Politics of women and weight

OK, let's have a frank discussion. Specifically, I would like to talk with my sisters around the world.

The fitness and nutrition industries are partially based on women's global dissatisfaction with appearances. Among the women who work with me as clients, I can't name a single one who is 100 percent satisfied with her looks.

Over the years, I have also seen a steady flow of teenagers and young women who think they are fat and because they think they are fat they are doing something that may actually damage their metabolisms and make them fat in the long run - even if it takes 20 to 30 years to get that way. This would include over exercising, becoming a vegetarian or vegan, skipping meals, joining boot camps, raw food diets, an endless parade of various low calorie diets, fasting, cleansing, and yes, hiring someone like me.

Only if you hire me, I will tell you the truth about what actually works in health and fitness. As any of my clients will tell you, I am nice but blunt.

Over the years, I have developed some opinions about the state of women and their body images.

  1. Women could rule the world if we weren't so obsessed, distraught and neurotic about the way we look. Think of the amount of time you personally spend in any given day, week or month on this subject, and what you say to yourself every time you pass a mirror and you can begin to reflect on what I am talking about. This doesn't mean the solution is to start stuffing ourselves or tear up our gym memberships. It means at a certain point - hopefully before all your opportunities pass you by - you will realize that you are good enough to be great at what you do regardless of your dress size, the number on the scale, your jean size, bra size or the number of lines on your face.
  1. If you allow anyone else to be in charge of deciding when you are good enough - by any outside measure - you have instantly given your power away and you don't deserve to be in a position of authority because you have yet to comprehend the true source of where power comes from. It is OK with me if you reread that sentence multiple times. It is important to me that you begin to think deeply about what I am saying.
  1. The root of much depression, anxiety and other mental illness amongst women is not eating enough food to run our brain chemistry. Forget for a moment even getting depressed looking at fashion magazines where all the photos have been digitally altered. As I have said many times, if you take in less than 1,800 calories per day, you immediately deplete your brain chemistry. I wish every psychiatrist began their sessions with women clients by asking what and how often they have been eating.
  1. You are never going to look the way you think you want to look unless and until you get really healthy. If you study body fat, you will discover that people hold body fat in certain places based on specific hormonal imbalances. See our newsletter of July 2005. So no amount of Pilates classes will flatten your abs if you are highly stressed or insulin resistant. Insane efforts to lose weight seemingly instantly make everything worse because these stupid activities deplete your hormones. Your assignment from me - should you choose to accept it - is to focus on becoming as healthy as possible, way down to the cellular level, because in the long run you can only look as good on the outside as you are healthy on the inside. Thinking this way - making choices based on what will actually make you healthier today, tomorrow and for the rest of your life - will change your way of eating, exercising, resting and breathing - quite permanently.
  1. Be very, very careful about the role models and mentors you choose. Sorry to say, but many women in the fitness and nutrition industries are here because they haven't sorted themselves out. I recently told one top level exercise instructor that nothing would cure her depression until she started eating more than 900 calories a day. Another client who has severe osteoporosis in her early 30s was advised to take a break from teaching for 30 days so she could begin to face her severe exercise bulimia. These two and many others I have advised over the years all look like many others are killing themselves to emulate. Think deeper and find women like me, Nina Lynn and Paula Owens. I invited these amazing women to be part of Total Fitness because they walk their talk. They have a healthy relationship with food and a healthy relationship with exercise and all three of us are very consistent. I wish we weren't so rare.
  1. The time to start loving your body is now, not when you reach some mythical number/size/shape etc. When you love your body now, in whatever shape it is in, more than likely you are going to start treating it kindly. You are going to find a way to move around that brings you joy. Maybe it's yoga, qi gong, weight training, tango dancing, bike riding, hiking in the woods. There is something there for you that will raise your personal vibration while enhancing your overall health. You're going to feed your body right, give it a treat or two in measured doses, reward it, dress it up nicely and have fun playing with it. You can do this now. If you are really smart, you will realize that getting to this space between your ears is going to be what gets you to the outer appearance that you think you want.
  1. Don't kid yourself by telling yourself that you are so spiritual your body doesn't matter. This is called denial. It's also mind-body-soul disconnect, which is a huge source of unhappiness. You radiate whatever level of consciousness you are currently feeling. And your body is the key to all this because you hold your emotions in your body. That is scientifically proven by none other than a great woman scientist, Candace Pert. One of the best things I ever heard her say many years ago was, "If you want to know what's going on in your subconscious mind, just look down at your body."
  1. My mentor in healing, Sue Maes, says that the root of many women's body obsession starts in their late teens and continues into their early 20s when the competition for mates is most fierce. Sue believes it's an evolutionary biological phase we all go through. But developmentally, she says, many women never get out of this stage and at age 65 are still miserable and trying to compete with each other based on their looks. Ask yourself whether you still need to compete on your looks. Or do you need to compete at all? Why not just find your own style and adore expressing your uniqueness?
  2. Your body believes every word you say. This is a crucial fact. If you say or even think to yourself, "I am fat, I can't lose weight," or "I hate my giggly thighs," guess what results you are going to experience? Failing to deal successfully with your emotions about your body will result in failure in even the most carefully planned exercise or nutrition plan. I have women clients who tell me, "I have read every weight loss book on your shelf," but the body they are wearing clearly shows there is a difference between knowing about a subject and actually mastering it. If you have trouble saying to yourself, "I am beautiful now," then begin with gratitude. "I am grateful for my body, I am grateful for every organ in my body, I am grateful for the gift of movement." If you rebel against this very thought, I recommend you visit the Special Olympics.
  1. I believe that this issue - learning to love our bodies unconditionally - may be the most challenging issue many women ever face. There are so many layers to this, and it can get right down to whether or not we are willing to accept the challenge of being fully alive on this planet. I have had many passionate discussions on this subject recently. The last such one, with three other women, ended in one saying. "But you don't understand. I just don't like it when my arm flab jiggles." Yes, I do understand. But the self-hatred that you radiate out is only hurting you. Dear reader, where ever you are in this spectrum - I am ashamed of my body/I am locked in fear of my body/I hate my body/I accept my body/I am willing to deal with this issues/I understand my body/I love my body - I urge you to find a way to move to the next level.

Here are a few affirmations you can begin to use that may help:

  • I LOVE MY BODY NOW.
  • I AM GOOD ENOUGH.
  • I AM EQUAL TO THE POWER SO I AM EQUAL TO THE TASK.
  • I AM RADIANTLY HEALTHY.

BY Catherine Carrigan