8 Counter-Intuitive Ways To Stop Obsessing Over Your Body

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Woman embracing food, not limiting herself

Being mindful of your body is normal and means you care. A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and eating well shows love and respect for ourselves and our bodies and attributes of healthy self-esteem.

However, obsessing over physical appearance is a projection of insecurity and a potential cry for help from an inner child trapped in the psyche who needs validation and control.

Here are 8 counter-intuitive ways to stop obsessing over your body.

1. Recognize you are dealing with your inner child.

I know we don't have frantic children who run rampant inside our minds. But, we do have our inner child's set of emotions that have solidified into a spider web deeply woven into the chemistry of our brain.

I think about my experience with Nutella, or as I call it, "The food of the gods".

Smooth and silky, its chocolate mass of goodness delights the senses and seduces the brain into producing happy chemicals capable of melting all your cares away. There it sits, at eye level in the pantry. I want it, but I am not allowed to touch it. "It’s not good for you, and it’ll make you fat," my logical mind rationalizes. I unscrew the lid… I’ll smell it…

Half a jar later, spoon in mid-air, I snap out of it. What the hell, Katherine? In response, I finish the rest and spice it up with coconut flakes and sunflower seeds. Let’s make it a complete meal while we’re at it!

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2. Ask yourself Is self-denial or self-allowance better?

Why? I demand answers from my sugar-stupefied brain. You told me I was not allowed, so I showed you, and the answer came quickly.

What if I’m allowed to have as much Nutella as I want? What if I stop rebelling against the ghostly commands that echo from my childhood of what I should and should not do, and will I stop obsessing about diets and body image? Could it be that simple? I need proof.

I drive to a nearby supermarket, purchase three large jars of Nutella, and plant them defiantly on the kitchen counter in front of my shocked husband.

I ask him not to judge me (too late for that), open the first jar, dip in for a hearty scoop, then watch the gooey mass of Nutella slowly swallow the spoon like some slithering sea monster. I yank the spoon out of the jar. My senses get seduced by the sweet chocolate as my tongue catches a dangling dribble from the tip of the spoon.

And I’m done. Satisfied. That was over fifteen years ago. Today, I couldn’t care less about Nutella. My battle with sugar cravings left a piercing revelation: Self-control is rooted in self-approval, and personal freedom is choosing to approve of myself, even if it’s one empty Nutella jar later.

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3. Decide self-approval is the way

No one else can give us the approval we crave because no one truly gets us as we understand ourselves. No one can think in our minds and feel in our hearts. We are the only ones who can genuinely offer ourselves self-understanding, compassion, and approval. At some point, we've got to have our own back. Even when we fall into the bottomless pit of sugary despair, we've got to climb back up and grab onto a solid core of self-approval. I know self-control and true freedom are rooted in self-reliance and compassion, but how, I wonder, does this relate to diet, exercise, and body image obsession?

We need to feel in control to stop obsessing over body image. What we want is valid, and we can allow ourselves to have it our way. We've got to permit ourselves to live fully, to allow the joy of life experience to pierce our brains and saturate our hearts. We don’t want tons of sticky sugar to propel us into oblivion. We want to face our present and future knowing we deserve a good life, a life where we look and feel our personal best.

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4. Freefall into the freedom of being yourself.

Let yourself be. Release yourself from the rigid pliers of all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should’ts.' As an adult, you know what body size you feel good at, which foods and types of exercise you like, what you enjoy eating, and your eating style. Not everyone needs three structured meals a day, and some of us are free-style eaters who snack every few hours. When you listen to yourself, you understand your unique needs and can agree about your lifestyle. If the gym is not for you (because it’s not for everyone), find other ways to stay active, like doing yoga with a YouTube video, walking on the treadmill, or dancing like no one is watching.

5. Allow yourself to eat whatever you want.

When we permit ourselves to choose what we want to eat while maintaining self-approval, we have no self-imposed boundaries to rebel against. Instead, we can choose from a place of internal freedom. Sometimes, you might eat several spoonfuls of Nutella or a couple of scoops of Rocky Road ice cream, but then your cravings shift to your favorite fruit, nuts, or Greek yogurt for a snack.

RELATED: Why You Should Stop Trying To Love Your Body

6. Be satisfied with your life and make food a partner instead of an escape.

Life will never be perfect; it just can’t be. The duality of nature dictates the duality of our human experience. There is always something good, bad, or OK, so food can never solve our ups and downs.

Yet, at times of high stress (a breakup, losing your job, the death of a pet), or when life doesn’t work (that life partner is not coming, and neither is that promised promotion), you have the freedom to look for the good in your life because you deserve to feel at ease at this moment. When you start deriving pleasure from the good things in life, like a rose blossoming in your backyard and the Wi-Fi works today, you don’t project a victim mentality onto food or how you look.

Instead, you feel empowered by choice while looking for things that nourish and sustain you emotionally.

7. Obsession goes away – even disappears – in the light of your innate worthiness.

Worthiness is not a number on a scale or a clothing size. Some so many people believe that since they are not the size they want, they are unworthy. They spend years obsessing over their bodies, imposing harsh diets or strenuous exercise, only to validate something we all possess innately: self-worth.

Trapped in the endless loop of obsession and fad diet fails, self-loathing creeps back up, and the hamster wheel keeps spinning. That’s not fair to you – you deserve better. When you realize worthiness, validation, and self-approval are a matter of personal choice, you accept it and set yourself free.

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8. Get busy creating your personal best that isn't perfect.

Can you love yourself when you’re not perfect? Can you be lovable in any form? Absolutely! The definition of being good enough implies imperfection! Of course, if you have areas you’d like to improve, you can gear your exercise routine toward that goal. Not for the sake of perfection but out of preference.

When it comes to love… Love is a phenomenon that stands on its own, thriving unconditionally, independent of the size of our thighs. When you walk by the mirror, stop abruptly. Be brave and face your image: I am not my body. I am the love pulsating through it. Let yourself know this while looking deep into your eyes. Don’t be shocked if you feel the voltage of love running through your spine, embracing you into self-acceptance.

Just because we were bullied in the past, as most of us were by parents, siblings, or classmates, it doesn’t mean we have to continue to bully ourselves and use our bodies as punching bags.

We manifest how we felt since childhood: helpless, unworthy, and out of control, and our body reflects our beliefs.

How do we stop obsessing over our body image? It boils down to building a mental muscle of choice. Yes, it is hard work, but having a choice creates ease in the body. When we feel at ease, our body responds with a vigor that works best for our age and life circumstances. In other words, it is a perfect fit for our uniqueness.

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Katherine Agranovich, Ph.D., is a Medical Hypnotherapist and Holistic Consultant. She is the author of Tales of My Large, Loud, Spiritual Family.