We live in diet culture, which means we live in a society that tells us from a young age that we need to be thin to be valued, and that manipulating our eating and exercise is the way to achieve the worthiness and belonging we seek.
We’re bombarded with commercials, billboards, magazines, TV shows, books, and social media posts that say we need to shrink our bodies in order to be happy, successful, and loved.
We’re chastised by our medical providers and told we need to lose weight and eat more “perfectly” in order to be free from disease.
And some of us are bullied and shamed for our natural sizes and shapes, which reinforces the message that there’s something wrong with us.
So it’s no wonder that for so many people in our society, food and body image are tied up with self-worth.
But to become an intuitive eater, we need to break that connection—because it’s actively harmful to our relationship with food and our bodies, and to our health.
In fact, the more our worth is tied up with our weight, the more we’re at risk for disordered eating, and all the negative mental and physical health consequences that go along with it.
How do we start to discover our true sources of self-worth? Like mastering any new skill, it takes practice. And practice is exactly what we’re going to do in the journal exercises below.
Just like with self-compassion, this is a mindset shift. We have to recognize how our current beliefs are harming us, and start installing new beliefs to overwrite the damaging old ones.
That process definitely takes time, but know this: Despite what society has told us over and over again, our value doesn’t actually lie in how attractive we are to anyone.
Our TRUE value lies in nothing more than the fact that we are living, breathing human beings.
No matter what you eat or the size and shape of your body, you are always worthy of love and belonging. You *never* have to prove your worthiness or your value to society. You possess value just by existing in this world.
Journal Exercise 1
List out at least 5 ways in which your self-worth is tied up with food and body image.
Try to be specific about the ways without getting into so much detail that you trigger yourself. Just catalog the gist of each way, like “if I eat more than I think I should, I feel like a failure,” or “if someone makes a negative comment about my body, I typically jump right to feeling like they’re right and I’m unworthy.”
Journal Exercise 2
Reflect on how it feels to have your self-worth be tied to food and body image in these ways.
When you think of these beliefs, do you feel sad? Angry? Conflicted? Frustrated? Try to identify the particular mix of emotions that’s coming up for you right now.
What do you lose out on in your life by having these beliefs? What do you want for your life that you’re not getting because this self-worth stuff is standing in the way?
Journal Exercise 3
What would it feel like to change these thoughts? To stop tying your self-worth to your eating and body size?
Really try to imagine it, and feel the emotions and physical sensations that come up for you when you do, just as you did in yesterday’s exercise.
We can’t achieve what we can’t imagine, so coming up with a clear sense of how it would feel to change things is an important first step in changing them.
How would it feel…
- …to eat without worrying that it will affect your appearance?
- …to make food choices based on how you feel that day versus how you think the food will make you look?
- …not to let comments about food and exercise from others affect you?
- …to eat what you want without feeling guilty or ashamed?