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Ask Stavroula: I Am Ashamed of My Body

The National Herald

Dear Stavroula,

I am 18 years old and I am told I have a very beautiful face, but I am overweight. I put on the pounds in the last two years mostly from the knee up. I find it very difficult to find clothes that look good on me, but I usually manage to cover up or rather not emphasize certain areas. The rest of my body is basically normal. I have been on many diets, and even the fasting one, and at the beginning I lost some weight but I gained it back almost immediately.

I am writing to you because I am desperate. My friends have started going to the beach and so far I have avoided it with various stupid excuses, I don't feel comfortable in a swimsuit. But now they are planning a vacation and I really want to go because among my friends there is someone I like very much, who also seems to be interested. But how do I avoid the beach for so many days? And just the thought of him seeing me in a swimsuit makes me feel awful. I really don't know what to do.

Maria

Dear Maria,

Most women feel bad or at least uncomfortable about their body and weight. In fact, in recent years, with the spread of social networks, this situation has worsened, as the internet is flooded with images of fit bodies we compare ourselves to, usually to our disadvantage. But comparing yourself to others is like seeing yourself through a distorting lens and one of the biggest sources of misery. Don't fall into this trap.

Shame about the body is the feeling that something about us is ugly and we need to fix it so that someone will accept us or love us. Unfortunately, we often associate this shame with our need for recognition and acceptance, and we think that we will satisfy it if our body becomes what we dream of, if we become the image we see as the dominant standard of beauty in the media. But how true is this? Think of someone you love. How much does the person’s body concern you? Why should others be concerned about yours to love you?

In addition, the way you look at your body may have nothing to do with reality. Sometimes we persistently focus on what we consider negative about ourselves and magnify that, experiencing it as much worse than it really is. If you have someone you really trust (maybe a relative), talk to them, tell them how you feel, what you think about your body.

What you are is not just a few extra pounds on the thighs. You are your beautiful face, you are your personality, the way you think, the way you behave, the way you feel. Why only see what you consider a flaw? If your friend told you she felt bad about her legs, what would you tell her? To stay locked in her house? To avoid going to the beach or on vacation with her friends? Would you tell her that she's right to think that someone who cares about her will just leave when he sees her in a swimsuit?

The first thing I would advise you to do is seek the help of a mental health professional, after speaking honestly with a friend or relative. The issue of self-acceptance is crucial to our relationships and our lives, and I think you have to work on it, since the image you have of your body creates problems in your social life.

The second thing you need to watch out for is diets. My personal opinion is that no diet among those circulating on the internet is effective. The surest way to have a healthy body and not gain weight is to eat a healthy diet that you can follow throughout your life and not for 20 days and then return to your old habits. Our diet must suit us and we must love it.

Maria, the man who deserves to be your partner will not care about a few extra pounds. Otherwise, he's not worth it.