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Alice Domar, PhD, director of the Mind/ Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF, insists that, despite the strong cultural craving for thinness (not to mention big breasts, small waists, long legs, pouty lips), you can break free and retrain yourself to have a more positive body image.

Step 1: Think Twice

Pick a day and write down all the negative things you say to yourself about your body. For example, "I'm so fat, I'm disgusting," or "Why can't I look like I did ten years ago?" Then challenge each thought with three questions:
  1. Does the thought contribute to your stress?

  2. (Surely the ones above do.)
  3. Where does it come from?
    When you were young, did your father say, "Aren't you getting a little pudgy?" Was your mother obese, and did that embarrass you? Was she hyper about her weight and self-critical when it crept up? Are you bombarded with images of women on TV and in movies who never seem to age?

  4. Is your thought a logical one?
    Okay, it may be accurate to say that you weigh more than is healthy for you, or more than you'd like. But how about the emotional tags—disgusting, unlovable, old? "Some people concentrate on hating their bodies because they can't bear to deal with the real issues that are troubling them," says Marianne Legato, MD, a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the author of Eve's Rib. Whether or not that's the case for you, Domar points out that there's a huge leap of logic between overweight and disgusting. If you saw a woman your size, would you feel ill or think she should look the way she did ten years ago? "We don't use the same kind of language about ourselves that we do about others," she says. "We're much kinder to others."
Has insecurity held you back from enjoying sex? Stopped you from attending a beach party or wearing shorts? "If you let your looks inhibit you, your body can't do as much," says Pepper Schwartz, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and the author of The Lifetime Love & Sex Quiz Book. "And so you—not nature or happenstance—are costing yourself a great deal." Write a list of what you're missing out on.

Next: Step Two: Cultivate self-respect

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