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Fitting Into the Ideal_Final

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>> Hello and welcome back. In this lecture, we're focusing on fitting in. Now blanket statements don't typically support a bio-individual lens, but I'm going to make a blanket statement here. We all want to belong in some way. In fact, many people consider it a primary motivator of human behavior. We might try to fit in because we want to feel a sense of belonging or connection with others. It feels good to belong, right? To quote Audrey Hepburn, "The best thing to hold onto in life is each other." What do you think? Have you ever felt like the black sheep? It can be lonely out there on the outskirts. Why do you think fitting in is so important to so many of us? First of all, an innate need to affiliate and form social bonds is wired into our biology. It boosts oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone. It positively impacts the cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune systems, and it can provide stress relief by lowering cortisol. You might also think about fitting in as a form of social acceptance. Maybe we think it will boost our self-esteem because we'll be good enough to fit in with that particular group. Ironically, the efforts we make to fit in might contribute to low self-esteem and self-acceptance. For example, we might try to change ourselves by adopting unhealthy habits and we might develop maladaptive coping strategies that make us feel even worse about ourselves. This isn't because we are unintelligent or completely clueless, it's because we do the best that we can with what we have and we all have urges to connect and to feel secure. Let's use body image to explore this idea further. Body image is a major factor in self-esteem as self-esteem includes how we value and respect ourselves as a whole. Body image is also subjective. It's how we see our physical selves and what we feel and think about what we see. Body image influences our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in wide reaching ways. For example, you may have had clients who struggle with both body image and emotional or disordered eating. Trying to fit in can contribute to an unhelpful body image, and body image can drive motivation to fit in. Let's say that you're coaching a young woman named Tina. Tina struggles with body image and wants to fit in with her college roommates who are all thin and much focused on healthy eating. As a result, Tina starts restricting her meals and eating only salads for lunch and dinner. Being part of this group makes her feel good about herself. However, Tina doesn't see any physical results of her attempts to lose weight partly because she's often eating her favorite comfort foods in secret. Why? Well, because she's always hungry, for one, but also to help her cope with feeling not as good as her friends who seem to do just fine on salads alone. How do you think Tina's efforts to fit in affect her self-acceptance? Trying to be accepted by others sometimes means not accepting our authentic selves because we focus on changing in order to fit in. If we struggle with body image, we might try to change our bodies in order to fit into a more accepted or highly valued ideal that we can never seem to achieve. Body image is a very sensitive topic often with deep roots, and it can be challenging to help clients navigate. As you help clients embrace their imperfections, remember that you're not supposed to be perfect yourself. It's okay to make mistakes. Know that you are providing a valuable resource by supporting and simply by creating a safe space for your clients to express their emotions. Building trust creates a strong foundation for self-acceptance and positive change. Take a few minutes right now and think about how you either in the past or recently tried to fit in with those around you and how your behaviors related to your body image. What habits did you adopt that didn't feel authentic? How did you try to change yourself? How did those changes affect your self-esteem? Hit pause and jot a few things down. Okay, now take a deep breath and remember, we all want to belong. It makes sense that we want connection, doesn't it? The problem is that we often go to extreme lengths in our efforts to find that connection, and those efforts can end up working against us. For example, trying to fit in with my middle school peers felt like trying to fit into a box that was not built for me. As a result, I never really felt like I belonged which lowered my self-esteem. Try as I might, I never felt good enough, which brings me to the main points of the discussion today. Trying to fit into a one-size-fits-all ideal can correlate with an unhelpful body image or the belief that we aren't good enough as we are. Our efforts to fit in are often futile, at least in part, due to a nonexistent ideal. And continually trying to fit into this nonexistent ideal can further fuel an unhelpful body image and lower self-esteem. Quick side note. We're going to use the term unhelpful body image rather than negative body image. Negative implies bad and that doesn't really inspire non-judgment. Unhelpful is neutral and simply means that it doesn't help us move toward health and happiness. Okay, moving on. When we don't feel good enough as we are, we might try to fit into something better, and like Tina, feel like failures because we cannot make ourselves fit. It's kind of like being stuck in an unhelpful stress cycle, isn't it? This is because when it comes to health, eating habits, and physical appearance, there's no one-size-fits-all and there is no best way across the board, rather, the ideal is like a mirage. The more we walk toward it, the further out of reach it moves and the worse we feel. Try as we might, we never seem to reach that ideal that we want so much to achieve. We try one diet and give up after two days. We try another diet and feel terrible. We try a third diet and reward our efforts with a huge slab of cheesecake and then berate ourselves for failing to reach that perfect number on the scale. We're going to explore body image further through the lens of a nonexistent ideal. As always, take these ideas with a grain of salt. There are many ways to think about this material. We are opening the conversation, but we want to inspire you to think for yourself and shape the conversation based on your own experiences. Because this course is about emotional eating, it will be helpful to think about how this material relates to that. Okay, the nonexistent ideal. This is the idea that we can never achieve the ideal because there is, in fact, no one ideal to begin with. It's one-size-fits-none. Remember the Greek myth of Sisyphus. The Gods decided that futile labor served as the worst punishment for Sisyphus. So for all eternity, he was forced to push a boulder uphill only to have it roll back down again. In other words, he couldn't win because there was no end goal. When it comes to body image, trying to achieve an ideal is similarly infuriating. What do we mean when we say there is no ideal? You can think about it in two ways. The ideal is not fixed. Consider how much the ideal body type for women has shifted in the past century. Within even a single decade, we went from Marilyn Monroe to Twiggy. These days "fit" is often touted as the ideal. Or as the saying goes, "Strong is the new skinny." This it at least promotes exercise, but again, the range of ideal remains small. Get strong but not beefy. Aim for long and lean not bulky. Build washboard abs and muscular curves. The yogi is vegan while the bodybuilder is a protein eating machine. Will these still be the healthy ideals in a few decades? Who knows? The point is it's hard to achieve an ideal that constantly changes. The ideal is one-size-fits-none. Cultural body type ideals often force both men and women into boxes that an extremely low percentage of the population naturally fits into. And that promotes unhealthy relationships with food. For example, less than 5% of the population can achieve the current media's female ideal of thinness. The media tends to portray a very limited range of attractiveness. However, our bodies change throughout our lives because, well, that happens as we age. We have imperfections because we are not airbrushed. We probably don't have chiseled abs unless one, we have the genetic code for it, and two, we value it enough to make it a priority, which might mean sacrificing other primary foods. In short, it's hard to achieve an ideal because we are all different in so many ways. Let's recap. Body image is subjective, and it's a major factor in self-esteem. An unhelpful body image can drive motivation to fit in with others and, as a result, can influence thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, including emotional eating. And trying to fit in is often futile due to a constantly changing, unrealistic, and one-size-fits-none ideal. It's another cycle that you can help shed light on when working with clients. Trying to fit into a one-size-fits-all ideal can stem from negative body image and low self-esteem or the belief that we aren't good enough, and it can further fuel an unhelpful body image and lower self-esteem when we can't achieve the ideal we're trying to fit into. Okay, time to try applying this material yourself. We've included an exercise handout called Self-Image Reflection. Spend about 10 to 15 minutes with this exercise. It's not meant as a diagnostic tool but as an opportunity to explore your own body image, which will inform your work as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. As you know, body image is a very sensitive subject. Working with clients who struggle with it requires using non-judgmental language and empathetic support and being able to practice non-judgment and self-awareness yourself. After you go through the exercise, spend 5 to 10 minutes reflecting on the material. How does body image affect your daily life? Share with your course mates in the Facebook group. We're all here to motivate, inspire, and support each other. And believe me, we all struggle with body image sometimes. Recognizing how it impacts our daily lives can not only help us move toward greater health and happiness, it can also help our clients too. That's all for now. I'll see you again soon.

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Duration: 10 minutes and 54 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: integrativenutrition on Aug 30, 2018

Fitting Into the Ideal_Final

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