Articles


Why You Should Love Yourself (& Your Body)

Health + Fitness

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Jillian Michaels, Wellness Expert

By Jillian Michaels

“They would like you to write about your own struggles with body image as a child.”  And thus the subject of my blog for this years Women’s Conference was born.  The only thing that struck me as odd was the “as a child” part.  I’m a full grown 36-year-old woman who still occasionally wrestles with body image issues.  Don’t we all, to one degree or another?

The world is subjective and we see it through our mind’s eye.  For that reason, our life’s experiences and memories shape or “warp” our vision. This occurs on multiple levels, ranging from personal to professional, but by far the most insidious and potentially dangerous problems this can cause surround our physicality.  At the least, body image issues erode self-esteem, and at the worst, they can give way to potentially fatal eating disorders. 

The pressure to conform starts practically in utero and comes at us from every direction throughout our lives.  Be it family pressures or societal expectations, the moment we are brought into the world, the programming begins, and the rules are laid down.  “We behave this way, look and appear that way, talk when and as instructed” and so on.

We are by nature social creatures.  We crave conformity and harmony with the population – like it or not.  And who wouldn’t?  No one wants to be ostracized and face the painful punishment of rejection.  For this reason we strive to achieve the idea of perfection that society has impressed upon us.  Looping endlessly in the vicious cycle of hope, self-consciousness and self-loathing.

Who hasn’t looked in the mirror and dissected themselves or engaged in a severe verbal bashing? “My body is so gross.  I hate my fat knees.  I wish I were tall instead of short and dumpy.  My hair is thin and stringy.  My jiggly arm fat makes me sick.”  Blah blah blah. We’ve all been there to one degree or another and felt the sting of this ritual.

So now what?  Where does this leave us and how do we change?  Who is the enlightened soul that has evolved to the point of tossing off all of our cultural suppositions and basically telling the powers that be where to stick it? The answer to that is no one -- or at least I certainly haven’t met her yet.

In fact, quite the opposite ends up happening. What begins as society's imposition ends up our own doing.  Often we collapse under the pressure into submission, falling in line, adopting and propagating these provincial ideas of beauty.

So in actuality, the realization that we have become the problem empowers us to be the solution.  In the immortal words of President Truman, “The buck stops here!”  We must say no to this pernicious dogma and stop taking part in the endless spiral of judgment and loathing that we subject ourselves and other women to. 

We have to create awareness and be conscious of when we engage in this destructive behavior and conversely choose to implement an attitude and actions that are nurturing and life affirming.

When you catch yourself analyzing and criticizing – STOP and immediately pay yourself a compliment.  Celebrate the differences among women and appreciate beauty in all shapes, colors, and sizes.   Do something nice for yourself like getting a manicure pedicure.  Smile at a female co-worker instead of “hating her 'cause she’s beautiful.”  Glance over a list of all your accomplishments and all the things about you that your proud of.  And so on.

While this stuff might sound trite like a cheesy new age platitude, the truth is that it works.  Not overnight.  It takes time, diligence, and desire, but doesn’t everything that’s worth fighting for?  We have a responsibility to ourselves and to our daughters to send a different message, rewrite the rules, and change the game.  It’s up to us to set a new example, lead the way and then support and encourage others to follow suit.

Now, repeat after me “I’m smart, I’m beautiful, I’m funny and doggone it – people like me.” – Stuart Smalley.

Jillian Michaels is a New York Times best-selling author, a trainer and the life coach on the NBC hit series The Biggest Loser, and the star of the NBC show Losing It With Jillian.

Her DVDs, Yoga Meltdown, 30-Day Shred, No More Trouble Zones, and Banish Fat Boost Metabolism, are consistently top sellers on Amazon. In addition, she has two video games — Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2009 and Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2010. Her website is JillianMichaels.com

Jillian Michaels will be speaking at The Women’s Conference 2010. Watch the webcast of her breakout session on Tuesday, October 26 on www.womensconference.org.

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Comments

  • Jillian,

    Thank you for writing this article!

    Posted by mngaines, 1 November 2010.

  • I think we should focus on health instead of "I need to lose x lbs." I have decided to make better choices by walking every day and not overeating. I have found walking to have an antidepressant effect and this has been backed up by a study done in the UK. UK psychiatrists now prescribe exercise as a first line treatment of mental illness and may be more effective than medication. I have been overweight for 15 years - and I mean morbidly, grossly, obese. I have lost 38lbs since January and 14 just last month when I switched from driving to taking public transportation. This is a major victory for me because I have never lost any weight before. I have taken medicine for mental illness since I was 21yrs old and I am 43 now. I had taken anti psychotics for 20 yrs but was finally taken off in June. Anyone who has taken these medications know they may cause you to gain weight because of increased appetite. I am lucky that I have Borderline Personality Disorder (first time I've ever said that) and that I have become stable enough that I no longer require these medications. I only take an anti depressant now and I am sure that and exercise is helping me with weight loss. I just don't want people to get so stuck on the numbers that they don't appreciate what they are accomplishing. Changing long term behaviors are difficult and require persistence and long term commitment. The 200 extra lbs I put on didn't come on overnight and will take some time to get off. I just am not going to give up and if I have a bad day, I know tomorrow will be better. Just keep on keeping on as my great-grandmother always said; thats all anyone can do.

    Posted by taminenator, 12 October 2010.

  • Jillian,

    I never thought of it this way “we see it through our minds eye.” How true of a statement. It’s insane how we allow this vision to dominate our perspective of our body image.

    I’m happy with what I have achieved, such as maintaining a year and nine months after losing 57.7lbs using your tools. Of course there are those unhappy achievements; at least that’s what my “minds eye” is telling me. I’m gradually accepting my body, realizing that I may never have “her” body, just like; “she” may never have mine. Realizing our bodies are unique and imperfect can cause a wrestle between the conscience and unconscious. The more I accept my body the more I accept myself.

    Thanks for your insight and for being so Benevolent!


    Rocky


    Posted by Rocky Road, 12 October 2010.

  • I forgot to thankyou for writing this blog...Many woman and men will appreciate your words.

    Posted by CandnGalHeidi, 12 October 2010.

  • Hi Jillian..I can remember as far back as 8 yrs old hiding food, going to the candy store etc...Diets/ body image/hiding myself from life's enjoyment has been an issue for most of my life. And I hate it...When your so used to living this way it's very hard to change that negative self talk in your head..It doesn't matter how many times people compliment you etc..If you don't believe it then how can you feel it.

    "I’m funny and doggone it – people like me.” ..Well atleast I have half"...That's a start. :)

    Posted by CandnGalHeidi, 12 October 2010.

  • Jillian, I used to be that way. I remember during my fat days, when I bought a hypnosis body image cassette tape. It was about learning how to like your body. I still follow some of the those fundamentals today. That combined with what you taught us, I had another discovery for myself that keeps me in maintenance today going now into three years for the first time in my life after 42 years of misery hating my body except for my legs.

    When I came to liking all of my body parts and all of me, I started loving myself. With that I wanted all of my body parts to be at their best potential that they can be. And at their best balance. All the way around. I wanted to take care of them and make sure that I was going to have them for my lifetime. And extend my life. This is why I'm now going three years into maintenance, thus not back sliding anymore.

    Thanks Jillian,

    In Health and Fitness,

    Susan

    Posted by pftsusan, 12 October 2010.

  • Hi Jillian,

    I appreciated your article here. While I watch you work with obese men and women on Biggest Loser and your new show, I struggled with anorexia for over half my life. I am currently close to finishing my Master's degree program in Professional Counseling, specializing in eating disorders and cross addictions. Eventually, my plans are to open a non-profit treatment center for those women who cannot afford to get help on their own.

    The idea of challenging those scripts that we have learned and have allowed to run through our heads is so very important! We have to constantly counter those scripts, we have to stop allowing ourselves to be victims and talk like victims. We have to be willing to take charge of our own recovery by facing the past traumas, allowing ourselves to forgive (not because what was done to us was okay, but rather because by forgiving we can move on and stop allowing the perpetrator to continue to run our lives), and finding ways to reach out to others and give them a hand. Fighting is always hard, but fighting and staying in the fight is essential for us to break through the fortress and reclaim our lives. WE CAN WHEN WE CHOOSE TO LIVE.

    Posted by Warrior, 12 October 2010.

  • Hey Jillian (and I guess the rest of the world that is reading this),

    I have struggled with weight since I was a kid. I eat because I am stressed. I have struggled with bulimia in the past, but now being an educated adult know how dangerous that road was for my body. I joined JM.com over the summer so that I could have a support system. I have lost 18 pounds (in a healthy way). Thanks always for your inspiration and motivation to take back my life!!!

    Posted by Lizzy_JMFan, 12 October 2010.

  • I've never struggled with being overweight but I've always struggled with low self-esteem and a low level of fitness (being thin doesn't necessarily mean being fit!). But as someone who tends to beat herself up more often than not I need reminders to be a little nicer to myself.

    And, while I love mani/pedis as much as the next person, a little piece of my feminist soul dies every time that's recommended as a treatement for making yourself feel good! There are cheaper and more fulfilling ways to do something nice for yourself!

    Taking a walk, cooking a great meal (as long as it's not a trigger for bigger problems!), reading a book or just finding a few minutes to myself always helps me. I also have a tattoo that is a constant reminder - but that's probably not everyone's cup of tea either!

    Posted by Katie7, 12 October 2010.

  • I have struggled with weight since I was 10 or so. I was anorexic, bulimic and choose drugs to help. Nothing worked. I lost and gained. Now I'm 40 and can't seam to lose it again. My blood pressure went up after giving birth to my son. I lay in bed feeling like I may not make it through the night. My son has gained weight and I can't seam to do anything. I have no energy and I have to force myself to do what I do. I love my family and want better for them. I can do this, I don't know how but I can...Thank you for your inspiration on Biggest Loser. It lifts me up and makes me think I can do it for me and my family. I will be watching The Women's Conference 2010...

    Posted by Licrish, 12 October 2010.