The Truth About Before and After Weight Loss Pictures

The Truth About Before and After Weight Loss Pictures

Feeling inadequate after seeing someone’s before and after weight loss picture? We’ve all seen how photoshop, different poses and clothes can distort things, but the problem with these pictures goes deeper than that. The truth about before and after weight loss pictures is that they’re a fleeting moment in time, and never communicate the whole story.

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How to Survive a Diet Obsessed World

How to Survive a Diet Obsessed World

Living a life free of dieting is liberating, but you're still surrounded by diet culture. This can cause a strain to your relationships, and your own sanity as you try to maintain a healthy relationship with food. Learn two of my favorite tips for how to survive a diet obsessed world without losing your mind!

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Five Exercises to Promote Body Confidence

Five Exercises to Promote Body Confidence

Every day we're exposed to dozens of messages telling us we're more valuable if we're in a smaller body. Of course, this isn't true, but it means that it takes active work to build body image. Read this post to learn five exercises to boost body confidence, because you can't take good care of something you hate. 

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What If I Can't Love My Body? Exploring Body Respect, Acceptance, Trust, and Love

What If I Can't Love My Body? Exploring Body Respect, Acceptance, Trust, and Love

Sometimes social media body positivity makes it seem like you have to LOVE the appearance of your body to be doing it right. But what if you can't love your body? Thankfully, body positivity doesn't require you to take daily bikini selfies to participate. Learn about body respect, body trust, body acceptance and body love. 

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Wellness Wednesday: The Thin Myth

Do you subscribe to the Thin Myth? The idea that life will be better after you lose weight? Todays post is a reminder that fantasy isn't always reality.

This American Life is one of my favorite podcasts, so when I learned their recent episode was about rethinking fat, I had to listen immediately. Other than a twinkie joke that was in very poor taste, I thought it was really well done. They included interviews with two authors who discussed their experience being fat, as well as a piece on a weight loss program at a Christian college which basically could have been called pray the fat away.

Sandwiched in the middle was a piece featuring Elna Baker, a writer and stand up comedian who shared her story of losing over 100 lbs. I don't want to give too much away, but I could share every detail and it wouldn't be anywhere near as heartbreaking as hearing it come from her own mouth. You can listen it here or read the jist of it here.

Her story starts as many weight loss stories do. She grew up in a larger body, and although she had been pretty content with life, she hit a place right out of college where she was struggling to find a job in the TV industry and realized that despite having lots of male friends, she had never been in a serious relationship. She saw her thinner friends get boyfriends and jobs and all the things she wanted and wondered, "is it because I'm fat?"

So, she went on a diet.

In a short period of time, she lost a lot of weight. Soon after, she got some of those things she wanted, including an intro level job at a TV show and dates with cute guys. But it wasn't all happy. Despite getting these things she wanted so deeply, she was so heartbroken and disillusioned after realizing she had been treated differently because of her size all her life.

The part that made me cry (while running outside no got weird), was when she realized that although she got so many of the things she wanted, she actually felt less secure in her body. Part of it was the extra skin for which she had four excruciating surgeries to remove. She notes "I still look like a flying squirrel when I raise my arms." But the biggest source of her discomfort was the fact that she still felt like "old Elna" was the "real Elna." At one point she says she would feel more comfortable wearing a fat suit. Based off a few conversations with clients and friends, I think this is a common feeling among those who have lost a significant amount of weight. I imagine it's similar to the feeling of being a lottery winner or becoming famous. Suddenly, you have this thing that other people want. People like you and want to be around you, but is it genuine? Do they like the real you?

In the end, she wonders if she would have been happier had she never lost the weight.

"I was happy when I was overweight. I had no idea I should feel sad. I was free before. I had trained myself not to care what other people thought, and I had done a good job of it."

She had recently read Lindy West's book, Shrill. Lindy was the fat acceptance activist who opened the show. In reading her book, she realized Lindy got all the things she had wanted - an attractive husband, a highly desirable job, a book deal. She got these things after choosing to accept her body as it is, not dieting.

Essentially, every day since I became a dietitian (and many days before), I have talked to someone who wants to lose weight. Some want to lose pretty minuscule amounts. Others have more significant goals. Some say health is their motivator, others say aesthetics.

Everyone who wants to lose weight has some dream of what life will be like in their new, smaller body. Some have pretty intricate fantasies, while others are tied to the loose notion that life with just somehow be better. In reality, as someone who has been 10 pounds heavier and 10 pounds lighter than I am now, I can tell you 10 pounds doesn't change a damn thing. Having never been in a heavier body, I hesitate to comment on that. From what I know from the experiences of others, while some aspects of life may improve, it often brings a new set of issues to light. Elna's story is the perfect example. 

The thin myth is dangerous because it's why so many people get wrapped up in weight loss goals to the point where they do dangerous things to achieve it. It's why health takes a back seat to a number on the scale. Not only that but daydreaming about this thin fantasy life is a complete and total distraction from present day life, which is probably quite nice if you're actually living it, undistracted by dreams of a thinner life. When you can see weight loss for what it is, just living in a smaller body with all the good and bad of your present day life, you'll stop wasting so much time fantasizing and actually start living.

One thing that's always life changing for the better? Choosing self acceptance and making lifestyle changes that honor your health.In my practice, we put weight loss to the side and focus on nourishment, health and making peace with food. 

Are you stuck believing in the thin myth? Ask yourself what specifically do you think you'll gain by losing weight? Get as detailed as possible. Now, fact check. Are these really things you have to lose weight to achieve, or could you start to pursue them now? Be honest with yourself. What would you lose or compromise or lose by going on a diet? Is it worth it?

When you critically think about the thin myth you've been telling yourself, weight loss starts to lose it's aura of importance. Deprioritizing weight loss isn't the same thing as giving up, it's simply giving yourself the space to discover a genuinely happier and healthier life, not one in which health and happiness relies on an arbitrary number on the scale.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! 

Wellness Wednesday: Low Body Confidence Is Contagious

Women especially tend to talk about their bodies in a derogatory manner. It may seem harmless, but low body confidence is contagious, so choose your words carefully. 

Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, because it was only last week when I discovered The Amy Schumer Show. A friend posted the skit “Last F***able Day” on Facebook, and because I love everything that comes out of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I decided to watch. No joke, I actually cried from laughing so hard. When I found three seasons were available for free streaming on Amazon, I knew a proper binge was in order. That was this weekend. I’m now halfway through season two.

I appreciate the hilarity with which she points out everyday sexism that exists within our society (12 Angry Men!!). But my favorite skits happen when she points a magnifying glass inward and examines how women talk to each other. There the skit “Compliments,” where no one can accept a compliment from each other without a self deprecating remark (“Look at your cute little dress!” “Little? I’m, like, a size 100 now.”). Then there’s “I’m So Bad,” where a group of women at lunch recount times they were “so bad” for overeating, all while doing actual, morally reprehensible things (“Last week when I was cyberbullying my niece of instagram, I ate, like, 15 mini-muffins. I’m SO bad.”).

It got me thinking about the difference between how men and women usually discuss their appearance, especially weight. I know men aren’t immune to body image pressures, but in general, I think they can talk about their body in a way that isn’t so loaded. When I was out last weekend, I found myself at a table with five of my male friends as they debated if they had “dadbod” or were simply “fat, skinny or in shape.” It sounds horrible, and as someone who spends so much time focusing on body confidence, part of me wanted to speak up and say something...but it was actually kind of a hilarious. And there was no sense of shame or inadequacy behind their statements, just five guys, very neutrally discussing their bodies.

Thinking about that conversation and the Amy Shumer skits, I realized something. How we talk about our body is contagious. In a sense, low body confidence is an infectious disease. We may think of our self depreciating remarks as harmless, but the message behind them often has a hidden effect on people around us.

Perfect example: A client of mine who works in the health and fitness industry described to me how clients discussing their size affected her body image. They say things like "Ugh, my ______ is so fat!" And she'd think "Well, I didn't even know that was a thing that could be fat! But now that you say it, I think I have a fat _____."

I consider myself pretty comfortable in my skin, but even I'm not immune to it. I recently had to block an old acquaintance on Facebook because her posts were making me feel like crap. She sells nutrition supplements, and besides getting annoyed by the constant sales pitches masked by status updates, the constant chatter of getting "beach bikini ready" kept making me wonder if there was anything else I should be doing besides throwing on a bikini and going to the beach. Especially when paired with before and after pictures (ugh, don't get me started on those...)

Although I try to watch my words, especially with the blog, I can be just as guilty. This weekend someone complimented my curly hair, and instead of saying thank you, I launched into a diatribe about curly hair and South Carolina humidity. I say things like "I wish I had your sense of style. My clothes are so bleh!" instead of "You have amazing style. I love how it reflects your personality!" I complain about my skin, my nose, my propensity for under-eye circles. One of my friends who is curvier than me recently compared her body to mine, and I responded with, "Do you really want my flat chest?" Does a statement like that do anything to boost confidence?

I say this to everyone, but to women especially, be careful with your words. What you say can have unintended consequences. You don't have to be 100% confident in yourself to be a good example of positive body image. I think "fake it till you make it" applies here! Just like low body confidence is contagious, so is positive body image. Graciously accept compliments, and compliment others on merits other than their appearance. Stop publicly labeling food as good and bad. You can be patient zero in an epidemic of body confidence!