SALT LAKE CITY — Chrissy Metz is on the most recent cover of People Magazine.
If you’re not familiar, Metz plays Kate Pearson on the TV show "This Is Us." Her character’s storyline often revolves around her budding romance and her experiences in a larger body while trying to lose weight.
In an article titled "How I Learned to Love Myself," Metz shared how negative and abusive comments about her body affected her while growing up and what it was like to pursue acting without the "ideal" body type.
“I’ve heard a lot of things,” Metz told People. “One was like, ‘You’re too pretty to play the big girl.’ What does that mean? God forbid anybody bigger than a size 0 could be attractive.”
Despite the negativity and rejection, she continued to audition and now stars on one of NBC's most-watched TV shows. She attributes her success to body acceptance and positivity.
It’s common to attribute beauty and well-being to a certain body type, as illustrated by Metz's own experiences. But she realized that her body was good and that healthy bodies come in all shapes & sizes.
As a dietitian who uses the tenets of Health at Every Size when working with clients, and who studied body image and health habits for my thesis, I know that body image affects our well-being. It’s important because body image seems to be an underlying driver for health-related behaviors.
Generally speaking, when we experience neutral or even positive feelings about our bodies, we’re more likely to have habits that enhance our health and well-being. On the other side, when we feel negatively about our bodies, we tend to develop habits that don’t make our bodies feel good, both physically and emotionally.
We essentially turn to punish our bodies through a number of ways.
I was shocked to read in a study that 39 percent of women say that concerns about what they eat or weigh actually interfere with their happiness. Eating a certain way or weighing less does not increase their happiness as is often portrayed in the media and in normal life, but it actually interferes with happiness.
People are surprised that Metz has good self-esteem and body positivty, but they shouldn't be. Cultivating a neutral or positive body image is one skill that can help people in any body size live their fullest life.
Here are three things we can about body acceptance from Metz.
1. Give yourself and others a break
Metz told People that growing up, she had people in her life who betrayed her. When she turned to food to cope, she felt her body betrayed her, and she blamed everything. When talking about body acceptance, it’s easy to think that positivity is the only way to go.
While this is ideal, we live in a world where this is nowhere near the norm. Things happen, words are said that affect us negatively. However, Metz learned to put herself in the shoes of someone who wronged her and found compassion for them.
This is such a great tactic when dealing with our own body insecurities, as well as other aspects of life. Doing this for ourselves and for others who do something hurtful is empowering.
But note — we also live in a world where negative body-related comments and messages are everywhere. Give yourself a break, be aware of how your thoughts and comments affect you and those around you. Use that to move forward instead of focusing on what you feel like you others think you should do.
2. It’s OK to be a work in progress
It’s easy to get caught up in feeling like we have to be a certain way now. This thought brings me to a place of introspection and mindfulness. Being present and addressing life and our reactions without criticism is so important. You’re OK as you are, and you have the opportunity to search for what makes you you and what makes your body function well and feel good.
This can be really difficult. Transitioning from listening to external cues to internal ones is difficult, but there’s research that suggests that listening to your own body helps you make decisions that will improve your well-being. You can then take the small steps to get closer to that. It may not always be a well-defined path, but every experience can give you insight and resilience.
3. Develop resilience
Chrissy talked about her traumatic experiences growing up and how she turned to a couple of coping mechanisms that didn’t help her deal with those issues. She later recognized that by giving herself and others a break, not everyone was working against her. Because of that, she found the strength and desire to do what she could to thrive.
She found areas to push back, opportunities to speak up, and in turn has built a foundation for her own self-acceptance, which has enhanced her well-being.
These opportunities can be empowering for us — but also important for others because some negative comments aren’t intentional. Beauty Redefined is a great resource and focuses partly on developing body image resilience in their work.
Essentially, what she got to is to be kind to herself. Life is hard and the way we often treat ourselves and others can negatively impact our body image perceptions and wellbeing.
Whenever we comment on someone’s weight or eating habits or health, we could be feeding someone’s negative body image. This can be detrimental because research shows feeling bad about our bodies does not lead to improving health behaviors. It is all connected. We can use Metz’s wisdom and experience in our lives to be aware of how we talk to ourselves and others. We can be kinder because everyone is fighting some sort of battle.
If this resonates with you, here are some other KSL.com articles to help you improve your self-esteem and how you view people around you:
- Stop looking for Fitspiration, start looking for body positivity
- Stop trying to lose weight, do this instead
- 1 easy thing you can do to practice body positivity