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Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about satisfaction and stress. Today I’m going to stand at the intersection of these two ideas and talk about how feeling bad about your body is bad for your health. There’s no question that many of us are dissatisfied with our bodies. The cult of media and celebrity focuses our minds on a body ideal that is not even achieved by the most beautiful of the “beautiful people”. The vast majority of images in magazines are digitally altered to even more impossible beauty standards. And it’s a not so carefully guarded “insider secret” that a number of film and television stars demand that the image be “vertically stretched” to make themselves appear even taller and thinner on TV and the silver screen. It’s no wonder that so many of us have negative thoughts about our bodies. We’re not talking about a few minor thoughts now and again. A recent survey suggests that young women have an average of 13 seriously negative thoughts about their bodies per day–nearly one for every waking hour. And a surprising number of us have a lot more negative thoughts than that with 35, 50 or even 100 brutal thoughts about our bodies every day.
Unfortunately, all this body hatred is very bad for our health. Aside from the well known ties to depression, anxiety, and even suicide, body dissatisfaction leads to increased stress and ultimately to poorer physical health. Research at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver links women with poor body image with increases in the stress hormone cortisol. And increases in cortisol can lead to higher blood pressure, sleep disturbances, digestive problems and can negatively impact virtually all body processes.
So one important element in dealing with stress in our lives, is learning to love our bodies as they are, rather than constantly comparing them with impossible ideals. One way to do this is to put yourself on a media diet, and minimize exposure to fashion magazines and prime-time television. Another is (not surprisingly) to get regular exercise, as women who exercise tend to feel better about their bodies. And finally, don’t hesitate to seek advice from amazing healers like Golda Poretsky who help you make peace with your size and shape.
So whenever you’re stressed my little chicklettes, consider the notion that body dissatisfaction might be a central cause. And resolve to love the skin you’re in.
The Fat Chick