Body Image – How to Turn Negative into Positive!

me&my health up podcast episode #18 – Transcript

Anthony Hartcher 0:00
Welcome to another episode of Health up today. I’m your host, Anthony Hatcher. I’m a clinical nutritionist and lifestyle medicine specialist health up seeks to enhance and enlighten the well being of others.

And today we’re going to be talking on a topic which we touched on previously, but we’re going into another area of this field. The previous topic was on eating disorders or what Nina refers to it as and probably should be referred to as disordered eating.

So we’re gonna have a follow on from that. And we’re going to talk about body image and body dysmorphia. So that’s the topic we’ll be discussing. Nina. Nina Kingsford Smith from Healthy Happening. I studied with endeavour College, we both studied nutrition.

And Nina set up a business called Healthy Happenings. She’s an amazing cook and comes up with some amazing, beautiful looking tasting foods that are really healthy, but taste delicious. And she has a real passion for disordered eating and focuses her clinic on helping those that have disordered eating, and also helps those with body imaging, and hence why we’re now talking about this topic today. So I’d just like to welcome you, Nina. Thanks for joining us.

Nina Kingsford-Smith 1:30
Thank you for having me again, it’s good to be back.

Anthony Hartcher 1:33
Yeah, I was keen to chat with you again, because your first episode was the most downloaded episode that I’ve done, I’ve done over 22 episodes now. And I think yours are made up about 30% of all the downloads. So thank you. It’s a topic that people very much resonate with. And I’m really keen to get some more information as to how we can help people that you know, maybe you know, having a bit of this body dysmorphia or body imaging issues. So, tell us a little bit more about you, Nina?

Nina Kingsford-Smith 2:15
Yes. So I am a nutritionist, as you just said, We studied together. So I’ve been in practice for just over a year now. I practice from what’s called a non-diet lens. So that basically means I help what people to tune into their own internal cues about what’s best for them in regards to food, and eating and a lot of that stems from Yes, I’m specialising in disordered eating. And that’s a lot to do with the reason I’m so passionate about that is my own history with disordered eating, which is related a lot to body image issues. So yeah, that’s, that’s why I really, really love to help people sort of, I say, like, find their happy place with food and with their bodies.

Anthony Hartcher 2:58
Yeah, I think we need a lot more of that today. Certainly, with, I guess, accepting ourselves for who we are, and, and secondly, really connecting with food as opposed to seeing it as a calorie. And really embracing it for the joy and happiness that can bring and the connectedness it brings to us social beings.

Nina Kingsford-Smith 3:21
Exactly. Yeah. You said that perfectly. Yeah.

Anthony Hartcher 3:25
Yes, I just wanted to really, I guess, get into this subject of body imaging, you mentioned that your disordered eating came as a result of body imaging or body dysmorphia? Can you please tell us a little bit more about what it is? And yeah, how it affects us?

Nina Kingsford-Smith 3:49
Yeah, so body image is related to how you perceive your physical self, and the thoughts and feelings that are going to result from that. And so the keyword there is perceive it’s not necessarily an accurate reflection of how you actually look. And you know, when we’re talking about somebody who’s got a healthy body image, they love and appreciate and respect their body exactly as it is for what it can do for them, they see themselves as more than just how they look.

You know, and they think about all the other parts of them. And it’s not necessarily thinking that your body is perfect, but it’s just accepting and loving it exactly as it is in caring for it. Um, whereas if we were to look at poor body image that is more having thoughts and beliefs that you are somehow flawed or unattractive. It’s a real fixation on your physical appearance, you know, all sorts of beliefs around the fact that how you look is more important than anything else.

And I think having sort of a poor body image and talking down about our bodies has really become a cultural norm. It’s almost sort of accepted and celebrated. You know, you pee, you know, you’ll sit together with your peer group or you You friends, and especially with things like say, for example, isolation recently, I’ve put on so much weight during isolation, or me too, like pants don’t fit anymore. And it’s kind of like this bonding experience people have.

But just because it’s sort of seen as this cultural norm now doesn’t mean that it should be normal, I think it’s something that we really need to work on. You know, having poor body image, it’s associated with, you know, higher likelihood of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and disordered eating, social isolation, low self esteem, obsessive compulsive tendencies, all sorts of things like that. And it can actually become something called body dysmorphic disorder.

So that’s actually a mental illness, it’s diagnosed by a certain set of criteria. And it’s a real sort of obsession with certain parts of your body and how they look. And again, these quite possibly, well, they usually not true beliefs, and reflections of how you actually look. And it can be anything from your body shape and size to your skin, a facial feature, certain body parts, your hair, your height, you know anything about your physical appearance.

Anthony Hartcher 6:19
So what I’m really hearing is, there’s a strong connection with the conditioning that we’re exposed to as we grow up. So the environment which we’re raised in and the peer groups that we surround ourselves in what we watch on, whether it be television, or what we read on social media, or what even advertising, so that, you know, so would that be right?

In terms of, you know, when a kid is, comes into the world, they obviously, they’re just a bundle of joy, you know, celebrating the present moment, and, you know, having fun, and I can’t imagine we are born with this perception of ourselves, I can only, you know, I guess further to your point of that, you know, social norm. And what society sees is, what should be normal is really what affects people in terms of a look at that accepted social norm, and then look at themselves, and maybe their peer group may pick out things that aren’t quite normal.

And that focus on those individual items, whether it be their body shape or the way they look is highlighted to them. And hence they draw their attention to it themselves. And then they think are, you know, that’s considered not normal? Yeah, I don’t feel you know, and part of us connecting with others is fitting in. And so when those points are highlighted to us, we feel like we are a bit of an outcast, and hence why you said that connection with social isolation.

Nina Kingsford-Smith 8:03
Yeah, yeah. That’s yeah, what exactly what you just said, it’s, I think, media, I mean, there are lots of causative factors and there’s their, you know, it’s quite complex. But media and especially these days, social media has a lot to answer for in regards to body image, the constant comparisons, all of that kind of stuff. That is sad.

And like you said, we aren’t born with like a poor body image or anything like that. Body image, sort of our perception of ourselves starts in early childhood, it’s when it starts to get formed and body image more strongly. Yes, I guess shaped later in childhood, and especially puberty, body dissatisfaction, and starting to have a poor body image, the most common age for that is puberty, because that’s when our bodies are going through a lot of changes, you do start to compare yourself to your peer groups.

You know, everybody experiences puberty so differently, and at different times, it’s one of those stages, probably the first time in your life where you start to look really different from other people your age, because of you’re developing at a different stage.

And then when you’re going through puberty, as well, that’s the age where you’re starting to get on social media more, you’re maybe starting to buy magazines, more, you know, watch more variety of movies and TV shows, all that kind of stuff, you’re exposed to this variety of stuff, and you start to become more aware of it for yourself. And that’s when a lot of this stuff can start to come into play.

Anthony Hartcher 9:40
It’s true, it’s doing that it’s easy to rapid development, such as, you know, puberty and adolescence period, is where we still really I guess, understand, what we start noticing the effects of genetics. So you know, our pre-determined sort of body shape will We will be more apparent in those years. And that will get drawn to our attention by our peers.

That’s probably where it really gets, I guess, very much, you know, a strong connection between that the way we’re perceived by our peer group, and hence, how we see ourselves is very much cemented in those years. Yeah. Yeah. So just, you know, there is that genetic component that we can’t change. And, you know, for me, when I was growing up, that, you know, I had the big nose that everyone pointed out to me, and I thought, well, I’ve got it. Yes, you’re right. I do have a big nose. And, but yeah, what could I do about it?

It’s like, and I’m sure, you know, people, there’s other aspects of, you know, I had really skinny legs. And so one of my nicknames was Pitfall, skinny legs and sort of a bigger upper body. So, you get these nicknames, the way you look, and, you know, I can’t change my nose, or skinny legs, it’s the genetics have grown up with and, you know, for me, I had that period where I did feel a bit out, I didn’t feel like I was greatly what was socially normal.

But it was incredible throughout my life, you know, I did travel overseas, and when I went to places like Asia, because they got small nose, what is really unique, that culture is larger noses, and they actually, that they, you know, there’s because, you know, we want to look a bit different and not all be the same, or certainly, that they used to think that my bigger nose was quite beautiful.

And so, I, I came back from that trip thinking, Well, you know, like it and it’s the same with skin colouring, for example, over there, you know, you see them walking around with umbrellas when it’s sunny, because they naturally have darker skin, and they want to be more like us, and we want to be more like them. And it’s really funny, it’s when you get these sort of more global perspectives, and not just that, you know, social norm of your peer group, or what the media portray.

But you start to realise that that perception or you start questioning that normal? And I certainly did, I, you know, and I thought, Well, okay, big nose is beautiful in Asia, I’m quite happy to accept that it’s just not. So, so well accepted back here. And then, yes, I did, I just gradually over time, just learned to, you know, accept who I was. And, you know, for me, it was like, I can’t change the physical features, I can’t see it, as much as I did, legs of the gym, they don’t change doesn’t lay skinny, as much as I would like, to the nose to just grow smaller, or whatever, I was stopped growing. It didn’t.

So I just accepted and, you know, accepted that for who I am and then really focused on in on that inner beauty as that is something I could certainly change is the way I embrace the world, the way I embrace others the way I you know, enhance relationships and develop relationships. And, and so yeah, I started on a journey of really focusing on that inner beauty because I knew there was something that I could influence. So yeah, I thought I’d just share that Nina, in terms of personal experience that I had in terms.

Nina Kingsford-Smith 13:50
Certainly insightful in itself. Like you said, you said the word a few times perception. So and it’s like what we said at the start, it’s all about how you perceive yourself. And just that beautiful example of going overseas and having different perspectives sort of given to you and you’ll be able to then view yourself in a different way.

You know, we focus so much on trying to change how we physically look. And that’s often like he said, impossible or near impossible and sort of misses the point of what this is all about instead of why not try and shift our perspectives and our beliefs around it instead. And have those realisations that it’s not just all about how you look and different things are beautiful to different people and yes, inner beauty and all those sorts of other things that yeah, there’s much more to life. I think that’s, that’s great. Yeah.

Anthony Hartcher 14:43
It’s more that holistic, you know, and I think if we, you know like you go on, you know, in order to love others, you need to love yourself, and if we haven’t accepted ourselves for who we are, then it’s hard to love ourselves and You know, if we don’t love ourselves, and how can we love others and I think, because, you know, early on I, you know, I discovered that I couldn’t change my physical appearance and I didn’t want to, I just thought I’d had to, you know, as I said, work on this inner beauty.

And for me, it was, well, if I really embrace myself and love myself, then I can show more love for others. And that’s what people will connect with at the end of the day is that they will look beyond the physical features. And, you know, feel the love, you know, because there’s obviously there’s other ways in which we can, I guess, show the world our qualities are strength.

Nina Kingsford-Smith 15:39
Yeah, yeah. I love that.

Anthony Hartcher 15:42
In terms of, in your clinical practice, you obviously, you know, on a regular basis seeing clients that, you know, have body imaging may have body this may have this method medically diagnosed body dysmorphia? How do you work with your clients? You know, being a clinical nutritionist?

Nina Kingsford-Smith 16:03
Yeah, that’s a really good question. There’s a few key things that I will do with them to help work through these sorts of things. So the thing would not necessarily these are in order, but one of the first things I would suggest is to become a real critical viewer of the media. So put your like your little, like, Inspector detective hat on and start to become really critical of the images you see, you know, challenging beauty ideals that you see out there.

So you know, the ads that we see on TV or Instagram or wherever they’re heavily airbrushed, they usually only show this tiny little percentage of the population whose entire job and livelihood it is to look a certain way and be a certain way. You know, there’s makeup teams, as lighting specialists, there’s particular camera angles, there’s all this sort of stuff that goes into how they look. And often the final image we see isn’t actually reflective of a real person at all.

That person doesn’t actually exist. In fact, I think it was, um, h&m, the clothing brand, in recent years, admitted to actually using completely digitally invented images of women in bikinis to advertise their clothing. So this like image that they had, a woman didn’t ever even exist, it wasn’t even like an airbrushed image, it just completely created a digital image of a woman in a bikini. So you know, that’s an example is it’s not real.

I think once you can bring awareness to that as well, that you’re comparing yourself to something that doesn’t even exist, that can be helpful. You know, like, another example is when my growing up as kids, I’m playing with things like Barbie dolls, Barbies, proportions and measurements of physically impossible to exist on a woman, I think the length of her neck would break, like your neck would break, it’s impossible to have a waist that small, in proportion, you know, to other measurements, things like that.

On that note, as well, I would also say give yourself what I call an immediate detox or a social media detox, especially. So literally sit down with your phone. Scroll through everyone that you follow, like onto your follower list and unfollow anybody who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. If you find within a few minutes, minutes of looking at their page, you’re comparing yourself to them, you’re feeling a bit crappy about yourself, you’re thinking I wish I had her legs, or I wish I had his muscles or why can’t I look that way.

Or perhaps it’s photos of foods that they’re posting, and you start to feel really guilty about what you’ve eaten, because you’re comparing your foods to theirs, unfollow all those accounts, surround, stop following accounts and surround yourself with media in other ways as well, that make you feel really good about yourself, that represent a wider diversity of body shapes, sizes and types of people in general. And I can link you back, I can send you a list of some accounts and resources that might be good for that. Even TV shows, movies, those sorts of things that really, really help you with that.

And you know, there have been studies that actually show that having more body positive content on Instagram can improve things like mood and body satisfaction and body appreciation. And on that note, as well, I would not just say follow accounts and things that represent like a positive body image and body diversity and those sorts of things. But moving away from body and food in general. So look at your other hobbies and interests and follow accounts to do with that. So whether that be like fun dog accounts, in the accounts like NASA’s Instagram page is pretty awesome.

On this Quite a plurality of positive body, sorry, positive media accounts within a positive news stories and stuff like that. So doing things like that as well, so that there’s not just this fixation and this focus on physical physicality in general. Um, another thing I would say that I often encourage people to do is wear clothes that make you feel comfortable, if you have clothes that no longer fit, or that you know, it’s this bit of clothing that you’ve bought, that’s meant to encourage you to lose weight or something like that, get rid of them, give them to someone else, sell them online, donate them to charity, whatever you’re going to do with them, and buy things that fit you in a comfortable way that make you feel good about yourself.

Because they’re comfortable, they’re not digging into, they’re not tight, nothing like that. This beautiful young girl on a young woman on social media who I follow her Instagram handle is body diversity. And again, I can link it, but she recently did a post along these lines, and she said, clothes should fit you, you shouldn’t have to fit your clothes. And I think that’s a really nice way to sort of frame it to other key points.

So that’s, I guess, three. So far, two other key points, I would say is positive self talk and self-compassion. So think and a really nice way to tap into this is think about the way you talk to a friend or a little kid in your life, the things that you say towards yourself, you would probably never say to them, all those horrible things like oh, my thighs are so fat, I look gross in this top off, my ears are so big, you know, whatever it is, you would never say that to them. So think about the things you would say to them.

And you know, if you do catch yourself having saying that, saying those mean things to yourself, because we you know, we all do from time to time have that sort of negative self talk, respond to yourself in a way like you would respond to if you heard a friend or a little one, say it, you’d be really self-compassionate, you would be really loving towards them. You know, whatever you would say, say it towards yourself and show yourself that kindness. And there in a practical sense, are a few really lovely activities you can do around that.

So focus on the things that you love and appreciate about yourself. Outside of looks seem personality traits and stuff. And like a little a nice little task might be each month, for every day each month, once like one thing each day, write down something about you, that you like about yourself. Every day, that month, another thing might be focusing on all the things that your body does for you, not how it looks, but all the things that it does for you.

You know, if you have the thought of my, my arms are so fat, for example. And then shifting that to my my arms allow me to hug my loved ones, they allow me to pick up and carry things, you know, they allow me to explain or pet my dog or whatever it is experience all these beautiful things and reframing it that way. And sort of along those lines is exploring things about yourself. Like your values, get curious about what your values actually are, and maybe focus on.

Like, once you’ve figured that out, focus on spending your time doing those things, rather than fixating on how you look. So for example, if a value is spending time with loved ones go out and spend time with loved ones. If a value is something to do with the environment, go out and help you know do things that are environmentally friendly, those sorts of things. And just celebrating your body right now, exactly as it is. So you know a lot of us have that. Or when I get to this Wait, I will then I’ll apply for that job. Or then I’ll start dating again, or whatever it is.
Do it now like appreciate your body now as it is. I think I think that can be really really helpful as well. So just that self-compassion in general. And there is a woman you you might have heard of her before. Name is Kristin Neff. She does a lot of work on self-compassion, and she has some really beautiful meditations and things like that online that and Ted Talks that can really help you start to tap into that. And then the last point I would say is model positive body image for yourself and fathers.

For example, if you have friends and family that often have like fat talk, challenge that encourage friends and family to say kinds of things about themselves. You know, there’s we often think that if we’re not saying mean things about something else, that’s one thing but if we say mean things about ourselves, that’s okay.

But the things that you say about yourself can have a really big impact on those around you as well. For example if it’s a parent, constantly critiquing how they look, what sort of message does that send to their kids? And this is by no, obviously, no mean to blame parents or, you know, the person saying it at all, but it’s just to bring that sort of level awareness to that as well. And I would say yeah, definitely refrain from being judgmental about other people’s bodies.

I’m a, it’s a, it’s often a reflection of, you know, internal beliefs that you hold about yourself or about body image in general, but you never ever know what’s going on in someone else’s life you like you have no right really to, to judge that or to make any sorts of comments on their physical appearance.

And I think especially we think it’s a good thing and a compliment to comment on someone’s body if they’ve lost weight, or where you look so great. You’ve lost weight, what have you been doing sort of thing, but never ever, please never comment on someone’s weight. If especially if they’ve lost weight you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, they may have an eating disorder, or disordered eating, and hearing a comment like that only fuels it, it gives them validation of what they’re doing is good, that I’m getting this, this good sort of attention now that I’ve lost weight, I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing, or I’m only valued because I’ve lost weight. Or maybe they’re really sick.

I’m in the news this week is the news of the passing of Chadwick Boseman, has a Hollywood celebrity who’s in the Black Panther movie. And he died of colon cancer, but he hadn’t made that public at all. And all throughout, he was still filming lots of films and all that sort of stuff during this whole time of getting chemotherapy and everything. And so he had started to lose a lot of weight by being very sick.

And because nobody had this awareness that he was actually sick, there started to be all this commentary in the media of, you know, what’s he doing, he’s leaving a really unhealthy lifestyle. I think that was even those comments about him being the crack Panther because you know, you’re talking about drug addiction, or this sort of horrible stuff, talking about his weight.

So, you know, he’s not the athletic person, he used to be in the movies and all this sort of stuff. And he was dying cancer, like, you can’t make those sorts of comments about physical appearance on people. See it, that was a long ramble. But those five points as to things that I worked through with people,

Anthony Hartcher 27:30
it was so very insightful. Nina, thank you, thank you for sharing all those, you know, really insightful tips and information. Because I think, you know, for me, I took away a lot, there was, the key points around, picking up on negative self talk.

So being aware of it, and I guess, intersect, you’re saying, No, I’m stopping myself here, I’m doing this, it’s only going to get worse. And now focus on positive focus on my strengths. And, and, as you said, looking beyond physical appearance, you know, looking into interests that you love, that bring you joy, happiness, you know, outside of the way we look, that then also turning the features that people may point out to us, or the features that we’ve highlighted and focus on ourselves.

And maybe that’s because of the outside influence is then looking at them in different ways. So changing that perception, and really, you know, that really that reprogramming of the mind and yeah, and the way we see ourselves, you know, I thought that was so insightful.

You touched on points to areas that don’t cost us anything, we have an abundance of such as kindness, compassion, you know, kindness to ourselves. compassion for others, as you said, we have no idea exactly what’s going on with that person, what they’re thinking, what they’re experiencing, what they’ve been through what they’re going through.

It’s really just, you know, just seeing them with compassionate eyes, with compassionate feelings. And I really love that because, you know, we, it doesn’t cost us anything to do that. And it’s so easy, as you said, to, compliment people’s strengths and being mindful about what you’re complimenting in our life. And I really liked that point about not focusing on it looks so great, because you’ve lost weight, and then they always think, so I look great if I lose weight, and so they draw that association, whereas a much you know, as you said, it’s you can just leave it at, you just look great.

You know, you look very vibrant, you’re healthy. You know, it’s very pleasing to see that you’re doing things to look after yourself or, you know, as opposed to like to because of the weight loss. So, yeah, I really liked that. And

Nina Kingsford-Smith 30:11
Even things like, you know, you sound really happy, like, it’s great to hear what’s going on in your life, like, I’m really happy that you’re happy and in focusing on those sorts of things as well.

Anthony Hartcher 30:20
And then that other way of which you can say, I’m just so happy to see you. Because, you know, I really love your presence. And I love being with you. And I haven’t seen you for a long time. And we don’t need to comment on someone’s looks or anything like that.

Just saying, I just love hanging out with you and being with you, and you bring joy to my life and you enjoy being with you, I really, really appreciate those insightful tips. So it really came to find out all particularly from the viewer’s point of view is to how they can get in touch with you, you know, where do you practice? What’s the best way to reach out and connect with you?

Nina Kingsford-Smith 31:06
Yeah, so probably the best way to reach out to me is through either my website directly, so that’s just And on there, I have a contact section so you can get my email address, or give me a call on my phone. And I do have my links to social media on there. So I am most active on Instagram. And that’s Healthy Happenings with Nina. And my Facebook is I think Healthy Happenings with Nina Kingsford Smith, I’ll have to double check that one. But yeah, I’d say my website’s probably the main way.

Anthony Hartcher 31:45
Yeah, and for the viewers and listeners, I’ll certainly include all the links that Nina mentioned throughout the tour, as well as how to connect with Nina on social media and via her websites. And if you love food porn, then certainly go to our Nina’s Instagram page, and the website has all the recipes. So you can really, you know, embrace and enjoy all the great combinations of foods that Nina bring together, you know, she brings some wonderful combinations that are very healthy for you. Yes, so Nina, is there anything else you’d like to add or conclude with?

Nina Kingsford-Smith 32:28
I don’t think so. You know, I think just a lot of us, like if you’re listening to this, and you’re thinking that this is something that you experience, and you struggle with know that you’re not alone. Like, sadly, the majority of us do have body image issues of some sort.

I think it’s about 80% of women report dissatisfaction with their body. Crazy, crazy statistics. And it is sad. And it’s not the next thing I’d say. So you’re not alone, and it’s not your fault. I think I want to have the two key home key take home messages as and that there is always lots to do to help as well. There’s lots of help around and lots of support around. And I will send you through a list of stuff that we can hopefully post below organization’s websites, social media accounts.

There’s a great documentary called Embrace by Taryn Brumfield and Australian woman, I’ll pop that below as well. Yeah, so there’s lots of help out there.

Anthony Hartcher 33:33
Fantastic, Nina, thanks so much for sharing all your insights and all your knowledge and expertise on this subject. But as you said, a fix will you know, 80% of women that report it, you can imagine these cases that people don’t aren’t willing to accept it or announce it.

So it’s probably a lot higher than that 80% of women. And then I don’t know, I’d say it’s a high percentage of men. And given that men don’t seek help regularly and often open about these sorts of things, I’d say, this is probably the first time I’ve disclosed that. Certainly, you know, and had had this experience.

Nina Kingsford-Smith 34:09

Anthony Hartcher 34:12
You know, I think it’s important for men to realise that it’s not just a women’s thing or at all and women to realise that it’s not just them going through, it’s also men.

The other key one I thought of earlier, when you were talking about it was that these images that we see of women that are not really then they’re airbrushed and everything else as you mentioned, they’re not necessarily attractive because I think women think that that’s what men are attracted to, but I actually don’t find those models attractive at all.

So I think that’s the other important point for women to also understand is that they shouldn’t be aspiring to look like these models because not all men and I don’t think I’m a lot and that really attracted to these sort of not a real figure. It’s yeah. So I think that’s another key point is, don’t think that the media know what, what the opposite sex or the same sex is really looking for.

Nina Kingsford-Smith 35:21
The way that you desire, to look, if you do want to focus on physical appearance, it should be for yourself, and not for anybody else anyway. And then again, you’re trying to redraw that focus inwards of who you want to be not how do you want to look?

Anthony Hartcher 35:41
I love that. That’s a great concluding quote. Yeah, focus on who you want to be and not on what you want to look so fantastic and very insightful. Nina, so thanks so much, again for sharing and I’m sure we’ll do another one in the future. Looking forward to it. Have a wonderful day, Nina,

Nina Kingsford-Smith 36:03
thanks so much. Bye for now.

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