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Harriet Morris – eating psychology & body confidence coach
07 78 62 855 92 * Skype: theshiftinside
The A to Z of Better Body Image:
26 Ways to Look Great & Feel More Confident
A is for Airbrushed Perfectionism
We live in an age where you can digitally perfect any image. The media has become so heavily visual, and people are so addicted to their iPads and smartphones, that it has become the accepted norm to compare our bodies to this digital perfection. And to find fault.
This is airbrushed perfectionism.
Airbrushed perfectionism says that if you don’t look like a supermodel, you are ugly. Oh yes, and by the way, ugly equals worthless. No six pack = no self-control. Zero self-worth.
Considering that the supermodels themselves get airbrushed – even THEY are not up to this toxic ideal – what hope is there for the rest of us to attain self-worth through our appearance?
This is why the very concept of body image is unhelpful. Images are the bread and butter of airbrushed perfectionism. They are are a tool to shove perfectionism down our throats with the silent undertone of you’re worthless if you don’t look like this.
Body confidence, on the other hand, is something that everyone can develop. Just as you don’t need to be 100% confident to have a successful job interview (you just need to be confident enough), neither do you need to love every inch of your body every day of the week to be able to relax into not only your body, but your life.
My weight still fluctuates a bit, I still have times I can’t fit into my tightest jeans, and just like you, I can feel sluggish and heavy.
When I notice these things, they are not guilty verdicts decreed by my sense of self, or cast-iron proof of my worthlessness as a human being.
I treat them as signs. To stop skipping my daily walk. To eat more consciously. To cook better. To look after myself.
This is the skill I have taught myself which has allowed me to achieve the life-changing results I mentioned in the introduction. I call it unhooking yourself from airbrushed perfectionism.
In this book I will tell you some of the thought patterns I changed, and practical strategies I and my clients have used to detach from this toxic idealism; realistic ways you can start this process yourself. You’ll look better, feel better, and get your life back.
Remember that – your life? The one you are currently giving away to your Sabotage Self (more about her in a bit).
Don’t you want it back?
C is for Critical Bitch FM
Critical Bitch FM is the radio station playing in your head.
It is a radio station that has more powerful marketing tactics than Facebook, Google and Amazon put together.
With Critical Bitch FM, once you are tuned in, there’s no escape. It plays 24/7 in your head. Everyone else you know also has their mindset permanently tuned into Critical’s transmission.
What does this radio station sound like?
Well, if it had a show list, this is what it would be:
The flagship show of Critical Bitch FM. Never Enough provides you, the lucky listener, with all the inner put downs you’ll ever need to stop yourself upping your game in life.
The most popular ones are:
* You can’t get away with those jeans anymore. Go and change.
* No, your bum doesn’t look big in that. More like humungous. Gigantic. You better throw in the towel and just change your name to Enormica right now.
* He will NEVER fancy you until you lose (insert any amount of weight here; the number is irrelevant). Yes, I know millions of men routinely fall in love with women who do not look like supermodels, but that could never happen to you. You’re different. Unlike them, you can never be enough to be loved with all your flaws.
(Logic, like my ability to speak, fails me here. Those millions of women in relationships are also listening to Critical Bitch FM 24/7)
* Don’t even think about buying that red dress. Anything except black makes you look like a beached whale. OK, the truth is you look like a beached whale anyway, but black hides it best. What gives you the right to think you can stand out from the crowd?
*Because You’re NOT Worth It*
Fake personal development chat show based on the premise that you need to buy beauty products in order to achieve self-esteem. A thin veneer of fluffy and saccharine-sweet advice is plastered over the underlying message: you are worthless if you don’t own the recommended hair, makeup, and skin care products.
*The Easy Excuses Show*
A bit of light relief, The Easy Excuses Show offers mental escape plans for those times when you really, really want that chocolate bar, or the prospect of going to the gym feels like climbing Everest. For example:
* Oh, sod it. The diet starts tomorrow.
* I’ve had a tough day and I deserve a treat.
* Go on, it’s only polite.
This show is sponsored by various manufacturers of high fat/high sugar foods. While the excuses given appear to offer a temporary escape from the torture of shows like Never Enough, The Easy Excuses Show works hand in hand with the rest of the radio station to fulfil its mission of disempowering women everywhere; keeping their lives small by persuading them they are too big.
What can we do when such toxic nonsense is playing night and day in every woman’s head (it’s also got a rapidly growing male listenership)?
Turn off that radio station.
You do this by, first of all, acknowledging it’s playing, that it’s not just The Truth that you must bow down and silently accept.
S is for Sabotage You
Sabotage You is a powerful concept which, while it may seem a bit depressing at first, is actually incredibly empowering.
The self-loathing that comes as part and parcel of low body confidence often carries a hidden (or not-so-hidden) assumption: I am a terrible person, lacking self-discipline and willpower. I just can’t want it enough.
This idea that you are some one-dimensional personality out to ruin your own life is the first thing that must change if you want to change. It also makes no sense. If you are out to ruin your own life, then surely that’s two opposing energies in your mind?
How about this concept instead:
You are a collection of different energies.
I find it helps to think of these energies as people. You already know on an intuitive level that sometimes you can be a really good person (the one who gives up your seat to an old lady even when your feet are killing you). And sometimes you can be a bit sneaky (who hasn’t queue jumped at the supermarket before?)
In the example above, we can see how the idea of these energies is helpful because we can start to consciously choose which person we want to be at any given moment. This is not always simple – all I’m trying to do is to show you that it can be done.
Sabotage You is one such energy in your mind. She is the part of you that looks at your reflection in the mirror and wants to throw the towel in via a quick calorie-filled trip to the fridge. The one who tells you you’ll always be fat but insists on keeping up the diet club subscription.
She is also the founder and director of Critical Bitch FM.
I bet you can’t stand her, can you?
But there’s something I think you should know about her.
Sabotage You is not your enemy. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, she is actually trying to do the best she can for you. She’s just got it badly wrong. Think of her as the overly-strict parents who forbid their daughter to go travelling. She craves adventure, but all they see is danger.
I see so many books on eating issues that want to help you overcome the issue. Squash it. Evict it from your life. Cleanse yourself of any apparent defects.
The truth is that the real power to change your life lies not in overcoming these problems, but in understanding them. This allows you to dismantle them far more powerfully than you would by making them the enemy.
The way I did this was to get to know my sabotage self, and acknowledge her. Then, armed with my insider info on the reasons I was diminishing myself, it was far easier to overrule her.
Imagine the girl who holds her head high and says, “Mum, Dad – I know you are just trying to look after me by trying to forbid me to go travelling. But here’s the thing: I’m 18. I love you, but I need to live my life. I’m off – bye for now.”
How much more powerful and happy is she than the girl who rants and raves at her parents then runs away in the middle of the night, only to return a few hours later, because she lacked the confidence to get on the plane.
The secret is to tap into ALL the energies running your mind and redeploy them.
Most relevant for dismantling the hold Sabotage You has over your life is Rebel You – a massively underrated force for change.
At the moment Rebel You is probably Sabotage You’s sidekick. You start the diet on Monday. By Thursday, Sabotage You has orchestrated your first binge. But she’s far too clever to do her own dirty work. Instead, it is Rebel You who provides the energy to mess up your best laid plans. “Sod it!” you sigh as you throw the towel in.
One of my clients came to me as a diet club refugee. She told me how, for every member of her club, Wednesday was curry night – the post-weigh in ritual.
You can see how everyone’s sabotage self created a perfect storm of hunger, boredom and struggle. Once they’d proved what good slimmers they were, their Rebel Selves stepped in to reclaim their right to enjoy food.
For a couple of hours.
However, they couldn’t really enjoy their food because enjoyment was mixed with rebellion.
There is massive untapped power in Rebel You. Just as reformed thieves make the best security advisors, and recovering alcoholics can become truly inspirational role models for those who are still drinking a bottle of vodka a day, you too can access this energy within to give you the courage needed to transform your food rebellion into fuel for deep, lasting change.
I will have food rebellion in my psychological DNA all my life – but I manage it well nowadays. I am in successful recovery.
Part of my journey from body hatred to body confidence has been redeploying Rebel Harriet. Turning her against my Sabotage Self. I talk about both Sabotage You and Rebel You more in my book Shapeshifting Inside and Out: Release Your Unwanted Weight and Reclaim Your Life, but for now I just want you to open yourself to the idea that you can redeploy psychological energies within yourself to serve and empower you.
V is for Vision Board with a Difference
You may have come across vision boards in relation to goal setting. You know the ones: create a collage of all the things you want to achieve.
A body confidence vision board is subtly different; it has a very specific purpose: priming.
Vision boards are used in goal setting to bring the desired end result alive in the mind of the person setting that target, to keep them motivated. You’ve probably seen images of thin women stuck onto fridges, crappy diet fridge magnets and so forth.
And they never work.
They fail so spectacularly because:
(a) It is propaganda, courtesy of the airbrush police.
(b) They leapfrog a vital first step, which is priming.
Priming is a psychological concept that allows you to recondition your brain. The starting point is the understanding that we are subtly influenced by, not just other people around us, but by the physical environment and images we see and experience every day.
Change these images and you start to recondition your mind and have a different, more empowering idea of beauty. This is not just earnest new age talk. I’ve done it myself, as I explain below.
If you want more body confidence, you absolutely must recondition your mind to see a wider range of body types as beautiful. Imagine if all supermodels had a BMI of between 25 and 30. That would increase most women’s body confidence by about 150%.
This would be a great example of priming.
Things are changing, and the days of size zeroism are numbered, but we need to consciously recondition our minds ourselves.
Enter the body confidence vision board.
I got the idea for it over a year ago, when I picked up an article about the Australian and very curvy supermodel Robyn Lawley (see M for more on her). I remember thinking What a positive role model.
Except a rogue thought kept infiltrating my worthy ruminations:
OMG her thighs are HUGE
I realised this wasn’t the most helpful thing to think. Robyn herself, with not only a stunningly beautiful face but masses of confidence and a nice big bank balance to boot, clearly does not give a toss about this.
It occurred to me that being worthy and politically correct would never change my mind about what I perceived as her physical flaws.
Then I had an idea.
I put up all the pictures from the article in my office, so they sat just at the periphery of my vision. Due to the high frequency of staring-out-of-the-window time we writers need (honest!), the images were positioned so that I would be glancing at them multiple times every day.
And over the next few months, Robyn’s thighs changed. They stopped being OMG huge. They became neutral, bigger than the images that were being fed to me by the airbrush police – but at some point I said to myself: So What?’
Your Vision Board
I took this a step further and created a vision board of images of women with beautiful bodies that do not fit airbrushed perfectionism. I have made a video about my board at www.theshiftinside.com/vision/
Now, go and create your own board. Spend an evening finding images and have some real fun. You can even enjoy the OMG her thighs are huge discomfort if you need to. Treat it as an experiment in seeing how long it takes for you to become neutral about certain aspects of these images that may be super challenging right now.
For about a trillion brownie points, I have an advanced step that you may choose to take. Print a picture of yourself dressed up from your homework (see B) and include that. You are now up there with your favourite curvy supermodels. Look at the tribe you’ve just joined!
Read the whole book here