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No Upside to Body Comparisons

Once again, I’m grateful to a client for bringing up an issue that too often plagues disregulated eaters: the compulsion to compare your body with that of others. In this, the most fat-phobic, thin-obsessed period in the history of the world, comparison may seem like normal behavior. But, truth is, it’s anything but.

My client related her ah ha moment to me. There she was out shopping in her body that she wished were 30 pounds thinner than it was and out of the corner of her eye, she caught another woman walking by. Without thinking, she might have glanced at this woman and automatically done the quickie assessment so many disregulated eaters do, asking herself, “Is this woman thinner or fatter than I am?” But because she has been trying to accept her body as is, she willed herself not to glance at this female passer by.

She said she felt discomfort which she understood was anxiety. After all, she wasn’t responding to her usual, compulsive look-see. But she stayed with her resolve and refused to look. The urge and anxiety passed, as did the woman, and my client was very proud of her decision not to get sucked into the comparison game. She was glad that she’d resisted and that this action meant she was carving out a new neural pathway in her brain that would help decrease her body negativity.

She wisely reasoned that if she’d seen that she was thinner than the woman, she would have felt a sense of false pride. Real pride comes from true achievement, whereas false pride comes from meaningless, petty, faux successes. If she’d seen that she was fatter than the woman, she would have felt envious—and where would that have gotten her. I’d add that she also might have felt shame, and no possibly good can come from falling down that rabbit hole. My client understood that comparing her body to this woman’s body would be a loss no matter the outcome.

How many of you automatically compare your body to other bodies, ignoring the pointlessness of it? Do you really want to feel contempt for your body or envy someone else’s? Do you feel so badly about yourself that you only can feel better by seeing someone else in worse shape than you are? What does it matter in real terms if someone is fatter or thinner than you are? Isn’t it time to discard the false pride you feel when you’re thinner than someone else? Next time you’re out and about, set an intention to avoiding glancing at other bodies and doing the mental comparison thing. Instead, break the habit by growing new neural pathways and feel better about yourself.