Those with a healthy body image, (i.e. those who don’t define their worth by their appearance and therefore don’t view food as the gateway to their self-worth) can approach diets and nutrition from a scientific and data-driven perspective without losing their shit. They look at their choices objectively.
Those of us who struggle or who have struggled to separate our worth from our appearance usually have an emotional attachment to our food choices.
For example, I started losing weight in high school after receiving a comment about eating too much and gaining a few pounds during puberty, and I subsequently believed there was something wrong with my body and therefore me as a person.
Food and my diet became the gateway to my self-worth from that day forward, leading to a decade-long a love/hate relationship with food.
As I began to take the focus off of my appearance and instead directed my energy towards who I was as a person for myself and others, what I could contribute to the world, and spent time on things that lit me up, I began to view food differently. It ceased to carry the weight of defining me as a person.
Today, as the result of unraveling the connection of my self-worth to my appearance and my food choices, I’m able to make adjustments to my intake as a means of experimentation while being mindful of detaching my worth from the outcome.
If I want to gain some muscle, I look at food as a source of added fuel. If I want to lose some fat, I ensure I’m filling up on lots of vegetables and become mindful of my snacking. If I don’t have any goals and simply want to spend more free time socializing without much structure, then I tend to eat more food and imbibe more often. And the number on the scale is just that: a number.
Jessie 5-7 years ago would have lost her damn mind making the choices above. They would have been wrought with anxiety, anger, confusion, and desperation. Jessie today makes these choices with a sense of ease, calm, empowerment, and detachment.
My self-worth is no longer attached to the outcome of my food choices.
I’ve been in both camps throughout my journey with food and my body, in addition to somewhere in the middle as I healed:
Neurotic and obsessive
Detached and objective in relation to the outcome
We all reside in different stages along the food and body obsession spectrum, and none of our stories or journeys look the same. Would it be easy for me to look back at the former version of myself and judge her for her neurosis? Yes, absolutely. But there’s nothing superior about the detached and objective mindset I currently maintain.
I worked hard to get here, but I have the utmost understanding and empathy for that former version of myself.
Judging the former versions of ourselves, or women currently in that stage of their journey, is a projection of our own insecurities. Our own self-judgment. Our own wounds we have yet to heal.
As we progress along our journeys of healing our relationships with food and our bodies, it’s easy to analyze and judge the choices of other women. We project our struggles, we project our insecurities, we project our shame. And we assume other women have the same story we do.
“She has to have an eating disorder if she’s that lean.”
“If she’s avoiding alcohol, she clearly has a neurotic relationship with her body.”
“She works out so often – she must be suffering from an obsession.”
“She claims she has food intolerances? That’s a red flag for disordered eating.”
These comments are a projection of our former (or current) selves onto other women. Women we likely know nothing about, and we certainly don’t know the intricacies of their relationships to food and their bodies today.
Women who live according to the statements above may make those choices from an objective, detached perspective. With a firm and stable sense of self-worth despite the outcome of those choices. With a strong sense of self-respect.
Alternatively, women who living according to those statements may, in-fact, be struggling with their food and body obsessions. They may be suffering on a deep level internally, despite the appearance of their outer shell.
Regardless of the current status of their journeys, our role isn’t to judge, to project, or to isolate. Our role is support one another, to empathize with the experience of being a woman in today’s superficial and judgmental society, and to focus on our own shit.
When we feel compelled to judge another woman for her choices, let us first turn inward and ask ourselves what we’re missing.
Do I want that lean body I’m talking shit about?
Am I still struggling to separate my self-worth from my appearance?
Do I envy the discipline that woman is emulating?
Am I subscribing to a zero-sum mentality, where I believe her beauty detracts from my own?
What part of me is still calling for healing?
We judge others when we’re still judging ourselves, and despite the urge to project our wounds outwardly, the need to separate ourselves from other women won’t cease until we’ve truly reconciled our own internal battles.
That woman we feel tempted to judge may have fought her way through the trenches of food and body obsession and is now able to make choices from a place of peace, intuition, and self-respect.
That woman may also need our empathy, support, and love more than ever as she fights her internal battles.
Our role is to mind our own side of the street, to take inventory of our own internal battles, and to offer love and support to our fellow women while we do the same for ourselves.
Our stories don’t look the same, and we’re all in this together. So let’s leave the judgment behind.