We’re more than just the activewear we create. We’re passionate about bringing our community the education & awareness they need to be their most confident, empowered selves. That’s why we teamed up with the best experts & influencers for Health for Her - an entire week dedicated to highlighting all things women’s wellness and answering your women's health questions - so that everyone in our community can learn together, understand one another and create more awareness and less stigma around women's health.
We teamed up with general psychologist Stacey Linton to talk about dealing with diet culture & body image, and how to work towards body positivity to empower our community to be more kind and nurturing towards themselves and their beautifully unique bodies. When Stacey talks about body image, she speaks from a place of personal experience, having overcome disordered eating herself in her teens.
STACEY LINTON: MY EXPERIENCE WITH BODY IMAGE
‘I think there’s very few people who haven’t been affected by body image or that pressure to look a certain way. My own history with body image is unfortunately not an uncommon one. My issues began in early adolescence, and by my late teens and well into my 20s, I’d developed an unhealthy relationship with food and my body. I was stuck in patterns of disordered eating, and I was extremely uneducated about the damage I was doing to myself both physically and mentally. I’d fallen victim to that messaging portrayed by mainstream media. I believed to my very core that skinny equaled healthy.
It took many years, multiple degrees in psychology and extra training in eating disorder treatment to unlearn these beliefs, and see this messaging for what it really is - an attempt to control the population, in particular women, because diet culture is a multi-billion dollar industry. Imagine how much money they’d lose if we all started loving ourselves and our bodies. Diets would stop selling subscriptions, weight loss supplements would go out of business, apps which only exist to alter our physical appearance would all become obsolete.’
BODY IMAGE: DEFINED
Stacey tells us that your body image is formed by the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs you have about your body. When she thinks of body image, she immediately associates it with concepts of self-worth, self-esteem and self-acceptance, because we’re all taught from a young age (especially young women) that how your body looks is connected to how you should feel about yourself as a person, and will determine your social standing in the world. We know that poor body image is associated with symptoms of anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health conditions, but how do we achieve a healthy body image when we’ve only ever been taught how to judge, critique and compare ourselves?
POSITIVITY FOR THE LONG TERM, NEUTRALITY FOR THE NOW
Body positivity refers to the assertion that all people deserve to feel positively about the body they’re in, regardless of how society and culture views the ideal shape, size and appearance. However Stacey prefers the term body neutrality, as she believes it’s a more realistic goal to begin with - learning to feel neutral about your body, as opposed to either hating it or loving it. Feeling positively about your body is a journey that takes time, a lot of education, self-reflection and can be very challenging. Aiming for self-love too soon can almost feel like an impossible task at times. However the ultimate goal is always challenging social views of the body, promoting acceptance and addressing unrealistic body standards which are forced upon us.
Imagine if all of the time and energy you have dedicated to hating your body over your lifetime, was redirected into creating a more accepting and compassionate relationship with your body from today onwards. How different would you feel about yourself? How would it change your life?
STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH BODY IMAGE
The first thing to remember is that you’re not alone in your struggles. Reaching out for support when it’s needed, whether it’s from friends, family members or professionals, is an act of strength and bravery. Stacey views seeking support as a true act of defiance against the diet culture we’ve been oppressed by for so long. There’s plenty of tips and strategies Stacey suggests, some of which will fit for you and some which won’t. Here are some insights on how to heal your relationship with your body and learn how to be more accepting of yourself. Please note that these strategies are not a replacement for seeking professional support.
Do a cleanse: We’re not talking about food, we’re talking about your social media feeds! The images and messaging we allow ourselves to be exposed to can either be healing, or harmful. If you’re following fatphobic accounts, you’ll continue to reinforce fatphobic beliefs. Unfollow any account that doesn't make you feel good about yourself, or any account that perpetuates disordered behaviours.
Ditch the diet talk: If diets worked, we wouldn’t have to start a new one every Monday, and we wouldn’t have hundreds of different ones to choose from. If you find yourself talking about your food more than you’re actually eating it, then this is a sign that you’re too preoccupied with diet culture.
Change your language: Focus on shifting the language you use when describing food, and removing the moral associations attached to it. For example, calling a certain food bad, or naughty, or cheating automatically brings on emotions such as guilt, shame or regret. This ultimately creates a cycle of punishment, restriction, deprivation, and defiance (overeating the off limits food). The only bad food is the kind that is way past its use by date and will make you sick, food you are intolerant to, or simply food you don’t like the taste of.
Move for joy, not punishment: Set goals which are not aimed at an aesthetic reward or for punishing yourself for how much you ate, or strictly aimed at losing weight. Aim for physical achievements instead. For example, instead of aiming to fit into a certain size of clothing, aim to be able to do a certain amount of push-ups, or to run for one minute straight, or to lift a certain weight. Better yet, think outside of the box and find something fun to move your body to, whether that’s dance classes, pole dancing or pilates.
Our body’s job: It’s not the job of your body to look, it’s your body’s job to keep you alive and support you to function within your daily life. Provide your body with what it needs to do this vital work. Drink enough water, eat food with nutrients to support immunity, sleep and rest when needed and move your body for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.
Ask yourself this question: Your body hears everything you say to it, so speak kindly. When you find yourself saying negative things about your body, ask yourself the following question - would I ever say this to my best friend about their body? If the answer is no, then try this one - what would I say to my friend if they were speaking to themselves like this right now?
To weigh or not to weigh: Isn’t that always the question. Unless you’re being advised by a mental health professional to do so, it can be super beneficial to throw out that scale! Until they create a scale that measures how many people you helped smile that day, how energetic you feel or how many non-weight related wins you’ve had that week, it can be best to bin it.
Positive affirmations: With the hyperfocus on our appearance (exacerbated by our entire lives shifting to digital platforms), we’ve never been so up close and personal with our reflections. Add some positive affirmation post-it notes to your mirror. Comments like I am beautiful or I am grateful for my arms because they let me hug the people I love can be very powerful to see every single day.
Seek support: Professional support is always available. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor, or visit The Butterfly Foundation website for further information.
WHAT CAN THE FITNESS INDUSTRY DO?
We finished off by asking Stacey what the health and fitness industry can do to support body positivity. We know we’re not perfect and there’s plenty of work to do, but we’re continually trying to hold ourselves accountable and become a leader in the body positivity and diversity space, especially within the lifting community. Stacey feels young people are heavily influenced by what they see on social media - if they find themselves lost in a sea of one dimensional images that only represent one body type, one cultural background and one gender identity, it completely misrepresents the beautiful diversity in our world. Brands like Ryderwear can support positive change by increasing representation, stocking more sizes in apparel ranges and by holding themselves accountable internally. We know it’s only a small step, but check out our recent #LoveYourselfNKD campaign, which we created to champion radical self-love and encourage our community to feel confident in their own skin.
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