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How to Stop Judging Our Bodies and Finally Live Shame-Free

Erin: Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, where we uncover the unconscious rules we've been following. We rewrite those rules and we find a new path to being freer, happier, sexier, and kinder to ourselves. I'm your host, Erin Keating. Today, I want to talk about body image and the stories that we tell ourselves about our bodies and how that impacts how we live our lives.

I have historically had a lot of limiting beliefs about my body that I told myself were the truth of the way the world works. I believed that unless my body was a certain way that I was unlovable and that I was destined to be less successful than women I knew and women I saw who had, quote unquote, perfect bodies.

The story I told myself about my weight, my relationship with food, my body, my lovability, my acceptability ran my life in unconscious and conscious ways were so. Much of the time that I've been here on earth, I think what's at stake here is that these beliefs may be limiting us these stories that we tell ourselves about what makes us worthy of love and acceptance and success.

These stories run our lives. The more conscious that we become of these stories that are running like a radio that's just been left on in the background of our minds as an undercurrent in our lives and our belief systems, they have the power to really limit and affect what we perceive as possible for us in life.

What would your life look like if you had a different mindset around this stuff? Do you have some scripts that are running that you're not even aware are running? And what are they doing to decrease or increase your happiness, your sense of vitality? Your joy in this one and only go round we have in life.

I want to talk a little bit about what it was like for me and where I think some of my limiting beliefs have come from. You know, I come from a family that is very attractive on both sides. So on the, on my mother's side, the women were beautiful and that was a lot of the currency that they had in the world.

And on my father's side, the men were athletic and they had beautiful bodies and they were very muscular and strong. And I came into the world. And by the time I was six, seven, eight, I was a little chubby and I definitely ate for comfort. I definitely ate for consolation. Sugar was a solution that I found to the feelings I was having and the problems.

I was experiencing and the things that I couldn't control in my life as a child. And thank you sugar for that, because what else could I have turned to? I'm grateful that the thing I became addicted to was sugar and not something even more insidious. And I do believe that I cultivated a sugar addiction, um, for a lot of years of my life.

Pretty soon after the sugar showed up on my body. It became very clear to me that that was unacceptable to my family. And I have a child who struggles with weight issues and I know how exasperating it is to watch someone eat things that you know is going to make them heavy, and that being heavy is going to make them unhappy.

I do see that in my own home, and I struggle with how to handle it, and how to address it, and how to help. And so, while for a lot of years I really faulted my parents for the way that they handled the fact of me being overweight, I have a lot more compassion for them today when I see it in my own home and I feel so powerless over it.

What my parents did was really call attention to it and make clear that I had a problem. I was incentivized in various ways to go on diets and exercise and track my exercise and track my weight on a chart and eventually go to Weight Watchers, Eat Lean Cuisines, um, When I was a senior in high school, I went on a liquid diet and lost 60 pounds or so.

I was very thin. One of a handful of times in my life when the diets quote unquote worked. I don't think you can really count it as working though, if it only works for three months, but people treated me like a conquering hero when I finally kicked what clearly had been identified as a lifelong problem and liability that I carried.

And that didn't seem to matter that. After my liquid diet, I didn't have a period for a year and then I became anemic and also I inevitably, like you do with all diets, gained that weight back and then some. And then was sort of confronted with the notion of looking everybody in the eye and saying, yeah, I fucked up.

I failed. You thought I won this thing. I did not win. I just lost one in a series of battles. I went to fat camp two summers in high school in order to lose weight. Again, totally worked, totally restrictive environment, lots of exercise, lots of camaraderie around the need to lose weight. And then by the time winter break came around, after both of those summers, that following year, I had put the weight back on and then some.

So this is what a diet is. This is what a diet does, but I really internalized. A lot of the messages that I got from both my family and the culture at large, which celebrates thinness, which villainizes any sort of excess weight, that I really believed in my heart of hearts that to be thin was to be lovable.

I really believed that it was my job as a woman to control my weight, to control my body, to exercise, to restrict my calorie intake. And if I wasn't doing that, which I wasn't doing for most of my life. For most of my life, I was eating and not exercising, um, or. eating and exercising a little bit or eating more moderately and exercising more, like some combination of things that wasn't making me skinny, I really believed I was a failure on some fundamental level, that there's something wrong with me and that I was damaged.

And so therefore it made sense that it would show up on my body and my lack of discipline. And as a result, I really came to believe a set of things that I have later in life realized are not true. Uh, aging. What I believed was true was that only certain kinds of men would like me because I was, I believed I was fat on average, I tend to be 30 pounds up or 30 pounds down from where I am right now.

I am 5'10 I weigh about somewhere between 200 and 210. I'm checking myself to see if I'm lying to make the number lower. It's probably closer to 210. I want to be honest with you. I don't like the number. I don't like saying it. I think it's really important to say it. To demystify the dominance that the scale has on the lives of a lot of women, in the scheme of things, it means...

It's fucking nothing. But in our minds, those numbers loom so large. I've pretty much always been a size 14. When I was at my heaviest, I probably got to a 16, maybe touched an 18. When I'm at my thinnest, I am a 12 or a 10. I never really go outside of that range. And clearly the task for me is to accept where I am as an average for my body.

And today I'm pretty close to acceptance, but it took a lot of internal work to get to this place and to shift my beliefs. My beliefs also included that my professional life would be limited if I were to remain the size that I am. I believed that if I was thin, I would be more successful professionally.

When I went to start this podcast, one of my first thoughts, an old, dusty historical thought was, Ooh, better lose weight. If you're going to step out front, you really need to be thinner. You really need to be more attractive, more socially acceptable. If you're going to stand in front of a room full of people, if you're ever going to step out from behind, not only corporate life, but the microphone of being a podcaster, you probably should lose weight.

That is how deep and insidious the thoughts are that we have around these things. And the culture bears this out. I saw a stat and they said that a 10 percent increase in a woman's body mass. Equals a 6 percent decrease in her income and that there is up to a 16 percent wage penalty in top executive ranks for women who are overweight.

So you'd be a C level executive. You can be the CEO of a company or the head of marketing of a company. And if you're overweight, you're going to make 16 percent less than your male colleagues or your female colleagues who are thin. It's disturbing. It's a disturbing truth about our culture. Most of us live our lives in bodies that are larger than what we see in the media, larger than we find personally acceptable.

And we walk around in this world playing a soundtrack of self criticism that does nothing but damage us. For me, what happened was that after my twins were born. I gained 35 pounds in the first three or four months because I was so overwhelmed and I went back to my best solution, which was sugar. And I had a relationship with a bag of Tate's chocolate chip cookies that could only be described as intimate and compulsive. I would hear the cookies calling to me from the cabinet in the kitchen and I would go back again and again and again until the bag was gone, until the itch was scratched, until I felt so disgusted with myself and there were no more cookies left to eat. Because my oldest response to emotional challenges Has always been food and like every addict, I knew that there was one place I could go.

That was probably the last stop on the train. And that was a 12 step program. And the 12 step program for food is called overeaters anonymous. Which is a disgusting name. Who wants to go to a meeting called Overeaters Anonymous? Oh my fucking god. I was so mortified to show up in that room. But I was desperate enough to know that the way that I was talking to myself about my body and my behavior with food was only getting worse.

And my children needed a mom and I needed to be a person who was not consumed with compulsive behavior and self loathing. And so when my kids were, they were under six months, I went to my first OA meeting. And in that room I heard people talking about food and body in the way that I had only ever heard it in my own head. And I realized I was home and as disgusting as the name overeaters anonymous is. It was really comforting for me to say, hi, I'm Erin Keating and I'm a compulsive overeater. Because that is what I am, left to my own devices, without any consciousness or awareness, I will eat compulsively and it will show up on my body.

And for seven years, I went to at least two meetings a week. I was sponsored. I had sponsees, I worked the steps, I did inventories of my relationship with food and body image, shame and self loathing. I excavated every dark corner of all of those diets and all of those perceptions and beliefs. And as a result, and I will say it felt miraculous, my ability to eat healthily emerged.

My ability to say no to things that I couldn't say no to in the past emerged. And I lost a lot of weight very quickly. And then gradually, of course, I started to gain some of it back. And as I loosened my relationship with Overeaters Anonymous. I gained a little bit more weight back. However, the repair work that all of that excavation and working through the 12 steps and cultivating a relationship with a higher power, which I had never had, and I was skeptical about and had to work very hard to even conceive of what a higher power could be for me. And they said in the program, you don't need to find a higher power. You just need to seek. And that was okay for me. I could seek evidence of the divine, of the mysterious, of the miraculous and call it my higher power. I liked the choose your own adventure nature of that.

And I also liked the conviction that I saw from people who had found a higher power and it had given them peace. And the ability to overcome an unhealthy relationship with food and body image that nothing else could solve. So for me, that last stop on the train was the stop that made all the difference.

And it had nothing to do with being on a diet. It had to do with my sense of belonging, with my sense of worthiness, with my sense of deserving to be here on planet earth in whatever body I'm in. And while I am not in the rooms, that's, this is how we talk in 12 steps, I'm not in the rooms these days. And I do also see that my food behavior is less clean and rigorous than it was when I was deeply in the program. The dots do connect. The more work I do in 12 steps, the less I have to worry about my relationship with food. Today, I don't have the willingness to be in the rooms, but I do believe that the work that I did over those seven years really changed my life, my mind, my relationship to my body, and really helped me to turn off that ongoing cruel radio station in my head that was always telling me.

I sucked because I was fat. I was not worthy of love because I was fat. Oh, look at that stomach. Oh, look at those arms. Oh, look at that jiggly ass. Look at that neck. All of the things that on a bad day, Even at this point in my life where I feel that I've healed so much, I am a work in progress and some days I look in the mirror and I am not kind to myself.

And other days, I think, shit, you look pretty hot for 51. And thank God, there are more of those days than there are the shitty days. And I think that's partially because I live a more mindful life today as a result of what was introduced to me in the 12 Steps. I feel better today because I have changed so many things in my life that I felt were limiting me or were, Not serving my higher purpose.

I also have cultivated some practices that I have kept, which includes a periodic ability to meditate. So on a good day, I meditate on a good day. I journal these things are related to weight and body image. These help excavate the yuck. These help identify a quiet centered part of myself that is beyond body, that is beyond culture, that is beyond critical self perception.

I will also say on a practical experiment basis, getting divorced and being 50 and being out in the dating marketplace was a huge re education for my body image and self perception. I really didn't know if I was going to be desirable to men, my chosen gender. The person that I'm attracted to. And when I made my dating profiles, I put real pictures of myself where I really look like myself now, granted, flattering, flattering pictures, but I was not about to show up on a date and have someone be surprised that I carry some extra pounds.

And so I always found myself trying to work in this warning or caveat before I would meet someone. I always made a point to say and made an effort to not be mean or critical to myself. As I was saying it, I carry a few extra pounds. I'm pretty curvy. I carry them really well. I'm tall. I'm sexy. I'm in my body.

But I just want you to know that if you're looking for a skinny girl and that's important to you, that's not me. And I don't know whether I needed to say that or not for the sake of the people that I was about to date, but I needed to say it for me. It was an affirmation of like, Hey, this is who I am.

I'm probably not going to be different from this going forward. So this is what you get. And if this is what you like, that's so fucking great um, because there's so many men out there. There are so many potential partners and lovers out there and you just need to find the ones who are into you. Now, when I was in my twenties, I had a whole story in my head about the fact that.

Only certain kinds of men would want to date me. Chubby chasers, fat fetishists, like I had a real bullshit set of things in my head that I told myself about who I could be lovable for. And that kept me from really falling for people that I chose. I felt that I had to wait for certain criteria to be met because my body was somehow deviant or unacceptable.

And so I needed that rare specimen who could love me as I was. It's so mean. It's so mean to talk to yourself in that way. My God, if anyone ever talked to me that way, I would never speak to them again, but I allowed those conversations to go on in my head because I didn't know how to stop them until I learned how to stop them through 12 Steps. And it's so funny because I did date a guy and I was in love with a guy who admittedly only liked bigger girls. That was just his thing. He also only liked brunettes and I happened to be a brunette for five minutes and that's when we met. So he was attracted to me conditionally based on these things that were his criteria that I happened to meet at the time.

But even him, he got a tattoo while we were dating of a girl with really big boobs and a really big butt and brown hair and she looked nothing like me. And I was like, um, I think this is a sign that I'm as much as I'm here partially because I'm his type, I'm not even his fucking type. And he did marry a girl who looked just like that.

Mazel tov, dreams do come true. But fuck. My own limiting beliefs, my own sense that I needed to disqualify myself from certain kinds of partners that only certain people would be attracted to me. Now, chemistry works that way. You're attracted to people you're attracted to. However, it's an inside job and you show up radiating self confidence and self love and joy and laughter and happiness.

And you seem real good in yourself and you look good and you take care of yourself. You're going to be attractive in the world. And at 50 showing up in the body that I have with the vitality and the energy that I had that was released from me when I left my marriage and started to change my life, that was very attractive.

And what I learned is that men like women's bodies. This is a stupid thing to learn at 50 years old. Men like women's bodies and they don't judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves. They are not as critical of us as we are. There's certainly men out there who only want to date 25 year olds, no matter how old they are.

And those people should do that, but they're not going to ever click on my dating profile. If they click on my dating profile, it's because they like what they see. I'm currently seeing someone. Who thinks my body is absolutely amazing and loves my softness and loves my curves and loves everything that I would be critical of about myself turns him on and lights him up and I can feel it in the way that he touches me and I think, who am I to be so critical of myself when clearly what I am works so well for this person who I'm also really attracted to?

I wanted to share this story because who I think we don't talk enough about these shameful thoughts we have about ourselves and shame holds us back and self criticism holds us back and these perceptions. These rules that we make up that you have to be thin to be lovable that at a certain weight I'm unfuckable that I can only like a certain kind of man or only a certain kind of man would like me because my body constrains me I can only show up in a meeting and turn on the zoom if I'm Primped up and I look perfect and I've got the angles, right?

I can only show up on stage at a conference to speak if my body looks a certain way all of these thoughts conspire to keep us limited and small they conspire to control the story of our potential the things we tell ourselves about what is possible for us in our lives. Everything is possible for us in our lives.

It's all an inside job It's all a head game and of course eat healthy, exercise, take care of yourself, be well, but stop being so mean to yourself. If any of this resonates for you, I'm here to say you can change that radio dial. Is that such an old metaphor? Oh my God. A radio dial is ridiculous, but you know exactly what I mean.

You can talk back to that voice in your head. You can say no thank you to those thoughts. You can rewire your self perception to a place that is more positive. So that you can be happy, joyous, and free in the world. So that you can be hotter than ever. That, my friends, is what I want for you.

Thanks for listening to Hotter Than Ever. If you enjoyed this episode and something I said resonated with you, please follow the show on whatever platform you're listening to right now. Tell your friends about it and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. It helps other people to find the show. Also get in touch, DM us on Instagram, Facebook, or any of your other social media platforms to tell us your story about body image and self acceptance or anything else we've covered.

Hotter Than Ever is produced by Erica Gerard and PodKit Productions. Our associate producer is Lena Reibstein. Music is by Chris Keating with vocals by Isa Fernandez.

Come back next week and we'll get into some more deep stuff.


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