Do you find yourself constantly thinking: "I hate my body"? Do you despair and feel disempowered about "how to love myself"?
Have you ever thought about how your brain chemistry and your body function when you have thoughts like these? Ever wondered how the power of positive thoughts fit into a healthy lifestyle plan? Repetitive thoughts, not only change how our brain lights up in the moment - but it's also about neuroplasticity and how ongoing thoughts change our brain at both a structural and functional level. Ever wondered how this ongoing thinking might affect your genes, especially your longevity genes?
Let's walk through a day in the biology of belief of a chronic dieter and the corresponding biochemistry of 'I hate my body' thoughts.
You wake up and lie in bed and feel for your hip bones , they feel less obvious than they did yesterday and your tummy feels fatter too. You go to the scale hoping that those figures have gone down and alas they haven't. You think: "I hate my body." You look at your cupboard and feel disempowered.
You you eat your breakfast (berating yourself and feeling guilty for putting sugar on your cereal) and you contemplate undressing for your doctors appointment later in the day and feel panic: "Dammit, I hate my body...and what am I doing eating sugar!" You can already hear the inevitable lecture about all the health dangers waiting you...diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure if you don't lose weight. And just the thought about all these health dangers adds to your panic and anxiety. As you think these stressful thoughts your body changes.
(PS...the idea that you are one bite away from disease is one that is being questioned by critical thinkers such as Dr. Lucy Aphramor - read her incredible research here - and take it to your doctor).
Later, you eat pizza and tell yourself how bad you are you flip through the pages of the latest glossy and compares your fat body to the skinny model ones. Your mood plummets as despair and hopelessness (and yet more negative neuropeptides) swamp your system. Multiple times during the day, your heart beats more chaotically and your biochemistry is in overdrive, flooding your system on an ongoing basis with negative neuropeptides cascading chemically from cell to cell throughout your body.
How does this affect your cells? Your organs? How is this impacting on your health?
And if this is how all your days go because you live in a culture where to be fat is to be judged harshy, ridiculed and rejected constantly (sadly, often by yourself with those 'I hate my body' thoughts) - how do those ongoing stress chemicals day-in and day-out compound on your health over time?
You see a pilot can fly off course for a couple of minutes and it won't make much difference, but let him fly off course for a couple of hours and it makes the effect is huge. You can have the odd stressed thought and it won't really impact on your health - but when you're immersed in ongoing stress, that can really put your health off course.
The chronic ongoing stress of 'I hate my body' and guilt over every morsel I eat is like a pilot flying off-course for long periods of time. The body reacts with a "fight-or-flight" response, releasing adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. That helps you react fast in an emergency, but if the body stays in this high gear too long, those chemicals can wreak physical havoc in numerous systems - everything from a rise in blood pressure, insulin levels and heart rate to problems with memory, mood, digestion, even the immune system.
What happens when you calmly imagine yourself in the same body but immersed in a culture where there were no "I hate my body' thoughts, but instead where your knew with absolute certainty that you can be healthy at every size (HAES®); and that your body was considered beautiful. What feel good and health-enhancing endorphins would be flooding through your system?
What if you could look at your cupboard and remind yourself that you are much more than your body - that you are a fabulous Sacred Being.
What if when you thought about your doctors appointment you felt calm and peaceful because you knew they were going to ask ask respectful questions and listening intently to your answers and give you encouragement.
What if you no longer felt a need to look at glamor magazines, but rather spent your time looking at magazines where body sizes of all shapes and sizes are honored and revered? Can you imagine the difference this would make to how coherently your heart would beat, how your blood pressure would stay calm and your biochemistry too?
With this kind of thinking, you're producing health-enhancing neuropeptides. The power of positive thinking and self-compassion is doing it's magic and strengthening your health. It might go some way to explaining why obesity research reveals an obesity and health paradox which will make you question the whole weight loss advice issue.
Because... it interests me that the Royal College of Physicians issued a report in 1983 based on research done amongst rural Black South African women. They'd found and interesting 'anomoly'. Here was a group of overweight women who didn't have 5 out of 7 measured health problems of an equivalent Western population. Researchers were puzzled.
Obviously, their diet high in unrefined foods and their fitness levels (as they walk everywhere and work in the fields so they are metabolically fit) plays a big role. But what if, they're also pointing us towards another factor we've maybe never contemplated?
You see to be fat in this cultural group means that you are sought after as sexy and a desirable and fertile wife. It shows you don't have Aids and that you are wealthy enough to eat well. A fat woman in this culture is continually being complimented and pursued by potential partners because of her large body size. Most overweight women in this study did not want to lose weight.
So, unlike her fat counterpart in a thin-obsessed Western Culture, every time someone comments on her body size - these Black Women have neuropeptides of the health-promoting kind flood their bodies. The power of positive thinking about being large it seems to me may play a far larger role in our health than what we might even imagine. Just as fat stigmatization might too.
Everyone has an opinion- and yours matters: What do you like/dislike/agree with/disagree with about what you've read? What other information would you like to see more of? What would you like us to know?
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