One of the main reasons I became a coach was because I take great issue with how we, as a medical establishment, treat weight currently. However, when I recently attended the Obesity Medicine Conference in New York, it was clear to me that there is a strong voice inside medicine to really make a change. I truly hope we will start to see changes in the way doctors are trained and the way they treat people like you and I.
A lot of the conference was focused on weight stigma and weight bias and how we as healthcare professionals contribute to that. But we’re not the only ones who contribute to that. If I asked you “Do you love your body?”, would your answer be dependent on how well your next diet works or whether you reach your goal weight? Could you say you love your body right now? I know I have struggled to genuinely love my body, as have many women.
I recently spoke with Rachel Lavin, author of “The Doughnut Diaries” and a certified health coach, who is on a mission to teach body love and help people heal from negative body image. Rachel has experienced not loving her body at all different sizes, so she knows that self acceptance is not found in weight loss, but in mindset.
Rachel reached a point where she “got sick and tired of being sick and tired”. She made the decision to take the power back and heal from decades of negative thinking and self sabotage. She worked hard to shift her mindset from feeling ugly and betrayed by her body to being able to wake up and tell herself she’s beautiful (and mean it!).
The beginning of self-love
After feeling betrayed by her body for four decades, shifting to genuine body love was never going to be as easy as flicking a switch. Rachel knew it would be a long process, but there was one “lightbulb moment” which opened her eyes to what was going on…
Rachel had just turned 40, and had what society would deem to be the “perfect body”. She had recently lost over 50 lbs and was a size 0. She’d get endless comments from co-workers about how skinny she was and how amazing she looked, but deep down inside she was miserable. It wasn’t her. Rachel was not comfortable in her own body and didn’t want to feel like this anymore. She knew she wasn’t going to feed her feelings of hatred anymore and began working on healing past traumas and relationship issues to start the process of loving herself more.
We can learn two key points from Rachel’s awakening:
You don’t have to be big to hate your body.
Body image issues are not exclusive to those who are overweight or obese. Society promotes a narrow standard of beauty that is unattainable for most women. This can lead to negative body image and feelings of self-hatred, regardless of your size.
Weight loss does not equal self love.
So many women think if they can just “lose those last 10 lbs”, they’ll be happy. The truth is, you are still the same person at every weight in your journey. The work needs to start in cultivating a positive relationship with yourself, which involves much more than just physical appearance.
The real work is in loving who you are, which is completely separate from your body and your size.
Tips for women who want to start on the journey of loving their body:
Practice speaking highly to yourself
Say something nice out loud to yourself like “I love this shirt on me” or “I love the way my hair looks.” It doesn’t have to be about your weight or body, just try saying something nice about yourself to yourself. And do it every day. When you’re inviting that positivity in from yourself, you’re inviting that in from everyone else as well, even if it feels uncomfortable to begin with.
Compliment other women
It’s great to get in the habit of complimenting other women that you come across. We don’t genuinely compliment each other very often. Although this can feel uncomfortable, it then makes it easier for you to say it to yourself as well. Looking for the beauty in others makes it easier to see it in yourself.
Stop asking people how you look.
You are giving your power away by asking your boyfriend, mom, sister etc. how you look. You may not even realize how much of your self worth you are handing over to other people by doing this. When you stop looking externally for validation and self love, you get stronger emotionally, mentally and physically.
Body image concerns can start from a very young age, particularly as we are so bombarded with messages about beauty and appearance from all angles. The internalization of these standards can lead to a negative body image and negative self-talk from very early on.
So what can we do to make sure the next generation has no understanding of what it’s like to grow up feeling “fat” or “ugly”?
Promoting body love and a positive body image is a lifelong journey, and it’s never too early (or too late) to start. By modeling positive behavior and attitudes towards your own body and promoting a healthy and positive lifestyle, you can help your children develop a positive sense of self and body acceptance.
Talking to kids and pre-teens about body love:
- Firstly, stop talking about your own body. Young people will take your trauma and make it their own.
- Start speaking kindly to yourself so that your kids can hear it and see that behavior modeled.
- Be able to have open conversations about it. Their feelings are so intense and so real to them at that age. Even if it’s not true, they believe it. You have to be gentle and compassionate with them.
- Be mindful of the messaging that your kids are exposed to, particularly online and in the media. Limit exposure to negative messaging and promote positive messaging that emphasizes body diversity and inclusivity.
Why BMI is Bogus
Working in the personal training space, Rachel has seen first hand the shame and anxiety people can feel when meeting with a personal trainer. They don’t want to be told they’re obese.
BMI (body mass index) becoming a popular measure of individual health and fitness has definitely contributed to this shame. It is a narrow measure of health that does not account for a number of factors including physical activity, for example. It also places a strong emphasis on appearance over function, which can contribute to negative body image concerns and promote a narrow definition of beauty and health.
Work still needs to be done to lobby governments and insurance companies and other organizations that still rely on BMI as a measure of health. When the medical world puts a label on us, there’s no doubt people are going to internalize that.
The rise of body love
More women than ever are tired of trying to fit in a box they’ll never fit in. But we have a voice now. The best way that we, as women, can contribute to this growing movement, is to work on it within ourselves. By embracing our bodies and promoting a positive relationship with them, we can cultivate a healthy sense of self and improve our overall wellbeing.
There is something so magical in encountering a person that accepts themselves and loves themselves. It is a beautiful thing to see in the world and I can’t wait until that is the standard in our society.
About Rachel Lavin:
Rachel Lavin is a Published author of “The Doughnut Diaries”, Professional Speaker, Body Love Coach, Certified Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer. She grew up in Northern California and has lived in Hawaii, Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon and New York City. She currently lives in Greenville, South Carolina with her partner.
In 2000 Rachel began her career as an ACE certified group fitness instructor teaching a plethora of classes such as Aqua Aerobics, Bootcamp, Jazzercise, Dance Aerobics, Stretch and Chair classes. In 2007 she was certified as an ACE Personal Trainer working at big box gyms in NYC and becoming an independent trainer in 2012. Rachel wanted to take her passion for helping people to the next level and became an ACE certified Health Coach in 2018.
In 2020 Rachel wrote her first book “The Doughnut Diaries” about her own struggles with her weight and restrictive diets which lasted for over thirty years. As Rachel turned forty the expression “I got sick and tired of being sick and tired” hit home and she made a decision to take her power back and heal from decades of negative thinking and self sabotage. Rachel began to do the work on her mind, body and soul. Writing her book was her way of sharing her message to women that they are not alone! Now using her book Rachel wants to help people who have had or are still experiencing negative body image. By using what she now refers to as her three pillars of fitness; Nourishment for both the mind and body, Movement & Rest.
“My mission is to create a safe space for all women to feel whole in their own body.” – Rachel Lavin
Contact Rachel Lavin
Body Love Educator, Speaker, Author