Our Bodies Post-Holiday
Being in mid-February, the holiday season came and went, the Gregorian New Year and Lunar New Year have begun, and Valentine’s Day is officially over. This season of festivities has officially been drawn to a close (for now!) and we all get a chance to step back and relax…right?
For some, the post-holiday whirlwind can pose a new stressor and common household item: the scale. Meh.
While it is very common in the wintertime to gain weight, this normal fluctuation can be an impactful source of stress for many. Even Lawrence J.s Cheskin, the founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center says so. 1.
There’s just something about the way we view the numbers on a scale. Take for example, stepping on the scale for the first time since the winter season began and seeing you have gained 15 pounds. The sight of a greater number, a change in the upward direction, leads us to feel a sense of unease. What is it about those numbers? Also, side note, what is it about those social media models who somehow seem to have lost weight this winter season?!
Thought Traps on the Loose
Let’s take a moment to pause. Where did your mind go when you thought about that social media model? How about the way you feel about your body currently?
You may have noticed your mind wandering to some self-critical places. What happened could be considered a thought trap. A thought trap is an unhelpful way of looking at a situation that seems to automatically come to mind. 3.
Why is this important? For generations upon generations societies have had a very strong tendency to dictate “what looks good.” And who are the people “making those rules?” Usually not the same gender and/or ethnicity of the people they were “making the rules” for! The truth is, there are no “rules” for what physical beauty is composed of, but there are a lot of negative emotions that can stem from thinking that there are.
By accepting our beauty in our natural form, we are not only breaking stigmas, but we are also encouraging that there are many ways to be beautiful. In fact, there are about 7 billion ways (hint: just Google how many people there are on alive!). And I promise you, the more we see what people have to offer, we will see how there are more people who do not fit the image that social media tries to fill us with.
3 Ways to Practice Body-Positivity
Here are three strategies on how to take your thought traps related to weight and turn them into something else: body appreciation.
Diversify Your Social Media
One of the biggest things I can urge you to do to counter your thought traps is to diversify your social media. And while yes, I do mean make sure you follow the content of people from various genders and cultures, I also mean in terms of the bodies you see as well. Did you know there are acne models, psoriasis models, and intubated models? Yes, they really exist, and yes, I follow them. By seeing a more diverse group of people with diverse body types, you will begin to ease your thought traps through the representation and acceptance of other body types online (see ya later to catasrophization).
Protip: It’s actually okay to keep some of the glammed-up models too. Why? Because the goal of this exercise is not to shame any body type, including those who may be labeled as “supermodels.” The goal of this exercise is to diversify, in order to see how many body types and images offer their own unique beauty.
Nurture, do not Punish
Nurturing your body is key to a happy and healthy lifestyle. There are many ways to do so including rest, hydration, exercise, and nutritional nourishment.
Why do I recommend nurturing your body when we are talking about weight and thought traps? Great question. Remember that all or nothing thinking? Well, let’s say you have a goal of eating a certain number of calories a day. Now let’s say you go over that goal slightly one day- what do you do? There are many who will say “eh I went over, might as well forget it and start again tomorrow.” Then there is the worse example of all-or-nothing thinking which is, “I am really hungry but I am close to my calorie count for the day so I will eat again tomorrow.”
That all or nothing thinking is what we want to break. It is never too late to get back on track with your goals and pick up where you left off. Conversely, it is also okay to take a pause and reassess your goals if your body needs a little extra nurture. If you are feeling hungry for example, don’t ignore your body’s needs because you are trying to “meet a diet quota for that day.” Instead, make sure your body is being taken care of and you aren’t going hungry and feeling unwell.
Give Yourself Compliments
I want you to go in front of your closest mirror and give yourself a compliment. Now. And if you are reading this out in public, well then, turn on your selfie camera and think a compliment to yourself to help ease a personalization thought trap.
I know, I know, this sounds silly. And yes, even as a licensed social worker, the first time I gave this a go I started laughing hysterically when I tried it out. Yet, as silly as talking to yourself may seem the first time or two, the more you do it, the more natural it feels. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to simply talk out loud, really this exercise is to create a list (by giving one compliment a day) of the many things you will discover you like and appreciate about yourself.
If this exercise is hard, then I suggest two things. One, start by identifying something that you did that was good or you are proud of. It doesn’t need to feel like a big deal to be a big deal. For example, you may be proud you cooked your own meal today, that you called a friend, or you said no to something. Two, I have included a FREE copy of an affirmation sheet to get you started. ** CLICK HERE **
Try CBT for Body-Positivity
To summarize, thought traps, while uncomfortable, are normal and common. When it comes to thought traps and weight gain or body image, this time of year can influence our thoughts and feelings towards ourselves. And that’s okay. There are many ways to tackle these thought traps. One way is to diversify your social media to see different body types posting content. Another way is to nurture and not punish your body. The third way is to give yourself compliments. With time and practice I hope that you find some of these strategies useful!
Enjoyed this strategy? Want to learn more about some of the things mentioned in this article, such as thought traps? At online-therapy.com we offer an entire section of our program dedicated to thought traps as well as other aspects of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. To help keep you accountable in your goals, you can also work one-on-one with a licensed therapist each step of the way.
To learn more please visit https://www.online-therapy.com/create_account.php
Cherry, K. (2020, November 21). Why body positivity is important. What Is Body Positivity? Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-body-positivity-4773402
Gagnon, T., December 1, 2020. (2020, December 1). 20 reasons why you gain weight in the Winter. 20 Reasons You Tend To Gain More Weight in the Winter. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.eatthis.com/why-gain-weight-in-winter/#:~:text=Surveys%20show%20people%20tend%20to,dampen%20your%20holiday%20fun%2C%20though.
Online-therapy.com, . (2020, June 6). Section 5: Problematic Thoughts. Online Therapy That Works – Start Getting Happier Now! Retrieved from https://www.online-therapy.com/sessions.php?order=98268&id=1685343&pID=139 Subsection: Worksheets: My Thought Traps
- Gagnon, T.,
- online-therapy.com[/efn_note In the case of changes in weight, we are utilizing a few different thought traps. Let’s explore some of the common thought traps related to weight.
Common Thought Traps
If you are thinking that a change in weight means something negative about you as a person, such as “I am not as good now” or “I am a failure for letting myself gain weight,” then personalization might be going on. Yes, the change may be unexpected, but the number on the scale does not reflect who you are as a person and what you have to offer. And also this is a time to remind yourself weight gain does not mean a bad thing. Weight fluctuations are normal throughout our lives.
This can apply to dieting and weight management. If a change in weight makes you ready to throw out the bread and buy the first acai bowl you can mobile order, or else you will continue to gain weight, then this is the thought trap going on. Another example would be if you are on a diet and go over the calorie recommendation for the day thinking “what’s the use? This will never work.” Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself time to find a rhythm of what works well for your body and your goals (if you are even looking for a change at this time!).
This is a big one. If you’re thought that weight gain means something really bad is happening, you are probably in the catastrophization zone. And let me tell you if you are here, it’s okay. Many, many people are. (Throwback to the countless snacks that I put in the garbage). Remember, we aren’t looking to deprive ourselves of anything that brings us happiness and joy- we are simply looking to have good relationships with those things. And that is a very personal experience.
The key takeaway I want you to have is that thought traps are normal. Often, they are uncomfortable to feel and think, but they are common to have. Yet, we don’t want to continue experiencing the distress that comes from this discomfort.
So instead, I challenge you to approach your thought traps in a new way: getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and finding new approaches to responding to your thought traps to achieve body-positivity. While body-positivity may sound like a buzzword, it is a real, important principle. Body positivity is about self-acceptance with how one looks and appreciating their natural physical beauty regardless of pop-culture’s influence.2 Cherry, K.