Fed & Fit

Ep. 143: Healthy Body Image Preservation

On today's episode, I'm chatting with my reverse interviewer Julia about how healthy body image preservation!

We're back with our 143rd episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 143 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia. And I am thrilled to invite you all back for another week of food, mindset, fitness, all the good things. Today, we have another great reverse interview. I would love to introduce you all to Julia.

First, if you’re confused about what a reverse interview is; these are when a Fed and Fit listener or reader writes in with a great question and instead of politely answering their question via email, like they’ve asked me to, I instead invite them onto the podcast to ask over a phone call. Where hopefully we have a conversation that I’m sure benefits more than just the two of us. So that’s kind of the nature of these calls. I’m thrilled to introduce you all today to Julia. She is from Philadelphia, and she is a speech language pathologist. She works with young kids in a school. Welcome to the show, Julia!

Julia: Hi! I’m so happy to be here.

Cassy Joy: I’m so happy to have you here! Well, like I told you before I started pressing record, or pressed record, I am yours for the next 30 minutes.

Julia: Sounds good.

Cassy Joy: So the baton is yours. Feel free to pepper me with whatever questions you’ve got.

Julia: OK, sounds good. So, I wrote in with a question about; more of a mindset type. I guess looking for mindset advice, about body image. I feel like this is something that’s really out there in the media these days. But I guess I’ll just get into my personal things. Because I’m sure everybody has their own vision of their body and body image, but I’ll just get into mine.

I feel like I can remember issues starting as young as 5th grade. I remember even before social media, I was looking into magazines that were like; oh these perfect model girls, and I don’t look that way. And then in middle school, obviously it is the worst for most kids. And I can say that because I work in a middle school. No one is really the shining star. And your bodies are changing so significantly that no one is looking their best.

And then through high school and college, I was always a swimmer. The comparison factor there is real, because you're pretty much in a swim suit at all times. So you're not leaving much to the imagination. So I guess fast forward to now. I’m in my mid to late-20s. I feel like I eat a very clean diet. I am aware of what foods I can handle and what I cannot. I definitely control myself in moderation with certain foods. I wouldn’t say I’m completely gluten free or dairy free or anything like that. But I tend to stick on that type of paleo diet mindset type of thing. But I don’t necessarily; I’ll have a piece of cake if it’s there.

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Julia: You know what I mean. So, I kind of broke the main issues I personally have into two big parts. So the comparison for myself to others, and that includes social media, friends, family, whatever. And then comparison from myself to myself, as like a past self. So I guess the one that most people can relate to is comparing myself to others. So through social media. You see all the posts on Instagram. I think that transparency has been really; it’s hard to find transparency in a lot of people that post. I mean, I think that some people that I follow will post the real stuff; I guess. I don’t know. It sounds more crazy when I’m say it out loud.

Cassy Joy: No, I totally know what you mean.

Julia: Yeah. But for example, I feel like my most self-conscious about my stomach. So I see a girl post a picture, and she’s got these 6-pack washboard abs. And I’m looking down at my stomach thinking; ew. Why don’t I look that way? I work out. I eat healthy. And you know, I feel like it’s a viscous cycle that I’ll be like; oh, I’m not good enough. It’s damaging to your self-worth.

Cassy Joy: Yep.

Julia: So I just feel like it’s one of those things; what is a good way to alter your mindset, or to think differently. And to; I don’t know. I guess go in a direction where you're not really leaving your self-worth to a comparison.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. Oh this is such a great topic. I remember why I got so excited about inviting you on. {laughs}

Julia: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: You know; my advice is going to probably be a little bit extreme. And you're definitely not alone in this, Julia. I want you to know that. I’ve definitely gone through these same bouts of comparison driven; those driving, I think, my perspective of myself more so than anything else. Hang on, I’m taking notes because I want to make sure I don’t forget anything.

I’m forgetting so many things these days! At this point, Julia and I recording before the baby is born. She’s due; gosh, in 2.5 weeks.

Julia: Oh my gosh!

Cassy Joy: I am; my little thinker is petering out so much on these thoughts!

Julia: Well I don’t have kids, but I hear that pregnancy brain is a real thing.

Cassy Joy: It is! I was chatting; well, that’s a whole nother. Sorry, I shouldn’t diverge too much. It’s a real thing. And it has everything to do with stress hormones and cortisol’s impact on our brain, and our ability to have short term memory loss.

Anyway! Another topic for another day. Ok, so I would say, I’ve definitely been through this. I’ve definitely gone through my own phases. Not that I have ever really fully recovered. When it comes to having a healthy body image, I think the best thing we can do for ourselves is admit that it’s something that we work on. Right? Because when we think that we’ve arrived, and then all of a sudden our subconscious starts comparing ourselves to somebody else, and our self-worth comes into question, it has a tendency to blindside us and have a bigger impact on it than if we had just acknowledged it as something that we’re always going to work on. Does that make sense?

Julia: Right. Yeah.

Cassy Joy: And I’m not saying that that’s what you did.

Julia: You're kind of looking at progress, not perfection.

Cassy Joy: Exactly. Exactly. I will always be a recovery body image; gosh, how do I put this. Recovering from trying to have a healthy body image. Or I will always be working on that. Because essentially the damage was done at a really young age. Like you said; it was probably around middle school. And it’s just those formidable years are really tough. And I had good friends; man, from the outside looking in, I had good friends. I had a great family. Nothing really significant or traumatic happened, that I can remember.

Julia: Yeah, I’m the same way.

Cassy Joy: Exactly. But sometimes little things just happen. And then over time, I remember just when you're growing up. I remember going to college, and I got so involved my freshman year in college. I’ve shared this story once before. But I got so involved my freshman year at college. I went to Texas A&M university, where student organizations are just abundant. There are so many of them, and you're highly encouraged to get involved. So I got really involved. I started taking up all these leadership positions, and I was doing my school work, and I loved it. I got really, really busy, and I got the point where I would forget meals. And it was honestly unintentional, at first. I would forget meals.

And I remember coming home to visit family; friends and family, and everyone started commenting on how good I looked. And, I remember thinking; oh. I didn’t realize that I didn’t look good before; one. You know? And I had lost weight because I really wasn’t nourishing myself enough. I was just so swept away with my work. And then it just started to feed this really ugly thing inside of me where I thought; oh, I’m going to correlate not eating enough with looking good and getting compliments.

Julia: Right.

Cassy Joy: So that’s really where a lot of that started. And I did; I definitely went through some really not healthy eating challenges and behaviors during college. Which then yoyoed to the extreme once I turned 20, 21. Then I started going out with friends. I was like; forget it! I want all the pizza and all the beer and all the potato skins!

Julia: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: You know? Swung exactly the other way. It’s like, as soon as that pendulum got pulled to one extreme, I let it go and it would swing to the other extreme constantly. I was either really, really sick, in terms of eating really bad foods. Or I would restrict completely. And a lot of it had to do with kind of what you're mentioning; externally motivated. I would wait to hear feedback from people. And now; that’s before social media! Right?

Julia: Exactly. Exactly.

Cassy Joy: Because I didn’t get a Facebook account until I was a sophomore in college. And even then, people weren’t sharing these kinds of cultivated; you didn’t have personal brands. Right? You didn’t have people who are pretending. This is getting a little harsh. But you didn’t have people who were pretending to share their true, authentic, real life.

Julia: Yeah, but kind of in a very synthetic way.

Cassy Joy: Exactly. In a very cultivated manner.

Julia: Right. And I always say this just talking to friends and family; but social media. No one ever shares the really tough things they go through. They share all the positive things. So you look at someone’s life on Instagram, and they have this perfect life with this perfect body and this perfect boyfriend. No one ever shares, for lack of a better term, no one ever shares the S-H-I-T on social media, you know? It’s not an outlet for people to share things that go wrong or really tough things that they deal with personally or with their families or things along those lines. It’s a place where people try to show others that their life is so good. And I feel like that’s across the board. Whether it has to do with health and wellness, or I bought myself this new car. Something. It’s across the board on lifestyle in general.

Cassy Joy: Totally.

Julia: And I feel like what you were saying about the comparison being externally influenced. I feel like I went through something kind of in a similar way, but; same but different. I was always an athlete in college. And I was working out. As a swimmer we would have two practices a day. And we would workout 7 days a week, and probably 5 hours, ish, total a day. After I graduated school and stopped swimming totally, I would still workout but I wasn’t going to commit 5 hours of every single day of my life to swimming. Or to working out. So I feel like I look back at myself in college, thinking; wow. I was in such good shape. And I looked so good. And I looked great. And now I’m looking at myself now and I’m like; why can’t I look that way. You know; talking about the glory days, I guess.

But, it’s something I felt like I needed to make a real adjustment to. Because realistically, in real life, we have challenges. We can’t workout 5 hours a day. I remember obviously working out that much, and then eating whatever I wanted, drinking whatever I wanted, and looking great. And I’m like; obviously age plays into this. And all of those other factors. But it’s just something I felt like was a big transition from college to now in my 20s. It’s definitely relatable, I think.

Cassy Joy: It is. That is very relatable. And there’s probably a bunch of other college athletes nodding their head along with you. That’s a very common thing to go through. Because, like you said, you go from working out essentially being your job.

Julia: Exactly, yeah. It was like 20 hours a week was the rule.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So my advice, I guess, it’s going to be; I think I’ve got four little nuggets to maybe help redirect. Because it’s one of those things that you can tackle. I think it’s best to tackle from a bunch of different angles instead of relying on one method. You know? Because you don’t really know what’s going to work on one day.

When it comes to mindset, we are such clever creatures. If we want to feel bad, we will find a way to feel bad.

Julia: Very true.

Cassy Joy: So when it comes to really setting ourselves up for a healthy mindset success day in, day out; first we need to know that it’s going to be different every day, and we need to kind of think of ourselves as; I don’t know. My brain, I am such a visual analogy driven person. But if you think of; what is that show, the warriors. Gladiators. Oh no?

Julia: Game of Thrones?

Cassy Joy: No, it’s the one, they have the obstacle courses. People at home are yelling at their radios right now. {laughs}

Julia: Like Wipeout? Is that what it’s called?

Cassy Joy: Very similar to Wipeout. Very similar. Anyway. They go through these obstacles and there’s all these nets. So that’s what I’m imagining, you're going through these obstacles. But I think we have to imagine ourselves as weaving ourselves not just one safety net to catch us; because we’re going to have to good days that we’re not going to need to employ any of these tricks, right?

You're going to wake up one morning, and you're going to think; hot dang. I feel good, I look good, I’m having a great day. I’m really proud of myself. And we’re just going to keep on keeping on. You're going to have those days. I think on those days is when we really start to become intentional about weaving ourselves some safety nets, and this is where my analogy came in. Not just one safety net, but I would say three or four deep. So that if one fails, because we’re just cleaver creatures. Right? We’re going to find a way through it if we’re really feeling low. Then the next one maybe catches us. And then the next one maybe catches us. And then the last one is there, if that makes any sense.

I would say; number one thing we can do. First of all, acknowledging that this is going to be a work in progress forever. That alone I think helps. Even though it sounds and feels like more work, I think that acknowledging that this is something that’s going to come up again in the future kind of helps relieve some of that stress of that perfectionism, like you mentioned before. So that’s gone.

Next, I would say; and this is probably where my advice becomes a little harsh and not exciting. If anybody on social media; specifically Instagram, that you're scrolling through and you see them. Not that it’s their fault. It’s just how you interpret what they’re putting out there. Right? If you have anybody that you're following that causes you to veer into this unhealthy mindset; unfollow them. Not forever. You can say; this isn’t forever, if that makes you feel better. Even if it’s me.

I mean, I want people to unfollow accounts that make you second-guess your self-worth. Whatever it is, whoever it is. Even if it’s somebody who just posts really innocent photos of; I don’t know. If it’s Victoria’s Secret Instagram account, and they have ads that show up on your Instagram page; click “Don’t show me these kinds of ads.” You know? Those kinds of things. Really go through and be really diligent and get really good at building that unfollow muscle.

And this something that I talk with friends about a lot. My blogging friends. We’re constantly going through and unfollowing people. Not just folks that have maybe a body image issue, but folks who maybe make us second guess the good work we’re doing with our businesses. You know? Because comparison is the thief of joy. And if there is somebody out there that is causing us to compare ourselves to them in an unfair manner.

And logically, we know. Logically, you know that they’re only sharing the good parts. Right? You understand that on a very logical basis. And it’s like; when it comes to businesses, we understand that someone’s chapter two is going to look different from someone else’s chapter 22. So logically we understand that. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t seep in under the skin and make us question and kind of muddy our own perspective and self-worth of ourselves. So I would say be really diligent about unfollowing. Number one. Do it for yourself. You can do it. That’s not fun. But do that, through Instagram and Facebook.

And if you have friends; even if you have personal friends on, let’s say Facebook. Who, like you said; we only share the good stuff. We only share; I got a new car! I got a new promotion! Nobody shares; oh my gosh, I had a terrible month at work! {laughs}

Julia: Right.

Cassy Joy: Or; oh my gosh, I almost didn’t make rent. People don’t share that kind of stuff, because they don’t want to remember it. They want to remember the good things. And again, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not out to vilify what people post on social media. But if that person; it all has to do with you, and you are in control of who you see. At least this point in social media; that’s the beauty of it.

So go ahead and click; hide from my timeline. Hide from my newsfeed. For now. And if in a year or so, you are really feeling on top of the world and this isn’t even a second thought in your mind, then go back in and you can follow them.

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Cassy Joy: So I would say that would be one of the safety nets. So go through and unfollow everybody. And then next, I would say let’s turn this into a game. Because inevitably you're going to see something. Let’s say you go through and you unfollow the accounts; you can probably think of five or six right now, that you're following. We follow because we think they’ll be motivating, at first. And then they turn out to have a really negative impact. So it’s ok to admit; whoop, that was wrong! {laughs} This isn’t helping as much as I thought it was. So it’s ok to go ahead and admit that.

So you're probably thinking; some have probably popped into your mind. I would go through and I would unfollow those to start. But that doesn’t mean that in a couple of days you're going to come across somebody in a bikini eating a cheeseburger. {laughing} And you're going to be like; how can they eat a cheeseburger and have washboard abs and these flowing locks and only live on beaches?

Julia: {laughing}

Cassy Joy: I would say, while you unfollow them, that’s going to help you for the next time around when you pull up your newsfeed and you're scrolling. For that day, that was hard to see. Right? So the game you have to get into is the smoke and mirrors game. Right? And it’s kind of seeing through that. Logically, we can talk ourselves through that. We can say; this is cultivated content. People only post the good stuff because A) they either have a business that they’re trying to build online, and good stuff is what they want to put out there. I’m so guilty of that.

When I have bad days, I don’t really post about them until I’ve recovered from them, and then I can talk about them. But there’s also other folks who just completely don’t talk about the bad days. And that’s just a part of their business model. Or even if it’s not their business. They just want to post these really glamorous, wonderful things because that’s what they want to remember when they look back on social media.

So I would think through those things. I would start to talk yourself through in a logical sense. Those things that we know. They’re only showing us what they want us to see. They could have a really bad night, also, and who knows. I wouldn’t want to walk a mile in their shoes.

Julia: Right.

Cassy Joy: Start thinking about those kinds of things, and really allow yourself to start to blow away some of the smoke, so that you can really see things for what they are. Ok? So let’s say you’ve unfollowed a bunch of folks, and then a few days from now you're having not a great day, and then you see somebody up pop up that you didn’t even think of to unfollow. And you unfollow them, but it kind of puts you down’ a few notches anyways. Go through those motions of trying to really logically think yourself through it, right? They have a different body style than I do. Totally different genes. Who knows what else they’re going through. These are the things I’m really excited about in my own life.

Which takes me to my next point. Sometimes it’s so easy to focus on the things that make us unhappy that we forget to count our blessings. And I’m so guilty of this. But the way that I get out of kind of wallowing and just; like I said. If we want to be in a bad mood, we’ll find a way to be in a bad mood. Surrounding myself with people who I have told in advance; if you ever catch me doing this, please do what you can to pull me out of it. And here’s how you can pull me out of it.

So, this is kind of like that third, maybe fourth level of safety net. Where you have friends and family members. Those who are close to you that you can call up and you can just tell them; I’m having a crappy day because I just don’t feel; whatever it is. You can be as honest as you want. “I just don’t feel pretty today.” Right? I’ve definitely said that to my husband before. And that’s so silly! It feels silly even saying that out loud, right? But sometimes you just don’t feel pretty.

Julia: Yeah. And I think even saying it out loud helps me. Because I’m like; wait. What I’m saying is really dumb. Why am I even thinking this? If I’m saying it out loud, it sounds really dumb. Why are you doing this to yourself. Do you know what I mean? I feel like hearing those words come out of your mouth, you're like; that sounds actually ridiculous. I can’t believe my mind’s even thinking this way. Squash that.

Cassy Joy: Totally. I know. And that’s our inclination; is to kind of brush it under the rug. Is to say these feelings and these thoughts are not valid enough to have any actual air time. You know? But you're feeling them, therefore they are valid. And that’s ok. And you're not alone. You’re definitely, definitely not alone.

I would argue that the majority of people have those days. And I think that the best way around it is to address it directly. The best way around it is through it, as some people like to say. So even though you might feel a little silly; that means the people you are talking to are people you consider really safe. Right? These are your really close friends. Your really close family members. You call them up and you say; “I’m just having.”

I’m thinking my dad for example, who would probably be a little blindsided if I called him up and was like; “I just don’t feel pretty.” He would probably say; he hasn’t had a conversation with me like that since I was 17. But, there’s no way that he would miss a beat. You know. And he would say; I trust. I know in my soul that he would say exactly what I needed to hear. And then that would be that.

You kind of have to get over feeling silly in front of these people, and just allow others in those times to just kind of remind you of who you are. Because probably what your friend or family member would say is, you are so beautiful. Of course, what are you talking about? You're so beautiful. And then have an honest conversation with them. And feel free to air some of those ugly thoughts out. Put them out to dry. Because you have to get them out. Right? And allow somebody else to help you see through them.

So I would say, as a last resort, I would lean on those. So, unfollow all those ugly accounts. Not that they’re ugly accounts. But we perceive them as showing us that we are ugly, right.

Julia: Right. Giving us ugly thoughts. Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Exactly. Giving us ugly thoughts about ourselves. I would unfollow those as soon as possible. I would start to get really good at trying to see through those accounts. Let’s be demystified as much as possible. It’s kind of like watching a commercial as a kid. I thought it was a fun game to figure out what are they trying to sell, and how. You know? So just kind of; if you go on the offensive trying to figure out. It becomes a game. What are they trying to sell? And how are they trying to sell it? Then it holds a little less power. So I would do that.

And then as a last resort, I would employ the help of others. And if you're not comfortable yet calling up friends or family members and sharing those really honest, real thoughts with them, then you can start journaling. That’s a really great kind of halfway step where you write down; these are some of the ugliest thoughts I’m having right now. Be as honest as you can. And then go back and read them, and then you be your own advocate.

Julia: Right.

Cassy Joy: You go ahead and answer and address every single one of those. Because you know you best. Even though we may think the worst things about ourselves sometimes, we also have the ability to think the best things about ourselves. And I think it’s important to go ahead and put those two side by side; acknowledge that it’s all part of the complete package. This is going to be a work in progress every day. And you are wonderful and beautiful. And with time, we’re going to build this muscle, and it’s going to get easier.

Julia: Right. I think that’s, what you were saying. I think my biggest takeaway is, it’s progress, it’s not perfection. You're not really looking for a finish line in this type of thing. It’s something you have to continue to think about. And you're going to have bad days, and that’s the reality of it. You just have to expect them and know how to get through them. Instead of thinking; I’m just going to wake up and feel great about myself every single day.

I feel like we have this perception that if we drop 5 pounds, I’ll wake up and feel amazing every single day. But that’s not always the case. You might find something else to be self-conscious about instead.

So, I feel like I need to stop making; maybe, a lot of people, I hope feels this way. But we need to stop thinking on the fact that it’s going to be perfect one day. If only this happened, it will be perfect. It’s just not a perfection type of thing. You can’t be perfect at it.

Cassy Joy: You can’t. You can’t. And you know what; even those accounts that we do follow online that, they’re these bikini models. I have really close friends who post bikini kind of photos of themselves, right? And they look amazing. They look incredible. And I’ve had really real conversations with them about accounts that they have gone through an unfollowed, because it makes them think badly about their bodies.

Julia: Right.

Cassy Joy: Right? Everybody goes through this. Everybody. Maybe that’s not fair. There are some listeners who are like; not me. I’ve never done that! {laughs} I think that it’s such; regardless of where you are, the comparison of self to others is such a natural thing. And like you said, there’s never going to be a finish line. And admitting that can help tremendously. Just knowing that; you know what.

And then if you are having a bad day, you can also look at yourself and say; I’m just having a bad day, and that’s all it is.

Julia: Right. I’ll make tomorrow better. I think that everybody has their insecurities, too. You look at someone and you're like; oh my gosh, that girl’s body is so good. She looks great. But then you might talk to her, and she’ll be like; I hate my legs, or I hate my arms. And you're like; what are you talking about? You look so good. But everybody, it’s all relative. It’s all what you're going through, personally. So I feel like that’s important to know, too. That even someone you might think is “perfect” is going through the same type of thing.

Cassy Joy: Totally. Yep. It’s all relative. Exactly what you're saying. And that’s interesting, too, because when I was in college. Even when I was at what I would have considered to be, when I was getting the most amount of compliments; you bet that I would look in the mirror. And this is body dysmorphia at it’s finest, right. Even in hindsight I was probably my tiniest. I would look in the mirror, and I would see so many flaws, and so many things that I hated about my body.

Eventually, what did that cause me to do? It would cause me to drop everything I was doing and swing the pendulum back the other way. And it became a self-sabotaging exercise, right? Because I would never reach perfect. Or I got so tired of striving for it. And I think like you said; that one piece of acknowledging that this is just life. We’re going to have good days and bad days is what helped the most.

Anyway. I hope this was helpful, Julia.

Julia: Yeah. It definitely was. I feel like you can go out there and take it on now. I’m going to go through Instagram right now and unfollow all of the ugly thinking. Not ugly accounts; people who make you feel ugly accounts.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, exactly. And that’s exactly it. It’s not that what they’re doing is wrong; it’s just that we’re not in the right place to process what they’re putting out. And that’s ok.

Julia: Exactly. Totally agree.

Cassy Joy: Awesome. Well this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story.

Julia: Thank you for having me.

Cassy Joy: So honest and vulnerable. The pleasure is really mine. It’s something that I don’t talk about enough, is my own body image struggles. Just because I get caught up in other geeky, fun, science things and I’m really glad that we had the occasion to air it out. But I really enjoyed it, Julia.

Julia: I appreciate it so much, Cassy. I just love your whole message that you put out. It’s just awesome. Keep on keeping on.

Cassy Joy: Aww, thank you. That means a lot. I really appreciate it. Well, thank you to everybody else who dialed in today. As always, you can find a complete transcript of today’s show over at www.FedandFit.com. And also, as always, we’ll be back again next week.

   

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