When the mirror makes you sad

Posted on 13-04-2020 , by: Nancy Clark , in , , , 4 Comments

As I write this blog, the date is April 12th, 2020, more than three weeks into the coronavirus shut-down here in Boston. I continue to counsel clients from my virtual office. I am talking with people who are stuck at home and are spending too much time staring at themselves in yet-another Zoom meeting. They are feeling fat and depressed.
If “I feel fat” is a standard part of your self-talk, please, just stop the body-hatred talk. Few humans have a perfect body. Yet, if you compare yourself to others, you will end up feeling not only imperfect but also desperate to remodel yourself. (To compare is to despair, correct?)
When you repeatedly tell yourself “I feel fat,” please remember that is not a feeling. You don’t feel blue eyes or brown hair; you also don’t feel fat. What you are actually feeling is imperfect (or less perfect), inadequate (or  less adequate), and/or out of control.
Instead of being self-critical, be grateful that you are healthy. Grateful that you have two strong legs that help you be a good runner. Grateful that you have two hands that help you row crew. Grateful that you have a body that produced healthy babies that are now your beloved children. You could even apologize to your body for having tortured it with skimpy diets and excessive exercise in your efforts to control how it looks.
Rather than focus on how your body looks, please turn your attention to how your body feels throughout the day, particularly before, during and after you exercise. Does your body feel hungry? tired? sore? Respond appropriately to that feeling by nourishing it with food, rest, a warm bath. Daily killer workouts that feel like punishment for having excess body fat inevitably end up with the athlete being injured and depressed.
Now is a good time to practice looking in the mirror (or the Zoom screen) and saying nice things about your body, such as, “I have pretty blue eyes.” “I like my silky hair.” “I have strong legs.” You can intentionally pay less attention to the crooked teeth, abundant freckles, and “too big” tummy. Do you really think others care about that stuff?
For help with finding peace with food, there are many websites that offer “body positivity” information. Here are three body-positive dietitians whom I recommend: Julie Duffy Dillon, Jessi Haggerty, and Rebecca Scritchfield. They each have blogs and podcasts that could help you survive this coronavirus lockdown with a bit more sanity. My Sports Nutrition Guidebook also offers body image help.
Now, during this shut-down, is a good time to work on your self-care and self-talk. Do it?

4 Comments found

  1. ‘To compare is to despair’ Thank you, I needed to hear that today.

    • Your job is to live on your fantasy island where you and your body are good enough the way you are. Do NOT go off the island because you will get into trouble comparing yourself to others. And when you look in the mirror, kindly say hello to the gorgeous goddess that you are. Seeing a gorgeous goddess will lead to your acknowledging that you are a gorgeous goddess indeed, believe it or not.
      Enjoy the day,
      Nancy

      • Who knew that a sports nutritionist could be so philosophical at times?

  2. Philosophical, perhaps. I generally call it nutrition therapy!

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