Woman stressed out by life and her internalizing it as needing to go on a diet.

Body Image is Tied to Your Mental Health

Diet culture wants you to believe that losing weight will improve your body image. But your body image is actually tied to your mental health—not your appearance. This is why when we hit our weight loss goals, the excitement lasts for only a fleeting second. We’re left dissatisfied. Mentally exhausted from the effort of restriction. And more likely to participate in self-sabotaging behavior.

Your Mental health is EVERYTHING.

You know that old Jewel song that begins with “if I could tell the world just one thing it would be…“? My “one thing” to tell the world is that your mental health is EVERYTHING. Including the most important deciding factor of whether or not you have good body image.

I can’t tell you how many times I chased after a size 6 in an effort to “heal” my body image. I thought that shrinking my waistline would make it all okay. That losing weight/fat/inches and “eating clean” was the answer to looking in the mirror and loving what I saw.

It wasn’t.

The reality of intentional weight loss is there’s only about one second of elation when you finally get the zipper of the smaller-sized pants to the top. Or the scale finally cooperates and flashes that magical number you were hoping for. But then it quickly crashes down. The reality of maintaining that hard-earned size hits.

I would immediately engage in self-sabotage as if to say, “Look at me! I’m in a size 6 AND eating ice cream. I’m so much better than everyone else.” But then those jeans would get too small again.

*Cue restrict-binge-restrict cycle*

Weight loss will NOT fix your body image issues.

When your main goal is to lose weight, it’s no surprise you think your body image will improve with each pound dropped. But it’s a lie. As someone who was drowning in diet culture for 20+ years, I can tell you with certainty that diet culture is really good at destroying your mental health. Each tangible and mental restriction will slowly chip away at your self-trust. Each weight loss tool will cut into your self-awareness. Each “slip up” a ding on your self-worth.

Bad body image days will still happen. But it’s how we respond that makes the difference.

Even though I’m well into my disordered eating recovery, I’m not immune to bad body image days. But now I can recognize the outside stressors that are making me nitpick my body. I see the actual root cause for intrusive, negative thoughts that tell me I’m not good enough. Or that I’m “fat”. I am able to trace the triggers back to something that feels out of my control. Such as an unhealthy work environment, financial worries, a friend’s broken heart I can’t heal, etc. Because now I know I used macro tracking and food restriction as a form of perceived control when I felt out of control in my life. I used weight loss as an artificial boost to my list of accomplishments when I was feeling less-than. It was a distraction. A distraction that ultimately left my mental health in worse shape than when I started.

Starting another diet is NOT the solution.

Friend, starting another diet is NOT the solution to your body image issues. Because the work is NOT needed on your body. It’s needed on your mind.

If you’re finally seeing diet culture for what it is, but aren’t sure how to heal your relationship with food and body image, schedule a free 15-minute phone call with me to brainstorm ways you can begin to love yourself towards healthy.

Meridith Oram is an anti-diet nutritionist at Love Yourself Towards Healthy where she helps chronic dieters heal their relationship with food, fitness and body image by ditching diet culture and finding freedom in their God-given intuition. Focusing on behavioral change and Intuitive Eating, Meridith helps her clients unlearn diet culture, stop negative self-talk and set wellness goals---not appearance goals. Follow Meridith at @loveyourself2healthy on all social channels.

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