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A client sharing her problem with envy discovered it was actually a dual problem. First, hate that she coveted what someone else had—in this case, thinness—and, second, her shame about experiencing envy made her feel worse about herself. Her feelings got me wondering how many of you also struggle with envying people with thinner bodies and whether you, too, dislike yourself for having this emotion.

My discussion with my client we’ll call “Jane” made me curious about what people truly want when they covet other people’s slimmer or fitter shells. What about you? Do you wish to have their actual body or do want your own trimmed down, toned version? Jane and I discussed what she was willing to go through to get what she perceived a thinner person did to get such a body. Did it involve “normal” eating or more, such as starvation, over-exercising, deprivation, purging or laxatives. What was Jane willing to do to get the body she longed for? Then we tossed around what Jane thought she’d be getting from a trimmer, fitter body—popularity, love, self-acceptance, success, happiness, desirability, good health, longevity, lovability, self-esteem, etc. She honestly couldn’t imagine achieving these things any other way than through losing weight.

When you envy someone’s body, what is it that you covet? My guess is that often you’re seeking higher standing in the world or a higher value of yourself. You may want to like yourself more, view yourself as more successful, find more worth in yourself. Or you yearn for others to envy you and believe you are all the things that you think slim, fit people are. Are you starting to see slippery slope that envy takes you down?

Jane admitted that envying thinner, fitter people seemed to motivate her to take better care of her body. But, as she and I discussed, at what cost? Isn’t that a round-about way of caring for yourself? If you truly desire health, why envy someone else’s body? Cut out the middle-man and simply go for it. Why must you envy someone first? Consider how envy makes you feel. It made Jane feel like a bad person and dislike herself which is the last thing she needed to experience. She already didn’t think much of her body and now was adding on to that another perceived character flaw.

So, please stop comparing your body to anyone else’s. Don’t be hard on yourself for feeling envy. Goodness, this emotion has been around since the beginning of humankind. When you feel envious, explore what you really desire, then figure out what to do to get it. Think of envy as a springboard to achieving what you really want in life.

The Brain and Our Habits
The Diet Ideology

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