractive all the time. I call it the Barbie body lie - you know how we can expect our bodies to just forever look like this one plastic model that never changes. This ideal only naturally causes the body image yoyo effect - which occurs when I compare my body in a different position to my body in the position that creates a construction that I like. How do I balance feeling good in my body/appreciative of the results of my lifestyle and not criticising myself for the results that I cannot see yet?


a reflection:

We have all experienced a competition before, whether that is sport, music or otherwise. Hence, the yo-yo effect is likely familiar to you. That feeling of a surge of pride when you score versus the feeling of dread and anxiety sinking deep in your stomach when a point is lost. How can you expect yourself to give the game your all and play well when your belief in yourself constantly goes up then down? That surge of pride in scoring gives us the illusion that oh ‘if I win then I’ll feel really happy’, and that same illusion dooms us to the depression of losing. Don’t get me wrong, winning a sports game is definitely an achievement and something to celebrate. But to base our whole self-belief and judgement of our capability in whether we win or we lose leads us down the never-ending chase of winning where each loss leaves us defeated rather than uplifted. The pressure to win cripples us from the ability to learn from our losses. In this mindset, we see losses as blows to our self-esteem that we cannot bring ourselves to acknowledge or look at without shame and thus, we cannot learn from our mistakes.

The yo-yo effect presents itself in the above moment. The illusion of ‘if my body looks like this constantly, then I’ll feel happy’ dooms me to feeling less worthy when my body doesn’t meet such impossible expectations. The strength represented in my body itself is an achievement and worthy of celebration, but the pressure to have my whole body look a certain way all the time means that movement is no longer fun. It becomes a means for some endless goal that I am somewhat ‘failing’ at. Instead of appreciating how my body looks and feels in its natural state just moving around, I learn to praise my body when it looks how I want it to look and on the flip side, shame my body when it looks a certain way, unconsciously believing that it helps my cause in learning to feel comfortable and good in my body. Give yourself permission to feel comfortable and good about your body regardless of the chattering judgement in your mind and trust yourself that you can sustain this feeling of good in your body by regularly moving it and nourishing it well.


magic in the mundane:

In that moment where I feel the discrepancy between liking what I saw and immediately disliking the image of my body in a different position, I remind myself that my body has a whole package of body images. It doesn’t just come with one image that you like, it comes with a whole range. Just like our emotions, we cannot appreciate the pleasantness of joy without understanding what the low feelings of sadness feels like. We cannot appreciate how our body looks like when we have exercised and built inner strength without understanding how our body looks like when we haven’t exercised it. Secondly, our bodies are not constructions, we are not Barbies that stay exactly the same. That body image that you liked in the mirror also comes with the body image that you didn’t like. And they belong to the same person, who has a constant sense of worth. So how can you be more worthy at one point and less worthy at another? Question yourself, who told you and who made it compulsory for you to feel worse about yourself based simply on not liking your body image in a single moment? Your word or vacillating opinions on your body is not God, so don’t let your self-worth depend on something so flimsy. The self-defeat that ensues is never worth it.

Focus on the feeling during the movement, the feeling of strengthening your muscles until you feel like your progressing based on strength and enjoyment of movement regardless of your body image. Learn to view the physical results of movement as a bonus, not the sole reason behind why you move.

💡 TIP: Move your body in ways that genuinely bring you joy and are 60% challenging.


fromtheheart mantras

  • Imagine self-hate and self-love as separate teams. I’m on the same team as my body - I can’t cheer for both teams and constantly switch between self hate and self love, otherwise there will be no progress.
    • The biggest deception is that criticism, self-hate will inspire improvement. Yes, it gives us the urgency to improve through fear, but that improvement is never long-lived → if we had to push ourselves and whip ourselves into doing something, we immediately crave respite often creating a cycle of extreme last-minute pressure to be disciplined and then an inevitable ‘cheat period’. In the simplest terms, if you criticise or harshly scold someone - they may be spurred to obey you but they will immediately crave comfort and familiarity - two elements that are most commonly found in soothing or numbing behaviours such as food, or screens (creating an addictive like relationship with these stimuli).

 

  • I exercise for health, fitness is a byproduct.
    • The second I exercise for fitness (or to achieve a certain body image) - my motivation wanes because physique is not constant. To expect our bodies to look the same 100% of the time everyday, every moment of the week is unrealistic. Physique will wax and wane - it’s like practising archery with the expectation that every shot will be a bullseye - get ready to feel really discouraged during that practise session. You are only able to hit bullseye through practising archery a lot, and while the outcome of each shot changes, the one thing that constantly increases is your skill in archery just like our strength when we exercise. When increasing your archery skill becomes the focus, hitting bullseye is like a mini boost - it’s something that is inevitable because of your practice but because it wasn’t the be-all end-all of your practise, you can actually appreciate it when it does occur. Likewise, exercising to improve health and quality of life will inevitably improve your fitness/physique, but since fitness isn’t the sole motivation of exercise - it can be something you appreciate rather than a factor you base your self-worth on.

 

  • Health is not a feeling. Health is developing trust with myself that I can embrace how I’m currently doing and am committed to continuing to apply and learn ways to improve my health and quality of life.
    • We often associate ‘health’ with ‘discipline’ - thinking that being ‘healthy’ requires a lot of effort and means self-flagellating ourselves for moments where we are ‘unhealthy’. But actually, health is a quiet commitment, it’s our natural state, it’s not achieved through self-criticism but rather through determination and patience. It requires acknowledging that unhealthy behaviours and foods are WAY more common and normalised in society (I talked about how mainstream food is designed to create a consumption culture in my last blog post in BODY) than healthy eating behaviours - don’t blame the flower for wilting, look at it’s environment.
    • When you believe that health is your norm, or your natural state - your actions will align with that - and it's not about lying to yourself, (trying to convince yourself your healthy) because that only affirms that unhealthiness is your natural state. It's about acknowledging that health is your baseline, and moments of misalignment/unhealthiness are required to remind yourself of where that baseline is.

Some extra eating mantras <3 - because this feels current

  • I don’t eat to finish, I eat to satisfy (my hunger).
    • Satisfaction of finishing food on a plate usually has an urgent feeling to it, like ticking something off a to-do list. Satisfying hunger is usually more drawn out and is not like crossing off a task but a deeper fulfilment of hunger.

 

  • When I don’t let my body pause, digest and breathe during eating, it will make me wait afterwards.
    • Ever had that ‘swallowing down a burp’ moment of gassiness after a meal. I realised that’s actually not normal and it happened whenever I forgot to pause and let my body digest during eating. When I don’t let it digest during eating, it will digest eventually but it does create a more clunky system afterwards, hence the gassiness.
    • The urgency to continue eating without pausing is another eating behaviour that is normalised from my experience. Whenever I paused, it would arouse attention and concern from others around me like ‘are you ALREADy full?’ ‘do you not like the food? are you struggling to finish it?’ - as if I was causing offence by stopping to let my body digest through a meal. I can attest to being that child that took ages to eat a meal - and this was actually the way I naturally ate before acclimating to how I thought I ‘should’ eat.

 

  • Eating as a way to de-stress, fill a void of anxiety always feels less satisfying than eating out of hunger.
    • When we do use food in this way, we are hungry - but not for food. We’re hungry for security, comfort, safety - something that food can physically represent. I’m still navigating my own eating behaviours but especially with starting university, I’ve noticed that the increase in stress and effort to adapt to a more academic lifestyle has brought challenges where I’m more susceptible to using food as a cheap fuel rather than eating out of actual hunger.
    • Cheap fuels mimic the satisfaction and dopamine that I crave, but since it's a mimic - there never seems to be enough. The only true satiation comes from doing the tasks that I delay or doing tasks where gratification is delayed - like waiting for half an hour for a 5 star farm to table dish at a restaurant compared to going to a fast food place and waiting 1 minute. 

 

from, the heart <3

 

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