Recently, Jan’s webinar on the inner critic reminded me of an interesting and challenging process around the time I started teaching mindful eating courses. I was in my late twenties, super happy to have found a non-diet related approach to eating and to not only being able to research but to practically teach this promising approach. And then, out of the sudden, there was this thought: “Am I thin enough to teach mindful eating classes?”. It popped out of nowhere and really confused me.
One of the reasons why I admired the mindful eating approach so much in the first place was its focus on weight-neutrality. Since my bachelor thesis, which I wrote on body dissatisfaction, I had suddenly stopped watching series like Germany’s next top model (which was a hit at the university), had become very critical on dieting (which I did several times before), and had distanced myself from approaching my own body with a critical attitude (which was omnipresent in my surrounding).
But here I was with my thought. Perplexed. And a little ashamed. But there was also curiosity: I wanted to know more about it. So I sat with this thought during my meditation and brought to mind, what I expected from myself as a teacher regarding this concern? I realized that there was still an old, habitual connection in my system: People, who eat consciously, are in a good – apparently my head said “thin” – shape. Thus, to be a trustworthy teacher, I had to be a “good”, (that is, thin) role model. In “good” shape proving I eat consciously – and this of course all the time. By realizing this last part, I suddenly had to smile – there it was again, my perfectionist – an old friend. Humor always helps me to detach and the heavy feeling became a little lighter. But I realized something else: The diet mentality and thin-ideal-internalization of our society was still in me; and if not in a conscious way, then in an underlying, subconscious way. Though not easy to accept in the first place, this was a crucial observation since it gave me the chance to use my resources – to be patient and compassionate with myself.
A few months later I watched the movie Embrace – You are beautiful. A wonderful film on the thin beauty ideal of our society, and alternative ways to handle this ideal. Watching this movie really moved me as I realized that I am one of many, many women, which are affected by this thin ideal. It was not, that I hadn’t known about it before, but the movie gave me a strong feeling of connectedness and thus, common humanity, to all that beautiful persons in the world dealing with the same issue.
But this time, I brought back my uncomfortable thought to my meditation. It felt less strong and oppressive. It was possible to embrace it as a part of myself which needed time to heal, to let go. Out of the powerful feelings of common humanity, I realized, that I did not have – and even more – not wanted to be a “good” role model for eating “perfectly” consciously and enforce some more thin-ideal internalization in my own courses, but to share my own experiences regarding these concerns with my participants – being one of them, all together on our journey to get aware of old patterns concerning our eating and bodies. It really helps – already in our preliminary talks – to discuss expectations on the outcomes of a mindful eating program and to give some suggestions in exploring such internalizations during the course. To choose freely if one would like to keep them – or wants to start the journey in letting them go.
Do you know similar thoughts, which – in the first place – would not fit to your current attitude on your eating and/or your body? How do you handle the diet mentality and thin-ideal internalization of our society?
Diana Peitz, Germany