How to Creatively & Assertively Deal with Bad Body Image Messages

No More Self-Hate!
No More Self-Hate!

I recently started a new workout regimen via DVD.  I love it.  It’s fun, challenging, and yet doable for me.  I make minor modifications but I’m able to do it—for people with disabilities, finding workouts that are doable can be difficult.  The only thing I don’t like about the DVDs is that the instructor says, “Perfection is possible.”  When I was in my early twenties, 90% of my motivation for exercising was vanity and 10% was health.  These days my number one motivation for exercising is managing stress and fighting depression.  As someone with Bipolar Disorder, exercising is one of many tools I use to proactively deal with stress, which can trigger mood swings.  I also exercise to build my immunity, which is critical for people with Autoimmune Diseases.  When I was 24, I was bedridden for over a year and stared at the ceiling 90% of the day.  That experience has made me grateful for exercise.

#1:  Be Creative

As I get up in the morning, which can sometimes take hours, I create my own motto for exercising, “Manage Stress.  Fight depression!”  This isn’t very catchy even if I say it in my most Kelly Kapowski, cheerleader-like voice.  We probably won’t see that slogan on a fitness DVD anytime soon.  Intellectually, we know that clothing catalogues are unrealistic and photo shopped.  Check out this recent blunder Target made by creating a HUGE thigh gap on the models.

from http://abcnews.go.com
from http://abcnews.go.com

Come on!  Even Barbie has more cellulite than that.  Even though we know that the average American woman is a size 12/14, we have to be vigilant and proactive in dealing with the insidious messages the media feeds us.  For every noble attempt at promoting a healthy body image (think of Dove’s Campaign for “real beauty”), there are far more detractors like the Target catalogue.  In addition to the tips I talked about in this post “4 Tips for Casting off Self-Hate and Loving Your Body More,” I would add this one:  Be creative.  When you see unhelpful messages, turn it around.

Dealing with Unconstructive Messages

If we buy clothes, we’re going to look at clothing catalogues.  Unless you stop watching TV and give up the Internet, you’re going to see advertisements.  The average person sees 200 ads a day!  What can you do combat unhelpful images?  Aside from creating my own slogan, when the instructor says, “Perfection is possible,” I think of people like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor who were also perfect even though they didn’t have six-pack abs.  I remind myself that “perfection” can mean different things to different people.

#2:  Be Assertive

The other day a male relative insulted my appearance.  I was shocked because in all the insults I have received because my weight has erratically changed on meds, he was never one of the people who insulted me.  He’s been on a diet recently and has been weighing himself incessantly.  Over the course of two days he asked me how much weight I lost lately.  I don’t weigh myself.  My philosophy is:  Try your best (eat right, exercise) and be happy.  If I knew how much I weighed, I wouldn’t dignify that question with an answer anyway.  Then he told me that he’s “lost more weight than anyone in the family.”  It all sounded so Mean Girls.  The last straw was when he told me I should wear Spanx.  If a woman wants to wear shape-wear, that’s her prerogative but I think it’s out of line to tell someone (who hasn’t asked for advice) to wear Spanx.  Finally, I said something like,

“Whatever issues you have with your own weight, do not project them on to me.”

I didn’t yell at him.  But I was assertive.  The insults instantly stopped.  I’ve previously blogged about how a family’s hang-ups are more influential in a woman developing body image issues and eating disorders than the media.  If you are confronted with people who insult you, remember that it’s more about them than you.  They most likely have their own insecurities.  And be assertive.  In addressing the insults, we don’t have to defend ourselves by explaining why our weight is what it is.

–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno

JessicaGimeno

Hi, I have five illnesses--bipolar disorder, myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular autoimmune disease), polycystic ovarian syndrome, asthma, and psoriasis. Most of the organs in my body are affected. I'm dedicated to being a stylist for sick women. As someone who has experienced changes in my appearance due to my 12 meds (including Prednisone), I know how hard it can be when your face and body change overnight. (In fact, because of treatment, between 2008 to 2010, I went from a size 0 to a size 10. While I lost the weight, there are permanent changes in my face and body, which I've grown to appreciate.) My blog will also help women deal with other issues like surviving chronic pain and fatigue. Healthy people can also use this blog as a window into what life with illness is like. Let this website be a place where we can draw strength from each other despite our illnesses and find solutions to our everyday challenges!

2 thoughts on “How to Creatively & Assertively Deal with Bad Body Image Messages

  • March 13, 2014 at 10:18 pm
    Permalink

    “Whatever issues you have with your own weight, do not project them on to me.” I love this one Jessica.
    Your male relative’s recommendation for you to wear Spanx made me angry…how could a man be that vain.

    Reply
    • March 13, 2014 at 11:28 pm
      Permalink

      Fely, thanks for the feedback and thank you for sharing this article. I’m glad you love the article. We’ll probably never run out of things to talk about when it comes to body image.

      Reply

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