I think that men have it easier than women. No, I’m not going to discuss the state of the feminist movement in 2013, nor the equal pay for equal work debate. However, I am going to state that men have more body acceptance than women – and we women can learn a lot about this from men.

Surprise, surprise! There is a distinct difference in the way men and women view their bodies. Men see their bodies as functional – what their bodies can do, the tasks they can perform. We women see our bodies as ornamental – how attractive we look and to what degree our bodies conform to the cultural ideal of beauty. Men focus on function. Women focus on form. In general, men don’t see themselves as fat until their body size gets in the way of something they want to do. As we know, we women think we’re fat if we don’t measure up to the media images with which we are bombarded daily. Seeing ourselves as ornaments, it’s hard not to feel inadequate.

“I hate my body”, I hear so many women say. That’s a strong and powerful statement. Often it translates into “I hate myself. I’m not acceptable. I’m not lovable.” There is often a profound sense of despair that envelops us when we compare our bodies with those of other women. We compare, we criticize, and we come up short. Oh, to be free of those body image comparisons and expectations! (Have you noticed that we hear more about the shape of First Lady, Michelle Obama’s arms than we do about her Harvard Law degree?)

Also, our lives get smaller. They begin to shrink when we feel our own bodies are unacceptable. Here’s a little quiz. See if you answer yes to any of the following:

- I avoid parties or other social situations because of my body size.

- I have not applied for a new job because I’m afraid I will be judged by my size rather
than my abilities.

- I don’t wear shorts or sleeveless tops in the summer even though I get uncomfortable

- I don’t go swimming because I don’t want to be seen in a bathing suit.

- I don’t have sex as often as my partner would like because I don’t want my body seen
or touched.

This list could go on and on and I’m sure you could add to it.

So how can we feel better about our bodies? How can we develop body acceptance? We can start by learning a lesson from the men in our lives. (Don’t tell my husband that I just said that.) We can focus on function rather than just on form. Everything we do should be in service of becoming stronger and healthier – in mind, body, and spirit. (Perchance, if we become more attractive as a byproduct of those efforts, well then that’s icing on the proverbial cake!)

When we eat, are our food choices promoting strong bones and sharp minds? Are we getting enough sleep to restore our bodies and brains? Or do we abuse our bodies with inadequate amounts of nutrition and not enough restorative sleep? And… speaking of function, bodies were made to move. Regular exercise builds healthy bones, turns fat into muscle, and sends endorphins coursing through our brains. (By the way, there is something very attractive about a well-fed, well-rested, vibrantly healthy woman!)

So let’s make this vow together:
I do hereby declare that from this day forward I will choose to accept my body in its natural size and shape. I will celebrate all that my body can do for me each and every day. I will treat my body with respect, giving it enough rest, refueling it with nutritious food, exercising it regularly, listening to what it needs, and responding accordingly. I will choose to resist our society’s pressures to judge myself and others based on body weight, shape, or size. I will believe that my self-esteem and identity come from within. And I will affirm that I am worthy and lovable, right now, exactly as I am!

Author's Bio: 

Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed, clinical social worker with 15 years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh-based private practice, she works with women who want more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who are in conflict with weight, eating, and body image. She can be reached at 518-570-6164, Ilene@primelink1.net, or www.ileneleshinsky.com.