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Body Parts We Love to Hate

Apr 13, 2008
Do you love your body? No really - do you? If you're a female, chances are you don't.

Studies show that 80 to 90% of adult women dislike their bodies. In fact, many of them truly hate their own bodies. Women as young as five years old and as old as 95, of varying ethnicities, shapes and sizes, and disparate socio-economic groups, share at least one thing in common: they dislike their bodies.

A significant number of women, 15%, say they would sacrifice more than five years of their lives to be thinner, and 24% say they would give up more than three years of life. About 50% of women smokers said they smoked to control their weight.

Girls are not immune! Of 10-year olds, 81% are afraid of being fat, 78% of 18-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, and the number one wish of girls 11 to 17 years old is to lose weight. A full 51% of 9 and 10 year-old girls feel better about themselves when dieting, and 9% of 9-year-olds have vomited to lose weight.

Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness in adolescent girls, and have the highest death rate of any mental illness. Research suggests that approximately 1% of female adolescents have anorexia, while 4% of college-age women have bulimia. Half of those who have been anorexic develop bulimia or bulimic patterns.

Disordered eating often begins as a simple diet. More than half of teenage girls are, or think they should be, on a diet. 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting.

Intense body dissatisfaction and disordered eating have been steadily increasing over time, with anorexia increasing each decade since 1930, and the incidence of bulimia tripling between 1988 and 1993.

This body dissatisfaction is often aimed at a particular body part. A 1997 study in Psychology Today shows that "there's more discontent with the shape of our bodies than ever before . . . the negative focus remains on our visible attributes, the ones that display fat . . . " The article states that "Looking at your stomach in the mirror is an extreme downer for 44 percent of women . . . " Most body dissatisfaction focuses on the hips, thighs, and stomach, where most women feel there is too much fat and flab.

Fortunately, you can change the way you feel about your body, without changing your weight or your clothing size. You can begin to take steps now to learn how to love your body, including all of its parts. It takes effort to re-program our thoughts and attitudes about ourselves, but with a little practice you can begin to love your body and unleash the energy and power that can be trapped by Negative Body Obsession.

Tips for Learning to Love Your Body

Gratitude, when cultivated and nurtured, is a potent force that can transform your negative outlook into a positive one. Every day, come up with a list of 5 things that you are grateful for about yourself and make at least one of them physical. When you wake up in the morning, again at lunch, and before going to bed, silently remind yourself of what you are grateful for in yourself and your life.

Focus on what you like about yourself. Many great spiritual traditions teach us that what we put our attention on grows. Pick things about yourself that you value and appreciate physically, mentally, and emotionally.

As you go throughout your day, focus on these things. Become aware of the many great things your do throughout the day and become proud of yourself.

Be conscious about your thoughts and re-populate your thinking. When you catch yourself thinking a negative body thought, choose not to listen to it. Gently shift your attention to those things that you like about yourself.

Find the beauty in everyone you see. Most of us have learned to see our bodies and everyone else's through a lens of judgment.

Whenever we meet someone we size them up and compare ourselves to them: "She is fat; he is thin; he must not exercise; her butt looks large; Oh - I wish I had her abs . . . " Practice viewing without this judgment. Whenever you meet someone, focus on finding the beauty in them, no matter their shape, size, age, or ethnicity.

Learn to meditate. Meditation will help you break free from habitual thought patterns and programmed responses, connect with your essence and help you discover the beauty in the mere process of creation.

Engage in what I call the Mirror Exercise. Every evening before going to bed, stand in front of the mirror with your clothes off. Look yourself in the eye and say, "I love and accept myself just as I am and I'm grateful for who I am."

Then begin to slowly work your way down your body, expressing love, gratitude, and appreciation for each part of your body. This can be very challenging if you have spent years hating your body or being dissatisfied by your appearance. If you practice this exercise regularly, however, you will begin to see your body through eyes of love and compassion, instead of with eyes of frustration and resentment.
About the Author
Sarah Maria is a body-image expert and personal empowerment coach who helps people love their bodies no matter how they look. She leads workshops and works one-on-one in consulting sessions to assist people in overcoming hatred and dissatisfaction with their bodies using holistic healing and spiritual principles.
Get her FREE e-book: "5 Steps to Loving What You See in the Mirror"
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