In today's technological universe we have constant access to information and images. We can instantly document ourselves through images and see ourselves in an immediate feedback loop.
For those of us who are not happy with our physical images, it can be a painful reminder that we don't look a desired way and that effects our mood.
In the 19th century beauty standards changed to a thin body shape, so thin become a "good body shape." Ironically, as access to commerically produced food increased and sedentary lifestyles have become the norm, the thin ideal has become harder and harder to achieve. Despite the realities of the obesity epidemic, we are still judged by societal standards that consider overweight "ugly."
In a study called "The Perception of the Obese in relation to their Bodies" published in Brazil in 2015, "the perception of a deteriorated body, a distorted body image, goes much beyond a body with excess weight and volume. This self image... causes discomfort and negative feelings that generate suffering... feeling sad, ugly, ashamed and inhibited."
Our development of personal identity involves our relationship with body image and the mental representation of the body through our life experiences. Obese people internalize negative feelings about ourselves due to societal constructs. And sadly, these negative feelings about ourselves are hard to change.
According to Alice G. Walton in The Atlantic, 2012, "studies show that children internalize stereo-types and negative perceptions of obese people before they ever become obese themselves, so when they do enter that stigmatized state, it effects their sense of self-worth." Unfortunately, once that negative self image is internalized it is hard to change it. The negative self-image can outlast weight loss breeding a chronic state of body dissatisfaction.
Of late, the thin ideal has a new over-lay: the muscular ideal. Media images promote the muscular woman with the message: be thin -restrict calories AND add a muscle-building routine to acquire the new ideal. Although at first glance these may be positive health directions, they are extremes and create another measurement for body dissatisfaction.
For women living with Type 2 diabetes, there is another set of issues I will call "visceral unwellness." The definition of " visceral" on Medicine.net means the internal organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas or intestines. For those of us with Type 2, we navigate a delicate sense of well being based on our visceral experiences of our bodies. Many days I feel unwell in this way because the basic regulation of my body functioning does not work optimally. If I have have blood glucose levels I feel sluggish, unfocused and fatigued. If I am not taking care of myself through careful diet and exercise, I feel the guilt of diabetes distress. This all gets folded into my perception and experience of myself. Lots of suffering!!!!
I don't have easy answers to these dilemmas, perhaps opening up these issues is the place to begin. I hope so.
Spring is here!