How to Let Go of the Toxic Body Image Mindset You Were Taught Growing Up

I still remember being 14 and thinking I was fat. Although I weigh 95 pounds and fit into size zero jeans (I’ve always been petite so it was healthy for my teenage figure), I was bothered by my belly because it didn’t was not as flat as that of the models in the magazines. admired. I’ll never forget pinching the skin of my belly in the dressing room of a department store while trying on a bikini, convinced that I wasn’t good enough.

Despite this toxic state of mind, I never developed an eating disorder, but I knew a lot of girls who did, and it was widespread at the time. Many millennial women blame the diet culture of the 2000s (especially the diet culture in the tabloids) for how many of us had body image issues, like Michelle Konstantinovsky from Charm writing, “For millennials, our formative years were a perfect storm of body-shaming forces: the era of so-called heroine-chic fashion that gave way to low-rise jeans and baby t-shirts and leggings. advent of sites like Tumblr that allowed “thinspo” content to spread like wildfire.

In 2021, writer and editor Lucy Huber went viral for Tweeter, “If a Gen Z wonders why every Gen Y woman has an eating disorder, it’s because in the 2000s, a normal thing to say to a teenage girl was ‘when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty, so drink some water and you’ll be fine.’”

Now that this phase of culture — and our teenage years — is behind us, it’s easier to see how and why so many women struggle with their body image. Fortunately, there are ways to unlearn these behaviors and free yourself from this toxic mindset.

1. Stop criticizing yourself in front of the mirror.

It’s very easy for negative thoughts to become destructive, become a habit, or ruin your day, so it’s important to combat these thoughts early on. Many of us criticize ourselves by looking in the mirror (think of the scene in mean girls where Regina, Gretchen and Karen do this) regarding our appearance, and it’s a habit we all need to break ASAP.

Although it’s normal to have things we don’t like about ourselves, giving yourself a hard time every time you look in the mirror is counterproductive. Find two things you like about yourself for every thing you don’t, and remember that we all have different body, skin, and hair types. The world would be boring if everyone looked the same, so it’s important to embrace our beautiful differences.

2. Avoid fad diets

fad diets always be a thing, but the 2000s were infamous for fad diets like the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet. Although both diets can be healthy if done correctly (which is very difficult to do), most fad diets are harmful because they are so restrictive.

you can't eat like that anymore

Limiting yourself to certain foods may seem like a quick and easy way to lose weight, but all it really does is make you gorge on unhealthy foods when you’re done. Instead of trying fad diets, make sure you eat a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet that not only contains the nutrients you need, but also love to eat.

3. Stop comparing yourself to others

If you’ve ever hung out with a group of women, there’s a 100% chance that at least one of them will put down in front of everyone. Sometimes we do this without even realizing it, which is why it’s important to call our friends when we see them doing this.

Never compare yourself to me

I remember standing in front of a group of friends at a college party. I compared myself to a girl who was dating a guy who had hurt me a few weeks earlier. I was crying (alcohol may or may not have been involved) because I was stuck with the fact that she was so much prettier than me. A friend of mine kindly reminded me that even though she was pretty, it didn’t make me any less beautiful. Comparison is a thief of joy, and it is important to remind our friends of this when they compare or disparage each other. Sometimes we just need others to remind us that we are worth it.

4. Focus on health rather than weight loss

However it is completely normal to want to lose weight or get in shape, it is important to remember that health should be the goal of a weight loss journey. Instead of focusing on how many pounds you want to lose, focus on your health.

Like Taylor Swift’s widely criticized moment in her latest ‘Anti-Hero’ music video that has now been deleted, sometimes as women we step on the scale and no matter how much weight we’ve lost or gained, we just can’t see past the word in our head: “fat”. As women whose hormones change throughout our 28-day cycles, our weight is likely to fluctuate no matter how hard we work at the gym or restrict during meals. If you’re obsessed with the scale and check your weight progress every week (or even several times a day), it might be time to say goodbye to your scale…at least for now. Re-emphasize your overall health and why you want to lose weight in the first place.

to a stomach flu from the goal weight

Diet culture often eliminates the health aspect of weight loss, so focusing on better health will prevent you from developing unhealthy habits like limiting yourself to nutrients or gorging yourself when you break your fast. If you focus on health for the right reasons, weight loss will inevitably follow.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to the toxic eating culture of the 2000s, many millennial women still struggle with body image issues. These problems are not fun to deal with, but it is possible to abandon this state of mind in adulthood.

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About Wesley V. Finley

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