Your body-image impacts your entire life, including your eating, physical activity, and weight management. So what is body-image and how do we improve it?
✔︎ The number one cause of body-image concerns.
✔︎ Why it’s NORMAL to have a negative body-image.
✔︎ Why body-shame is like being in “The Matrix”.
✔︎ How loving your body is a rebellious act!
✔︎ Why your negative body thoughts are NOT yours.
✔︎ Developing your own beauty standards.
✔︎ What triggers Libby’s negative body image thoughts (yes, she has them!)
✔︎ The thing that tells us that positive body image is not all about being attractive.
✔︎ How body image avoidance can make your life smaller (and how to overcome it!)
✔︎ How Libby’s husband Justin reacted to gaining weight on holidays!
✔︎ How body positivity is NOT a weight loss tool.
✔︎ How we are all different shapes and sizes – like dogs in the dog park!
✔︎ What happens when people become AUTHENTICALLY body positive.
✔︎ How knowing the difference between “body weight” & “body image” can change your life.
✔︎ How working on body image doesn’t have to be traumatic.
✔︎ Two strategies Glenn uses to improve the body image of almost every client.
✔︎ Libby changing her own social media posts after watching one of Glenn’s videos (good for health professionals!)
✔︎ How your body positivity benefits EVERYONE.
✔︎ How body positivity is closely linked with positivity towards yourself in general!
If you love this chat and feel like you need a helping hand to fully experience the benefits of becoming more body positive for yourself, we have a 6-week fully online program that will help you say goodbye to self-criticism, learn to love the skin you’re in, and help you achieve your best health from a place of LOVE.
Find out more about Love Your Body Healthy
Libby: Hi, everyone. I’m Libby Babet and I’m here with the wet side.
Glenn: Glenn McIntosh.
Libby: Yes. And we’ve been talking about lots of different things throughout a series of videos we’ve been making on how you can become happier and healthier. And today, we are here with another one which is all about body image. Huge topic.
Glenn: Body image is one of my favourites.
Libby: Me too, because it’s something that is so … it’s just everywhere. It seems like everyone these days has poor body image.
Glenn: It is pervasive.
Libby: Yeah. That’s the word I was looking for. I love when psychologists use big words.
Glenn: We love to use big words.
Libby: Trainers, not so much. We’re like three, two, one, go. So yeah. So look, let’s get back to that because it does seem like everybody has poor body image or so many people these days. Why is that do you think?
Glenn: You’re so right, Lib. It’s what … I’m going to use another big word.
Libby: Yes, bring it.
Glenn: It’s what psychologists call a normative discontent with your body.
Libby: I’m learning.
Glenn: Which means that we often have to decipher and interpret psychology speak [crosstalk 00:01:18]
Libby: Yeah, of course.
Glenn: To turn it into human speak.
Libby: For people like me.
Glenn: It means that it’s normal these days to not look the way you look.
Libby: Yeah. Wow.
Glenn: It’s getting worse. And in my practise, I see people who are … could be 35 kilos all the way through to people who are 250 kilos.
Libby: Wow. Big difference.
Glenn: And it’s across the whole spectrum.
Libby: Which I think is just amazing. And there’s so many reasons that come to my mind. A, we’re looking at ourselves and each other so much more on social media.
Libby: B, it’s like … I just feel like it’s become this Chinese whispers because it’s more visible on social, on the web, all this kind of stuff. Suddenly, it’s seeped into our daily lives too. But are there other reasons you think that that’s going on?
Glenn: It’s interesting, Lib, because in psychology often there are so many factors that affect one thing.
Glenn: But with body image, you would find a few examples of how it is just one thing and a million variations of the one thing. And that one thing is the thin ideal.
Libby: Yeah, and your comparison to the thin ideal, I guess.
Glenn: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s what we actually find is that people who internalise those comparisons more tend to have worse body image.
Libby: Yeah, makes sense.
Glenn: And some people can kind of brush them off a little bit and still have their own sense of what is beautiful and healthy and successful.
Libby: Because they believe that doesn’t mean I have to or that it applies to me.
Glenn: Exactly. And I think really, in this day and age, loving your body is a rebellious act. So it’s part of a lot of the work that I do with people is helping them. I call it … you know the move The Matrix?
Glenn: It’s like unplugging from the body shame matrix and developing your own sense, because it might … The Matrix is probably not a bad metaphor because the matrix seems so real.
Glenn: But the thing I would say to people is that if you’re getting dressed in the mirror and you think, “I look disgusting” or you see a photo of yourself on social media and go, “Oh my god, I’m so fat.”
Libby: “Compared to those girls next to me,” which we all do from time to time.
Glenn: Those thoughts … I’m going to say something a bit weird here.
Libby: Go on. I love weird.
Glenn: You don’t think that. Those are not your thoughts.
Libby: They’re just thoughts?
Glenn: They’re thoughts that you’ve learned from diet culture.
Libby: Okay. Yeah. Yeah, I can see that.
Glenn: And unfortunately, this thin ideal, it’s so pervasive in our culture, is a diet culture.
Glenn: And the more work you do on your body image, you’ll feel so much better in yourself that one of the side effects is you will learn how ingrained and how pervasive this diet body shaming culture is.
Glenn: And so the first thing I would say is that those thoughts are not yours.
Glenn: You need to unplug from …
Libby: The matrix.
Glenn: The matrix.
Libby: Body shame matrix.
Glenn: And then take that time to establish your own standards for what is beautiful for me, what do I see is healthy, what is successful for me.
Libby: Yeah. Well, that makes a lot of sense actually because it is … Yeah, I think unplugging is actually the perfect way to say it because I never would have any doubts about the beauty of my body when I’m just there with my husband who loves me or my sisters who I have a great time with. But it’s when you are … For me, it might be I’m out at a commercial job and we’re there amidst all these other trainers, a lot of whom are younger and thinner and fitter and that going into the matrix, that comparison trap, that actually makes you second guess yourself.
Libby: And to become an unplug.
Glenn: Yeah. And it’s interesting because people would look at you and go, “Oh, Libby’s so fit and healthy and fantastic. It’s silly that she should have those issues.”
Libby: Yes, but everyone does.
Glenn: Yep. And you can have in the same day, you might spend the morning with your husband feeling great about your body, the afternoon with other people and comparing yourself.
Glenn: And that’s something that tells us for sure … And I’m going to say something again a bit weird here.
Libby: Yeah, go on.
Glenn: That body image is not about the way you look. It’s about what’s in here.
Libby: It’s about the way you think. It’s about … Oh, that’s genius. I love it.
Glenn: You didn’t gain 20 kilogrammes between the morning and the afternoon.
Libby: Nope, did not happen.
Glenn: The changes happen up here.
Libby: Yeah. That’s really interesting. And so what are … because obviously this is going on and I do think it is an issue for almost everyone.
Glenn: Almost everyone.
Libby: It’s a rare person who doesn’t suffer from body image at some point.
Libby: So what are some of the negative effects of having a poor body image, particularly if it is ongoing?
Glenn: Yep. Yep. I think the biggest effects are psychological. It just takes up so much of your time and your effort and your energy, and it makes you … There’s something we call body image avoidance, and it means you don’t go into situations that can spike your body image anxiety.
Glenn: And so that might be to the gym.
Libby: Yep, for a lot of people.
Glenn: Yeah. It might be to a party.
Glenn: But for other people, it can be, “I won’t apply for the promotion” or “I won’t seek out jobs because I feel like I’m going to be judged.”
Glenn: Or even, “I won’t go for that partner.”
Glenn: I have clients who [crosstalk 00:07:04]
Libby: Not good enough for them, whatever.
Glenn: So people deciding that they’re not good enough before they even give themselves the opportunity. So it can make your life very small.
Libby: And isn’t that funny? Because I do think as well we judge ourselves so much more harshly than anyone else would judge us.
Glenn: Oh, absolutely.
Libby: It’s funny. We went to Hawaii over Christmas for this beautiful … It was the most extended holiday we ever had, like three and a half weeks, myself and my husband. We had a great time. When we went at the end of that trip to go on a helicopter ride, we had to get weighed. And we hadn’t thought about anything the whole time we’d been drinking and having a good time. And we got on the scales, and I was roughly the same as at the start of the trip and Justin had put on like five or six kilos.
Libby: It might have even been more than that. It might have been more like … I don’t know. I can’t remember. But I remember him being like, “What?” And honestly, that affected his mindset for the next few days because it’s was like … yeah, all of a sudden. But me, looking at him, I couldn’t tell the difference. And I’m a trainer and that’s … you know?
Glenn: And that’s the thing that a lot of these things are going on inside your head. But as we talked about, the mind is a super powerful tool.
Libby: It’s a super powerful tool.
Glenn: And if it’s not being your best friend, it can be your worst enemy.
Libby: Yes, definitely.
Glenn: So that’s why this stuff is so important to work on.
Glenn: The other thing is too, Lib, it’s there is this feeling that if I hate my body or if I judge it or even if I’m not happy with it, then that becomes motivation to change.
Glenn: And that does sometimes get you in the door.
Glenn: But if we look at it from a researcher perspective, psychologists are trained to base our work on research.
Glenn: And my area is weight management, and body image issues don’t help you with your weight.
Libby: No. Yeah.
Glenn: You might avoid exercise, which is a very common thing. Sometimes if you really don’t like your body, it pushes you into extreme diets which only give you the yo-yo’ing.
Glenn: And we [crosstalk 00:09:08]
Libby: Or emotional eating on the other end.
Glenn: Or emotional eating. Absolutely. So I think that’s a really important message for people to understand, that body image issues are not going to help you create lifelong healthy habits.
Libby: And I think that’s really important because we see on social media sometimes these … and perhaps I know there’s all the thin stuff, but there’s also bigger people that are a part of positive body image movements and all that kind of stuff.
Libby: And then if they lose a little bit of weight and get healthier, people often judge them for doing that saying, “Well, why were you saying you had a positive body image before?” But I always think that’s a horrible thing to do because you can have an extremely positive body image and still want to improve your body shape or improve your health.
And so it’s fine to have … If you happen to have the same positive image when you’re 150 kilos as when you’re 60, great. I think that’s really important to understand. You don’t have to be thin to have a positive body image or you don’t have to change to have a positive body image. Having a positive body image will help you change.
Glenn: Absolutely. And then I think we’ve got to also then be mindful. The next stage of this is that we don’t use body positivity [crosstalk 00:10:23]
Libby: Yeah, as a crutch.
Glenn: And we don’t use it as a weight loss tool.
Libby: Yes. Well, that’s exactly the same thing. Yeah.
Glenn: The reality is that I think … If you think of us, Lib, this is a weird metaphor. We’re getting weird today.
Libby: I love it.
Glenn: If you think of us all like dogs.
Libby: Yes. Okay. This is weird.
Glenn: We’re not all the pretty little pink poodles.
Glenn: And so if I’m Doberman, I’m never going to look like a pretty pink poodle.
Glenn: I’m never going to be as lean, I’m never going to be as small.
Glenn: So at the end of the day, people say, “What sort of weight or shape should I be?” I say, “If you get body positive and you take great care of yourself, you actually never have to worry.” Because if you’re a poodle, you take great care of yourself, you’ll end up looking like a great poodle. If you’re a Doberman or a mastiff or a dachshund …
And you see it in people’s families. People say to me, “Glenn, all of my sisters are people who live in larger bodies, my mom, my aunties, I am. I have been all my life. So if I get body positive, I’m going to suddenly look like Libby?” And I’m going, “No. You’re going to look like the best, healthiest version of you.”
Libby: Version of you. Yes.
Glenn: And the thing is you really never have to worry about … if you get really, truly body positive, you never have to worry about what that is because your job is just to feel great about the skin you’re in.
Glenn: To take awesome care of yourself.
Glenn: And then your body will sort it out.
Libby: I love that. And so we’ve talked about some of the negative effects being that it doesn’t actually help you … to have a negative body image does not actually help you to improve your body shape if that’s what you want to do or your health.
Libby: So what are some of the ways that we can … Well, no. Let’s start actually before that. How can having a positive body image help you.
Glenn: Lib, when people start to get body positive, it changes their whole life.
Glenn: It is like you’re sort of riding through life with a handbrake on.
Glenn: Because there are body weight issues and then there are body image issues. So your body weight doesn’t stop you from doing too much. It might stop you if you want to go skydiving.
Glenn: There are certain things that we want to be able to do at a certain weight.
Glenn: But for most people, they are very small.
Libby: Yeah, definitely.
Glenn: But there’s so much that your body image stops you from doing. And if you let go of that, it really opens you up and takes the shackles off and allows you to live life, it helps you be more social, and then it helps your eating and your physical activity balance out. That’s why in our programme that we do with people, we call it Love Your Body Healthy.
Libby: Yeah. I love that.
Glenn: It just makes the whole journey that much easier because you’re taking care of yourself from a place of love.
Libby: Yeah. And I think that is really, really important and sometimes, I hate to say it, a little bit easier said than done.
Glenn: No doubt.
Libby: So my next question to you is let’s get practical, my favourite thing to do.
Libby: What is an exercise that people watching at home at the moment can do to help improve their body positivity now, right here, right now?
Glenn: Yeah. That’s an awesome question, Lib. And I think it is really important, especially when we’re in diet culture. Diet culture sells us the idea that change should be super fast and super easy.
Glenn: And even if we’re breaking out of diet culture to make a change, we’re going to have some of that left in us that this should be quick, this should be easy.
Libby: Yes. Yes.
Glenn: But the reality is that the best way I’ve heard it described, Lib, is that body positivity is like learning a new language.
Libby: Okay. Yeah.
Glenn: So this will take you a very long time and there’s so many facets to your relationship with your body that [crosstalk 00:14:18]
Libby: Yeah. Lots of things to work on.
Glenn: Yeah, there’s a lot to work on. There’s a lot to work on.
Glenn: But the good news is it’s doable. And the good news is, Lib, when people see psychologists, often they worry, “Oh, is this going to be absolutely traumatic?” And sometimes if we’ve got to talk about tough stuff, we’ve got to go there.
Glenn: But really what I find in the work I do with people is it’s just work.
Glenn: It’s writing tasks, it’s thinking tasks, it’s little behavioural experiments. So it is actually just work. It’s just a bit of effort and it’s not that hard. So that’s good news.
Libby: Yeah, definitely.
Glenn: So what do we want to do? Okay, I’m going to give you two things.
Glenn: So we’ve talked about body image before.
Glenn: And we talked about that idea that your thoughts are just thoughts.
Libby: Yes. I love that.
Glenn: They’re not facts, they’re not you. We’ve extended that today by saying it’s actually something you learn through diet culture.
Glenn: So we’ll provide a link to that video where we go into that with a bit more detail.
Libby: Definitely. Yeah.
Glenn: It’s a strategy to manage your thoughts, so basically it’s noticing that they are just thoughts, they’re not facts, they’re not you. You can let them come and go and connect with what really matters.
Glenn: But we’ve been talking a lot about unplugging.
Glenn: And this is, I think, the most bang for buck strategy that you can do. And it’s something I do with pretty much every client who has a body image issue in session one or two.
Libby: Okay. Cool.
Glenn: So what I want you to do, I call this a social media declutter.
Libby: Oh yeah.
Glenn: So I want you to go through your Facebook, your Snapchat, your Instagram, your email subscriptions, any other ones that I’ve missed, and I want you to unfollow, unsubscribe, unlike any pictures or any pages or any subscriptions that have thin ideal images in them.
Glenn: And I’m talking about thin ideal images even if it’s got a good health message in there.
Libby: Yes, yes.
Glenn: So you’re going … If you do this, you’re going to find that you are plugging out of a lot.
Glenn: Anything that stirs up your comparisons.
Glenn: Anything that makes you feel a little bit less than. So this is not a cop out. It’s not, “Oh, now we’re [crosstalk 00:16:40]
Libby: Pretend this doesn’t exist.
Glenn: But what it’s doing is acknowledging that it’s very hard to develop body positivity when there are so many messages bombarding us all the time.
Glenn: Yeah, absolutely.
Libby: Same as when you’re at a work desk and you’re trying to get a task done but people keep interrupting you every two seconds.
Glenn: I say to my clients who are recovering from eating disorders, typically they’re younger people, and I have a conversation with their parents where I say, “If they can’t unplug from social media, I can’t work with them.”
Glenn: “Because how do you expect me, in an hour a week, to help provide some positivity when they’re looking at these images for three hours a day?”
Libby: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s a really, really important one. And to be completely honest about it, it’s something that I had to think about probably about a couple years ago now, because when I started out as a PT I looked at what other successful PTs were doing in the industry and that was showing workouts or giving positive health messages but in tiny clothes that showed off their amazing bodies. And so I naturally kind of did the same. It was like everything was posed but here’s a great message.
And I found that over time … I think it was actually I was listening to something you had posted about this uncluttering process, and I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness. I am probably contributing to this and not meaning to.” And so then I purposely took … I went, “That’s it. That’s enough of that for me.” Now, I’m going to show pictures of … If I’m talking about going for walks, I’m going to show me on a hike in my rugged clothes that don’t necessarily look great and I’m not going to be there showing off, because it’s not about that.
Glenn: Yeah. Go ahead, Lib.
Libby: Yeah, it was really … But it was a hard thing to acknowledge. And you know what? It took me a long time then to get the same number of interactions on social media, but it was an important thing to do. And if you’re not interacting with people who think that it is important, that you are important enough for them to put their ego away, it’s worth thinking about like, “Sorry. Unfollow.”
Glenn: Absolutely. And that’s the thing, Lib. It’s so challenging for all of us because we’re all victims of this. But in some way, we’re all perpetrators.
Libby: Yes. Yes.
Glenn: So the good news is … this is the sort of secret sauce of body image work is that you do it for yourself but everyone benefits.
Libby: Everyone benefits. I think that’s true.
Glenn: Women, your kids, your daughters will benefit.
Libby: Yep. Yep.
Glenn: Your partners will benefit. I’ve got … I’m going to say it. I’ve got women who I do body positive work with that might be middle-aged, 40, 50, 60 years old, and they’re worried about being intimate with their partners in the bedroom. And again, it’s that what’s going on in their head versus reality.
Libby: Very different in that situation.
Glenn: Very different. And they’re saying to me, “Oh Glenn, I can’t do this because my husband’s not attracting to me.” And he’s like, “No, I’m [crosstalk 00:19:46]
Libby: “I’m attracted to you.”
Glenn: “I’m great,” yeah.
Libby: “You are hot.”
Glenn: Yeah. So when you boost your own body image and develop a really body positive sense of self and figure it out for you what it means for me, because I want to encourage people to look into the body positive subculture. And you’re going to see all sorts of things. You’re going to see health at every size messages, you’re going to see size diversity, you’re going to see fat acceptance. And you don’t have to necessarily take that on board blindly.
I always recommend people, when they declutter and start to follow … if you just hashtag or Google body positive, size diversity, health at every size, intuitive eating, you’ll find a subculture that’s growing of people. I call them weirdos ’cause it’s normal to not like your body. I’m trying to help create a subculture of weirdos.
Libby: Yeah. Great. I love the word weird. Weird’s good.
Glenn: Yeah, weird’s good. It adds the diversity of all of our shapes and sizes.
Libby: Yeah. I think that’s super important. And even for yourself, guys, if you yourself are posting or trying to post these perfect pictures, I found personally from my own experience when I stopped doing that I actually stopped comparing myself as much, ’cause all of a sudden I didn’t have to look as good as those other trainers or influencers, because I wasn’t doing what they were doing. I was just posting … I wasn’t retouching my photos. I wasn’t having to look good or doing my hair or wearing skimpy clothes. I was just doing my thing, and whoever followed and got something valuable out of that, then awesome.
Glenn: Yeah. And the thing is you will have worries about doing that.
Libby: Yeah, of course. Of course.
Glenn: Becoming body positive comes with a lot of fears. But Lib, you’re my favourite PT down here in Sydney.
Libby: Aw, shucks.
Glenn: Lindy Cohen’s my favourite dietician, and she does a similar thing. A while ago, she had decided that all of her images will be Photoshop-free.
Libby: Yeah. That’s important.
Glenn: Then you just have to get better at [crosstalk 00:21:36]
Libby: Giving good content.
Libby: And also it then becomes not about you but about the people you’re serving and providing value to, and I think that in itself creates a positivity about who you are.
Glenn: Yeah, absolutely.
Libby: And I think body positivity is closely linked to positivity about yourself and who you are.
Glenn: I agree. Absolutely.
Libby: Cool. Okay. Well, that was a good rundown. And as Glenn said, we did do another chat in a bit more depth purely about tactics and ways or things you can use to actually … little tricks you can use to get more body positive. So definitely check out that video. But also, I love that chat. Thank you so much, Glenn.
Glenn: It’s a total pleasure. Unplug from the matrix, develop your own body standards, and just go on the journey.
Libby: Yeah. And just for the record, I think you’re bloody beautiful.
Glenn: Oh Lib, you’re beautiful too.
Glenn: And we think you’re beautiful out there also.
Libby: Ditto. Have a good one, team.