“Hey, you there,” the emaciated, blond model calls to you from the magazine cover. “Want to lose those cottage-cheese thighs and slim your flabby arms? Well, just follow these five easy steps and you’ll have the body you want in no time!”
Actually, no, you won’t.
According to new research, a negative body image can effectively prevent you from losing weight. In other words, if your mindset includes comparing your legs to a lumpy dairy product, you probably won’t feel your jeans getting any looser.
Of the women in the research study, half only dieted while the other half both dieted and participated in a body-image awareness intervention which consisted of confronting their preconceived notions about their own bodies. The intervention group learned the ways in which negative body talk was setting them up for failure and then acquired skills to combat the negative self-talk. At the end of the study, the intervention group had lost significantly more weight than the group who had only dieted.
Now I’m not necessarily in favor of dieting for weight-loss purposes. In fact, I’m actually pretty against it. I’m more into eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full, and if that results in weight loss then great! If it doesn’t, that’s great too! The point is to do something healthy for your body, and a combination of body hatred and restricting food is not healthy.
Even the diet-obsessed Prevention is catching on to the idea that trying to obtain a thin physique may not be ideal. Marjorie Ingall makes a bold move in offering a positive look at the Health at Every Size movement in her article, “The End of Dieting.” Ingall provides anecdotes of women who have lost weight without dieting.
You may have missed it so I’ll say it again: these women, who had been on diets for most of their adult lives, were more successful at losing weight when they stopped trying.
It’s not completely fair for me to say that these women “stopped trying.” A more accurate way to describe this phenomenon would be to say that the individuals featured in the article lost weight because they exercised and made healthier food choices.
What’s that you say? Sounds like a diet? Here’s the clincher: Instead of exercising to punish themselves for the atrocity of eating a slice of chocolate cake, the women went swimming because it sounded like fun; instead of eating only salad and boneless, skinless chicken, the women ate what their bodies (not their emotions) were craving; instead of fighting their bodies, the women worked with their bodies to find the intersection of health and happiness.
So the next time the cover girl of Cosmo or Glamour tells you that you’re not healthy unless you buy into the newest diet craze, feel free to tell her that she’s wrong. The healthiest choice is one made without self-deprivation or -deprecation.