Saturday, January 16, 2010

Learning to Love Your Body

NOTE FROM SUSAN: This week’s People magazine story about Heidi Montag’s numerous plastic surgeries highlights our society’s obsession with beauty and perfection. Many young women will die attempting to achieve this unachievable goal. As parents, our daughters are especially at risk for developing poor self-esteem, body image distortions, eating disorders and more. In this article, author and psychotherapist Mary Joe Rapini provides tips for helping you -- and your daughter -- love yourself.

Learn to Love Your Body
by Mary Jo Rapini

Many New Year’s resolutions have to do with losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, and dozens of other ways girls (from 6 to 96) want to change what they look like. With today’s misleading role models, many girls experience poor self-esteem starting at a very young age.

I know all too well the problems that arise from having a negative self-image. I am a psychotherapist who works with patients who are qualifying for weight loss surgery as well as weight loss in general, and I appear on the hit TV series “Big Medicine” running its second season on Discovery Health. I also run several food addiction groups and binge groups, as well as see many young girls in my general practice. In the book I co-authored with Janine Sherman, Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever, Chapter 6 is “I’m So Fat! Body Image, Eating Disorders and Psychological Health.” In its 28+ pages, there are 26 questions, answers and great information. The topic is also covered in other places throughout the book.

Here are some basic tips for anyone, but especially for young women experiencing a difficult transition to adulthood. They are meant to help girls learn how to love who they are and what they look like.

1. Avoid criticizing yourself. Replace the phrase or “tape” in your head that says “I am fat” with something like “I exercise and eat right.”

2. Stop scaring yourself. Replace “I bombed on a test” or “I am stupid and fat” with “I am smart and can do better.” Think of one thing you can do next time (prepare and talk to the teacher to find help).

3. Make a habit of complimenting yourself. It isn’t bragging; it is called being your own best friend. Maybe you have a great sense of humor, maybe you get along with everyone, maybe you are a budding artist. Everyone has special talents and qualities.

4. Be gentle and patient with yourself. At the end of each day, think of three things that went well that day. Write them down. It is a rare day that doesn’t offer something good.

5. Praise yourself. Make a list of all your strengths, and repeat them each morning or evening. Add to the list as you get better and better.

6. Set an easy goal. An easy goal is one that is achievable and will make you feel better about yourself. Most of the time we focus on being thinner because we think it would make our confidence higher. Your confidence grows first and then comes a healthier life style. Always pay more attention to being healthier rather than thinner.

7. Do something with your mom. Talk to her about how she used to feel about her body. Ask her for some ideas of what you can do.

8. Practice talking in front of a mirror.
Practice coming across as strong and assertive. When you feel badly about your body, your body slumps and you may talk softly and act timid. If you become more assertive, you will feel more in control of your body.

9. Love your imperfections. Even the most successful models and actresses would tell you they wish their nose was smaller or that they weren’t so tall or short. No one has the perfect body so make peace with the one you have.

10. Take care of your body. Find one active friend who will exercise with you every day or someone who will eat lunch with you and join your efforts to eat better. Diets don’t work. A change in your lifestyle will.

Lastly, love yourself now. Don’t wait to show yourself tenderness. Don’t continue to abuse yourself with food or unhealthy living. You are a light ... if you can be brave enough to shine ... you will allow all of us to shine too.

Mary Jo Rapini is a licensed psychotherapist and the co-author of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever (

Rapini’s monthly column, “Note to Self,” appears the third Monday of each month in the Health Section of the Houston Chronicle and is often picked up by other newspapers around the country. She also contributes three relationship tips a week via the Chronicle’s blog, and is a Contributing Columnist for Rapini writes the “Ask Mary Jo” column for Houston Family Magazine. Her advice has been featured in numerous other publications such as Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Men’s Health and Self.

Rapini does a weekly spot on Fox-TV’s FOX 26 Morning News in Houston and regularly appears on regional and national radio and TV.

Learn more about Rapini at

1 comment:

  1. It is important to give yourself the respect you deserve!

    One thing that I would add is to surround yourself if positive people. I think a lot of the criticism can start with a sly remark, designed to introvert a person. If you don't spot this for what it is, you can start down the self doubting path.

    Instead find people who appreciate you for who you are, who are generally happy people, who enjoy people and life! (it is more fun that way)


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