Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.
Let’s Talk About … Self-Worth
With Nicole Hawkins, PhD, CEDS-S
How often do you look in the mirror and say “If I could just lose ten pounds, then I would be happy”? Unfortunately, the majority of American women and girls are dissatisfied with their bodies, and many take extreme measures in an attempt to change their bodies. For example, one study found that 63% of female participants identified weight as the key factor in determining how they felt about themselves – more important than family, school, or career. Other research suggests that 86% of all women are dissatisfied with their bodies and want to lose weight. Women and adolescent girls regard size, much like weight, as a definitive element of their identity. Some girls assume there is something wrong with their bodies when they cannot fit consistently into some “standard” size; others will reject a pair of jeans simply because they won’t wear a particular size. The majority of girls step on the scale to determine their self-worth; if they have lost weight, then it is a good day and they can briefly feel “okay” about themselves. If the number on the scale has increased ever so slightly, then the day is ruined and they feel worthless. Body image has now become intertwined with one’s weight, and therefore, if women are not happy with their weight, they cannot possibly be satisfied with their bodies. Unfortunately, girls and women take this a step farther and rationalize that negative body image is directly equated to self-image. We are now living in a society where young girls believe the one way to definitely improve their self-image and to feel more confident is to lose weight and become thinner.
Dieting only helps you lose your self-esteem and energy. Dieting also creates mood swings and feelings of hopelessness. To fight the diet downfall, an intuitive eating approach can be extremely helpful. This approach focuses on moderation of all types of foods and not counting calories or label reading. Food is “just food” and not labeled as “good” or “bad.” Clients learn to monitor their hunger/fullness and enjoy a healthy relationship with food. If you feel pressure to lose weight, there are great resources on intuitive eating.
*The studies referenced were specific to females; however, males, trans, nonbianary, and other marginalized populations also experience body dissatisfaction.
Dr. Hawkins is a clinical psychologist and is the Chief Executive Officer at Center for Change. She is a specialist in eating disorders and body image and has provided clinical expertise at Center for Change since 1999. Dr. Hawkins developed a comprehensive body image program that focuses on the media, diet industry, plastic surgery, childhood issues, and learning to appreciate one’s body, and she leads these groups for the Inpatient and Residential patients at Center for Change. She is a Certified Eating Disorders Specialist (Supervisor), has published several articles, and presents regularly at national and regional conferences.
Center for Change is a place of hope and healing that is committed to helping those suffering from eating disorders break free and fully recover. The Center offers intensive treatment for eating disorders and co-occurring issues, including a specialty program for co-occurring diabetes (ED-DMT1), and provides a full continuum of care: Inpatient, Residential, Partial Hospitalization Program, Intensive Outpatient Program, and Outpatient services. Located in Orem Utah, Cottonwood Heights (Salt Lake City) Utah, and Boise Idaho, serving females in Inpatient and Residential, and all genders in PHP, IOP, and Outpatient. Accredited by The Joint Commission, AdvancED, and TRICARE® certified.