Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

war on “I hate my body”

I have a group of friends on Facebook who are struggling with an eating disorder.  These individuals range from just starting to consider recovery as an option to fully recovered.  So, I’m used to seeing the “I hate my body!!!!!!!!” status update–number of exclamation points varies ;-).

But I’m seeing this phrase and similar phrases in a whole bunch of people that have never struggled with an eating disorder.  In a way, seeing this comment from someone who does not have an eating disorder concerns me more. Quite often, this isn’t expressed is such blatant terms–but there are the individuals who post seven status updates a day about how much exercise they’ve done, the status updates about what the individual chose not to eat, the status updates celebrating weight loss, the status updates expressing disappointment in not losing “enough” . . . . and I could go on.

What worries me even more is that this is now acceptable in our society.  Gyms encourage this type of thinking with classes like Body War and Body Combat, instilling the idea that your body is something that you have to fight against rather than fight for.

What this creates is an atmosphere of discontentment, dissatisfaction, and downright hatred for one’s body.  And, perhaps if we all existed in little bubbles, this wouldn’t be such a problem.  But we don’t.  We live in a community.  And the more people read updates about body hate and the more people overhear conversations where the people are talking about how much they exercised and the more people talk about what they aren’t allowing themselves to eat, the more this will become the norm.  And again, perhaps if this only affected adults who can think for themselves and make their own decisions based on experience, logic, and outside resources, this would be “okay.”

But what about our youth?  I was walking in the mall the other day and heard (what looked to be) two junior high aged girls talking while shopping for clothes.  “God, I just hate my legs.  I really need to exercise more.”  Junior high and they are already fully fluent in the body hate lingo.  There is  no escaping this language.

What can we do to help this situation?  What can we do to provide a counter for those junior high girls so they can learn that they do not have to grow up hating their bodies?  What are simple, yet effective, strategies to encourage others?

I’d like to hear some suggestions and will then follow up with another post.


August 26, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. I will agree that there are many cues in society that promote the “I hate ________” and “I hate _______” thoughts. So it’s not necessarily this that I wish to comment on. It is, instead, something a bit more tangential.

    My gym has a class called Body Combat. It’s one of many classes that are called “Body _______” and that are through Les Mills, the exercise group that licenses fitness classes my gym uses. I take Combat. I started it in May, just to try it, because I’d heard it was tough, intense, and a good workout, and after the first time I took Combat, I was insecure, in tears, and I had a very negative thought in my head–not one of “I need to combat my body,” but one of “am I really freaking tough enough to do this? I’m not a fighter (at least not in a physical sense). Maybe I should turn to other things instead.”

    Over time, though, something changed. There is an aspect of my confidence–something lock-in-key related to the parts of my confidence that have come alive through my spin classes and through running (and even through Body Flow, the Les Mills-named yoga-based class that my gym offers and that I take two or three times per week), but decidedly its own beast–that came alive the more I have taken Combat classes. For me, and I think for many of the people I regularly take these classes with (many of them women who are also in my running group), it’s not about combatting our body and putting ourselves at war, pitted squarely against our bodies, like your post suggests (even, again, in its most tangential terms). It’s been about combatting my insecurities. It’s been about combatting the voice in my head that says “I can’t…” and “What right do I have…” It’s been about combatting the ways that stress, anxiety, and any of the fifty bazillion things that go wrong in a day or in a week used to, once upon a time, stop me square in my tracks and open a doorway for fear and uncertainty to rush in, cover me like a blanket, limit my sense of who I think I am and what I think I can do, and tighten the hold on me until it becomes like a straight-jacket. I’m not the most confident person by any means, and there are so many uncertainties and openings for fear in my space (and as someone who deals with depression and anxiety there will *always* be openings for fear, anxiety, and a sense of inconsequence in my space), but I also know that what *I* have gained from Body Combat (and running, and spinning, as well as Body Flow, the occasional Body Pump, the very very occasional Body Jam and Body Attack–which are names for Les Mills classes, nothing more…) have actually been amongst the most positive, consistent, dependable, confidence-building experiences for me when it comes to equipping myself with tools, coping mechanisms, and mental scripts when the not-so-nice voices start screaming or when something happens that’s beyond my control (whether it be because of another person or just circumstance or some sort of event) that would otherwise stop me.

    It’s been about using the body I do have *in that very moment*–the parts of it I might be especially proud of, the parts of it that I could choose to see as imperfect–as a tool that I use optimally, strongly, in-the-face-of-fear-ly, unjudgementally–to combat all of the negativity and potential for negativity that may fill my space.

    Throughout that, my instructors give my classes messages of our own strength, our own beauty, our own power, our own toughness. Class after class, and as time progresses, the instructors help correct our form, encourage, challenge, and motivate the class to work with our bodies and their needs (whether it’s modifying a move to accommodate injured knees, or figuring how to more safely and squarely set up a roundhouse kick in a really full classroom, or something else that pops up from one session to the next…). I have had instructors pull me aside and make me promise them that, with my knees being as screwy as they are right now, I will complete certain moves with modifications instead of “the normal way” as the choreography might indicate. So have many of my classmates, acquaintances, and friends as different things pop up for them.

    You might think that I am reading into a title to serve my needs, but I want to challenge you to consider whether you are reading into a class name or title to suit the agenda you have in this blog post. Names of things are what they are for reasons that are beyond our understanding and speculation. While some people may interpret the name of a class in a way similar to the message of this post–combat our bodies; go to war against our bodies; promote an aggressive attitude towards how we look and feel–and while you’re right in that no one lives in a bubble–a surface-level read into the name of a class shouldn’t be empowered as having the ability to “instill the idea that your body is something you have to fight against rather than fight for.” People interpret and assign. Names of licensed products–a class, a tech toy, a kind of headband, a car, whatever–are what they are. Granted, there are whole realms of branding and marketing that seek to promote an image that might help consumers interpret and assign ideas to certain names and notions, but it is ultimately the consumer who interprets and assigns meaning.

    Again–as I opened my message–I know this is largely tangential to the spirit of your blog post, and as your blog space it’s your space to promote your agenda, and convey your ideas and messages to your real-world readers and target audience(s)–but *this* inclusion of gym class names is something I wanted to comment on and have wanted to comment on for a while, since you first posted it.

    I hope your semester is going well,

    Comment by SK | November 5, 2011 | Reply

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