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Body Shame Is In Your Head


Checking out after a medical appointment, I was trying to write a check on a (to me) high counter and remarked to the nurse that I wished I were taller. She said, “But you’re so tiny, so petite.” I replied to all 5 feet 1 inch of her—an attractive, slightly higher weight woman—"Well, you’re not exactly tall. There’s not much difference in our height.” Then came the kicker when she said, “Oh, no, but you’re thin. I wish I were thin like you.”

Though I’ve had these conversations before, they still stun me and I never know what to say. There wasn’t much I could say with people around us and me being in a bit of a rush, so I said something like, “You look fine. Focus on your health, not your weight.” She looked at me like I was clueless about her situation, so I added, “I know about these things because I’m an eating disorders therapist” and a recovered binge eater.” 

By then I was done at the counter and the nurse had to take care of another patient, so the interaction was over. At least for her, unless she took to heart what I had to say, which I doubt. As for me, I felt like my response was totally lame. All I could do was feel terrible about her anguish which would have taken several therapy sessions to undo. 

I wanted to explain to her that I understood what she felt because I also once hated my body, never felt thin enough, and yearned to lose weight so much that I took to purging after eating. I wanted to tell her the hatred had to end before I could begin to heal my eating problems. And I didn’t even know if this woman had eating problems. Maybe she and food were great pals and her body type and shape were passed down through generations. All I knew was that she’d learned not to like her body as is and felt that it was okay to share her shame and the envy that rolled off her with me, a stranger. 

Undoubtedly, culture played a large role in her body hatred. We’re obsessed with appearance and how to look better—men and women, but it’s far worse for women. It’s hammered into our heads when we’re children that thin is better than fat and much of what we see, hear and read thereafter reinforces the message. I’m guessing this woman had other kinds of shame and didn’t grow up in a family that taught her to love and respect herself. I know there are many of you out there like her. 

What will help you stop hating your body? What can anyone say or do to help you heal your shame? Your weight may be problematic, but how you feel about your body is an even bigger issue. When you stop the hatred in your head and learn to think differently about your body, only then will you start to heal it.