Think about how you talk to yourself. Imagine what it would be like to be with a friend who always criticized your body. "Oh, my God," she'd say, "Have you actually taken a good look at yourself recently? Next thing you know, you'll need two seats on an airplane.
"Oh, and I just noticed the eyelid droop. Can't you fix that? Get some work done...in Brazil, maybe.
"Is that a french fry in your hand? Do yourself a favor and stop eating for a year or two."
If a friend spoke this way, what do you think you would do? Ask her to lunch? Thank her for being so honest? Or kick her out of your life? And yet we talk to ourselves in exactly this way, and it hurts.
This kind of talk makes us feel small and hopeless and ugly. It doesn't take into account the things about us that cannot be weighed or measured—and yet these are the most important things, the things that matter most.
Talking to yourself like this doesn't lead to change; it leads to feeling so awful that you have to eat a pint of ice cream to feel better.
Talking to yourself like this needs to stop. Today. Right now.
How do you stop? Sometimes, when I'm teaching a small workshop, I ask each person to come up to a mirror, look at herself and tell the group what she sees. The responses are always similar: fat face, mountainous thighs, stringy hair, saggy boobs, thick fingers. Nary a positive thing is said. Then I ask the person who is speaking to turn away from the mirror and notice how it feels to say those things to herself. When she stands back for even a moment, she is shocked at the level of cruelty she directs at her body.
I ask if she would ever let anyone talk to her like this. She says no.
I ask if being cruel to herself ever helped her lose weight. She says no.
Then I ask her to turn to the mirror again and tell me what she sees when she looks at herself with her heart instead of her "fat eyes."
Most often, she says something like this: "I see a mother, a wife, a person who is trying hard to do her best. I see clean hair. I see a fleshy belly left over from having kids. I see wonder in my eyes. I see what I saw in myself as a child. I see possibility, even after all these years."
And to that I say, "Wow...yes!"
This summer, try looking at yourself a new way. See your real self. And don't forget to kick that inner critic in her big old sassy butt.
Geneen Roth's books were among the first to link compulsive eating and perpetual dieting with deeply personal and spiritual issues that go far beyond food, weight and body image. She believes that we eat the way we live and that our relationships to food, money and love are exact reflections of our deeply held beliefs about ourselves and the amount of joy, abundance, pain and scarcity we believe we have (or are allowed) to have in our lives.
Geneen has appeared on many national television shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20, The NBC Nightly News, The View and Good Morning America. Articles about Roth and her work have appeared in numerous publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Time, Elle, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has written a monthly column in Good Housekeeping magazine since 2007. Roth is the author of eight books, including The New York Times best-seller When Food Is Love and a memoir about love and loss, The Craggy Hole in My Heart. Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything is her newest book.
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