1. How your parents felt about their bodies, and what they said about them — and others– even when you were little or they didn’t think you were listening. So goes my favorite saying: “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
2. Photoshop so good you don’t even realize there’s Photoshop (and so your perception of “normal” is totally skewed.)
3. The attitudes of the first people you dated/were intimate with, and whether or not they appreciated your body for the completely awesome thing it was (and is.) For whatever reason, people’s body hang-ups can often be traced back to those initial experiences, especially if they were negative.
4. How you judge other people. What you first reach to insult someone with — especially when it’s physical — says infinitely more of you than them.
5. The way your friends treat their bodies and behave. In this case, it’s less about what they say to you or about themselves, and much more what you pick up on through their actions. We begin to subconsciously adopt the collective mindset of the group of people we hang out with most.
6. What media you consume. The books and magazines you read, websites you visit, TV shows you binge watch all combine to create your concept of what’s “normal” and what’s “ideal,” and you usually derive these ideas from the characters you identify with most.
7. Your heritage and your hometown. Food is such an integral part of culture — it’s largely the thing we socialize around — it can’t not also be tied to the culture in which you were raised. Emotional eating can start young and passing judgments about your figure from not-ill-intentioned relatives can really settle into your psyche after a while.
8. Whether or not you’ve been in a relationship in which you felt that your connection was more than just skin-deep. It’s hard to believe that love can exist without hinging on physical expectations, until you experience it, and you start to realize that appearance really doesn’t matter most.
9. If you are associating fitness with being a means to an end — that end being a different body — as opposed to being something holistic to keep yourself running (PUN INTENDED.)
10. How genuine your friendships are. If you only maintain relationships with people out of convenience — if you don’t have anybody in your life to whom you know you are important for who you are not what you do for them, your attentions will generally be focused on maintaining a physical, exterior kind of acceptability.
11. The comments people yell on the street — even if cat calls are “meant” to be complimentary (this is arbitrary, but bear with me) they still reduce your body down to a commodity.
12. How much you understand about health vs. genetic build, the fact that we don’t ever lose fat cells, they just shrink, and the concept of big vs. small/heavy vs. light is completely subjective to each person. If you only gauge your body’s acceptability by comparison, you’ll never be enough.
13. An assignment of “good” and “bad” to foods in terms of how they’ll make you look, how how they’ll make you feel or how good they’ll be for you. It skews your idea of what’s important for your body in general.
14. Not spending any time outside. The sun regenerates your body — we are as solar-powered as the foods we eat — and to deny your body that source of warmth and light is to deplete your feel-good hormones and everything else you were built to live in.
15. Not having anything more important to base your self-worth on. When you don’t feel like you have anything more important to offer the world, it’s inevitable that you get stuck on what’s most easy to see and judge.
16. Unrequited love. It’s easy to pin something physical to being the reason someone isn’t interested, but someone who only loves you when you’re 20 lbs thinner is not someone you want to be with anyway.
17. The constant attention given to celebrities’ bodies, how frequently you consume it and how seriously you take it. Whether they’re “bouncing back” after having a baby or simply going through the ebb and flow of life, they’re under the kind of scrutiny that would almost make it seem that obsessing about 10 lbs after you’ve had a baby is normal. Part of their job is to endure this, and it’s terrible, but you don’t need to be another person entertaining yourself with it. It’s not helping anybody. Hold yourself to your own standard.
18. Forgetting what our bodies were meant to do — laugh and play and jump and hug and love — and there is literally zero evolutionary advantage in having chiseled hipbones to help you do any of that.