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Fact: A whopping 80 percent of women are currently dissatisfied with their bodies. And 45 percent of us are dieting on any given day, says the National Eating Disorder Association.
So, you may be thinking: If I'm unhappy with my overweight body, I'll be more motivated to diet until I reach a size I like. God forbid that I like my body no matter its size -- then I'll never get healthy! Right?
A growing body of research presented this month at the International School for Obesity Research and Management shows that feeling bad about your body makes you more prone to disordered eating patterns -- which increases the odds that you'll stay or become obese. Engaging in "fat talk," believing negative weight stereotypes, and pressuring yourself to be "perfect" or "superwoman" all play a role in both disordered eating and obesity, according to a new evidence review. Which just makes sense. How often have you had one too many brownies at lunch and thought, "oh well, what's the point of eating a salad for dinner?" Or, "I'm not losing the weight anyway, so why bother?"
Feeling bad about your body is pretty much the biggest motivation killer ever. And yet, we experience fat-shaming all the time, in dressing rooms, on television, out of our own mouths and even from so-called weight loss experts who think "tough love" is the only way to go. We hear messages like "no pain, no gain" and set wildly unrealistic diet and exercise goals. Then we berate ourselves further when these efforts inevitably fail.
And so, I have to wonder: Would it really be the worst thing if we all decided to give our bodies a break? What would happen if we spent a month replacing every negative thought about our bodies with a positive one? And if we decided to eat well and move more because these healthful practices make us feel good? What if we stopped obessing over the number on the scale and focused on other measures of health -- like our energy levels, mood, and quality of sleep?
I think it could be awesome. Practicing a healthy habit because it makes you feel good sounds like a heck of a lot more fun -- and something we're a lot more likely to stick with in the long-term, increasing the odds that we reap some positive benefits (like weight loss!) from it.
The worst-case scenario I can come up with is that we'd just feel better about ourselves. Maybe we still wouldn't lose the weight, or we wouldn't lose as much as we think we "need to" but current obesity statistics show that we're not getting that done anyway. And there's plenty of controversy over how we define "obese" and whether it's really the best indicator of health anyway.
So what else do we have to lose?