Body image, and do you really need to lose weight to increase your fertility?Oct 17, 2022
I’m not a medical doctor, I’m not a therapist, nor do I specialize in body image. I am however someone who has at times been at war with her body. For the 7 years I struggled with infertility and loss, I felt so betrayed by it. At times, I have been obsessed with fixing my body, even though it wasn’t broken. I have spent years trying to control how it looked, because I was told that I should.
The purpose of this blog is to make you aware that we’re being played. By the patriarchy. By diet culture. By insurance companies. By those wanting to profit from us. I'm telling you this, because we are not foolish. We are intelligent women, and it’s time this sh*t stopped. Because we’re playing into their hands, all at the expense of our mental health.
This information and the inspiration for this blog was from conversation I had with Dr Morgan Francis, a doctor of clinical psychology & licensed mental health therapist specialising in the treatment of body image, eating disorders, relationships, sexual health and grief, inside Your Pregnancy Haven recently. It was eye opening, shocking, and I feel compelled to share it with you too.
If I asked you how you felt about your body, what would you say?
We have been living with a filter on for so many years, that it’s hard to know WHO is telling the truth about our bodies, and what is healthy. When I stand in front of the mirror each day, the way I look has a huge impact on whether I walk out the door feeling energized, or flat. It’s been drummed into us for years. Everywhere we go we see images of what we’re supposed to look like.
As if we don’t have enough pressure on ourselves as women. Now, I’m not saying that men don’t suffer from body image issues, however when you’re trying to conceive, and when you’re pregnant after loss, or when you’re going through a loss, this is the most vulnerable time in our lives.
We already feel like we’re at war with our bodies in terms of the reproductive side, we don’t need to punish ourselves for how we look or how much we weigh either.
So today, I’m going to help you reduce some of the pressure you’ve been putting on yourself. The way we remove that filter is to educate ourselves. Information holds so much power. So, I’m going to share a few truths that I have learned recently about body image.
But before we go into that, firstly, what is body image?
We think it’s about our bodies, but it’s not. Body image is about our perception, our thoughts, our belief systems, our attitudes, and our feelings toward our body. It’s very subjective. It can change day to day, hour to hour. And our relationship with our bodies can change over the years. Basically, body image is a mental health issue. Which is why it is so infuriating that people have been constantly f*cking with our mental health over the years…..on purpose!!
Where do body image issues stem from?
Diet culture is the pervasive belief that appearance and body shape are more important than physical, psychological, and general well-being. It's the idea that controlling your body, particularly your diet—by limiting what and how much you eat—is normal.
Now, diet culture has been manipulating women for centuries depending on what they are telling us, or marketing to us, is the ideal body type. In the Victorian era, being larger in body size was a sign of wealth as you’re able to afford food. In the flapper era – the ideal body type was thin, then in the 1950’s there was the emergence of Marilyn Monroe dictating what was attractive. In the 60’s & 70’s twiggy was the ideal body type, so it was thin, then the 80’s marked the era of the supermodels on the cover of sports illustrated magazines. Then we go to the 90’s which focused on the waif-like figure of Kate Moss, and onto the 2,000’s with Britney spears and of course, the Kardashians – which has become about plastic surgery and butt implants etc.
Over the years, we have been told what we are supposed to look like, based on what is “in trend”. It’s all about marketing. And it’s all absolutely unobtainable. There is never going to be a time in women’s lives that we can meet the standard that diet culture dictates. It preys on our insecurities and our vulnerabilities, and it is making us sick. Eating disorders have the highest mortality of any mental health issue.
Doctors telling us what we need to weigh in order to be “healthy”.
I am constantly having conversations with my clients who are under the impression that in order to be healthy, they need to be a certain weight. A lot of this is motivated by doctors telling them they need to lose weight. So let me tell you a little truth about the BMI (Body Mass Index) chart. In short, it’s a load of bullshit. In fact, it was never supposed to be used for what it’s being used for today. It was developed by an astronomer, and it was developed for white males. So, when they pull this out and try to push it on all of us, it doesn’t make sense.
The BMI doesn’t take into account our bone structure, our genetics, our socio-economic factors, and our changing bodies. It doesn’t take into account anything that actually measures a person’s health. The only way we can actually determine whether a person is “healthy” is by doing a blood panel. It’s impossible to use something that is so archaic and determine whether someone is healthy or unhealthy. So, the next time you go to your doctor and they pull out a BMI chart, run a mile!!
The World Health Organization (WHO)
The purpose of the WHO is to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable. They are also responsible for setting the bar with regard to what is considered healthy. So how do they set these criteria?
First, let me tell you a little story. Back in the 1990’s the WHO changed the criteria for obesity overnight. People who went to bed in one category, were waking up the next morning, being classified as obese. What drove this change overnight? Apparently, the two people who were leading the WHO at that time, were also contracted by weight loss companies. The change also provided an opportunity for insurance companies to charge individuals more than they already were, and also to make more money from them by selling them weight loss drugs. Once again, we’re being manipulated.
So, what is the result of all of this? We spend a HUGE amount of our time and energy on food guilt – agonizing over what we should and shouldn’t eat, and working out how to get rid of it.
But we need to stop doing this. We need to claim our power back and have food freedom, so we don’t beat ourselves up for eating something. And we need to ensure we don’t pass this down to our children. I’m raising a little girl right now, and I’m terrified that this struggle will also be placed on her. We need to break the cycle and put an end to this generational trauma.
So how do we do this?
By becoming educated, and understanding the history of diet culture, and realizing that we’re not crazy, we’re not a failure, and it’s not that we don’t have willpower. The system is rigged this way.
If you’d like to read a little more about the history of weight discrimination, where it came from and how it came to be, check out The Anti-diet book, by Kristy Harrison.
You can also become acutely aware of it, by playing eye-spy diet culture. Take note of how many times you see it. The models, the messaging, the special fad diets. How many times do you see something that makes you feel insecure about the way you look or what you’re consuming? This is the purpose of diet culture – to make us feel insecure, and like there’s something wrong with our body – so we purchase whatever shit they’re selling.
Once you can see it, how do you repair the damage this has done to your mental health and the relationship with your body? It takes time. Especially on your fertility journey, a time when you already feel betrayed by your body and have lost trust that it knows what it’s doing. So, it’s a matter of learning how to trust it again. There are 4 elements of having a positive body image – body trust, body respect, body appreciation, and body neutrality.
Body neutrality is about getting to a point where you feel neutral about your body. Instead of saying you have fat thighs, say you have human thighs. Instead of using descriptors for what your body looks like i.e fat, skinny, pretty, ugly etc, instead focus on what your body is doing. Your legs are getting you from here, to there. It’s about moving away from what your body should look like from an aesthetic way, and moving to the middle, and focusing on what it does.
We can do this also by not commenting on how people look. Instead, we can comment on their energy, their smile, and how they feel. It’s a hard cycle to break, however the change begins with us.
So, the next time you start to punish yourself for how you look or how much weight you’ve put on since you’ve started IVF, or since your last miscarriage, or during your pregnancy. You can stop. Our bodies are not meant to stay the same.
You are absolutely amazing. Your body is amazing. And it’s time we all started being a little kinder to ourselves.
Would you like to know more about how you can work with me, so you can get back control of your life and start moving forward? My 1:1 coaching program is packed with information, tools and support. Find out how you can get on the wait list now.
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