Be Comfortable in Your Genes!

Be Comfortable In
Your Genes!

By Dr. Jennie Streem
Ozan, Psy.D.

Sadly, 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance (Smolak, 1996), and 81% of 10 year-old girls are afraid of becoming fat (Mellin, et al., 1991). Boys and men are not exempt from this issue; they too can develop a distorted self-image and become obsessed with their appearance. This obsession with body size and shape can lead to body dissatisfaction, life-long dieting, unhealthy eating patterns, or even a life-and-death battle with an eating disorder.

Because of the prevalence of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders in our society, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has created National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which begins the last Sunday in February. Each year, NEDA creates a different campaign, highlighting fun and creative ways to overcome disordered eating and facilitate body acceptance.  One of my favorite ones was the “Be comfortable in your genes. Wear jeans that fit the TRUE you” campaign from 2008.  The “Be comfortable in your genes” campaign highlighted the fact that body size and shape are significantly influenced by biological factors, like genetics, rather than factors such as dieting as we typically like to believe. It also focused on helping individuals feel at ease with their own size through activities such as donating those old “skinny jeans” that no longer fit, and only keeping clothes that make you feel good about you.

You may be wondering, “Wouldn’t I feel better if I just lost the weight?” As psychologists, we have learned that while people think they will be happier, and feel better about themselves if they lose weight, this just isn’t true!

What we do know is:

Girls who diet frequently are 12 times more likely to binge as girls who don’t diet (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).

Ninety-five percent of all dieters will regain their lost weight in one to five years (Grodstein, et al., 1996).

Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each  year (Smolak, 1996).  So we’re spending a lot of money on products that don’t work for 95% of us!

Thirty-five percent of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders
(Shisslak & Crago, 1995).


Our culture’s focus on body size and dieting creates fear, anxiety, and chronic body dissatisfaction (Kratina, K., 2006). However, our idealization of thinness rarely leads to the long-term changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. This makes sense because people are less likely to put much time or effort into taking care of something they do not like, but they are much more likely to put effort towards something they care about. Therefore, when people like their bodies, or at least accept them, they are more inclined to take good care of themselves. They will be more likely to eat healthfully, enjoy being with themselves and in their bodies, and enjoy physical activity. All of this, of course, results in better health (Kratina,K., Fall, 2006). Therefore, moving towards self/size acceptance promotes


Here are some tips to help you get started on your journey to body acceptance, and celebrating your own health at any size:

Stop Waiting and Start Doing- Many people think they’ll start enjoying
life after they lose the weight. Stop letting your size keep you from doing the
things you enjoy and start living your life now.

Enjoy Your Body- Stretch, dance, walk, sing, take a bubble bath, get a massage, have a pedicure.

Create a List of Positive Affirmations- Put signs on your mirrors like, “I’m beautiful inside and out.” Remind yourself that your body is perfect just
the way it is.

Wear Clothes That Make You Feel Good, Comfortable and Confident- Get rid
of clothes that no longer fit, that you wear to hide yourself, or that make you
feel uncomfortable.

Remember That Beauty is Not Just Skin Deep- It is a reflection of your whole self. Love and enjoy the person inside! (Maine, 2000)



Grodstein, F., Levine, R., Spencer, T., Colditz, G.A., Stampfer, M. J. (1996). Three-year follow-up of participants in a commercial weight loss program: can you keep it off? Archives of Internal Medicine. 156 (12), 1302.


Kratina, K. (2006, Fall). Self/size acceptance is a win-win proposition. Weight Management Newsletter, 4(2).


Maine,M. (2000). Body wars: Making peace with
women’s bodies
.  Carlsbad, CA:
Gürze Books.


Mellin,L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E.
(1991). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls
9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of
Adolescent Health, 27-37.


National Eating Disorders Association (2005). National Eating Disorders Association Statistics: Eating Disorders and Their Precursors. Retrieved from:


Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO
Fat!.New York: TheGuilford Press. pp. 5.


Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The spectrum of eating disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3), 209-219.


Smolak, L. (1996). National Eating Disorders
Association/Next Door Neighbors Puppet Guide Book.

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