If you want a shortcut to positive body image, start moving.
"Experience the absolute joy of trusting your body and the knowledge that it works beautifully with all your muscles fully developed," urges M. Ellen Mahoney, MD, a breast cancer surgeon in Palo Alto, California. "And pass that gift on to your daughter." Mahoney excelled at sports until a questionable spinal operation after high school stopped her in her tracks. "Today I'm a crooked little dumpling," she says. But inside she's still that fierce athlete, which has gotten her through years of chronic pain and disability. "When you have athleticism, it's more than keeping a body healthy. It's a state of mind, a self-image, a way to overcome the inevitable things that happen with aging and the extraordinary things that come with bad luck."
Rather than changing what you eat, try to change your relationship with food. "Think about some of the messages you got from your mother," Domar says. Did she love to eat and cook? Or was she counting every calorie? Were meals a way to share affection? Or times of tension and arguments? Try to separate your mother's issues and hang-ups from yours. Take the following steps:
- "Eating may be your way of rebelling, handling stress, squelching anger, finding comfort," Domar says. Keeping a diary may help: Every time you put something in your mouth, record what you were doing before that moment and how you were feeling both physically and psychologically. After a week or two, look for patterns. Can you determine the triggers, other than hunger, that prompt you to eat?
- Once you recognize what pushes your emotional hunger buttons, start devising alternate responses, like taking a walk around the block, listening to a relaxation tape, or jumping into a hot shower.
- Make meals more social. Sit down to dinner with family, a friend, a partner—no TV, no reading material. Sharing a good, healthy meal is nourishing both physically and emotionally, leaving you fully satisfied—and it sets a good example for children. "In our house, this is nonnegotiable," Snyderman says. "It's not just about the food; it's also about community, bringing people to the table."
- Try to remember that food is what fuels your body, and your dreams. "Many women are afraid of 'bad' foods," Domar says. "There are no bad foods. Food is not the enemy. And the more you can stop beating yourself up for eating, the easier time you'll have controlling your weight."