Detaching Our Self Worth from Our Body Image with Summer Innanen

Welcome back to The Balanced Dietitian Podcast! Happy December! I hope you are doing well! During my disordered years, this time of year was my most stressful time. Holidays became scary and full of anxiety. Having healed my relationship with food and my body it is so fun to find pleasure in the holidays again and really connecting to the experience of being with family and enjoying food.

Today on the podcast we have Summer Innanen who is here with us. Today we are talking about body image and self worth. More precisely we are going to talk about how we can start detaching our self worth from our body image. I know you are going to get so much out of this episode. 

In this episode, we discuss: 

[06:02] Summer’s background and story   

Summer is a professionally trained life coach, with a particular specialty in body image, self worth, and confidence. She has been doing this for over eight years now, specifically in this one little realm. What led her to this career was really her own relationship with food and her body. Growing up she doesn’t remember a time where she felt comfortable in her body. She thinks a lot of people who are in the nutrition field also have disordered habits, that’s often what brings us into that field.

[15:55] What is body image?  

In short,  it’s the way that you feel about your body. However, Summer tends to take it another step further and looks at how much you value yourself based on your body. She believes that we’re still really creating this hyper focus back on liking our appearance, which is hard because our appearance changes and our perception of our appearance changes based on other stuff that’s going on in our life.

[18:11] Our body is a neutral thing  

When Summer works with people towards a positive body image, she really likes to work with them on divesting their sense of self worth and their sense of self from their perception of their body. You can look in the mirror and maybe like what you see or not, but it’s just what it is, it is not going to throw you. She always makes the comparison to parallel parking. If you are not a good parallel parker you are not going to let that make or break you and that’s the way I want us to think about our body. In the way that it’s just a neutral thing like parallel parking.

[22:06] Detaching our self worth from our body

Let’s start by defining what self worth is. Summer’s definition is knowing who you are, and knowing that who you are is valuable and worthy. When we’re talking about building self worth and knowing who you are,a lot of us have identified ourselves as always being on a diet, the healthy one, or the one who’s always exercising. That has shaped our identity for a lot of people and we have to shred those identities. 

[31:48] Rebelling against body shame and diets  

When you look at a young child, they have not received any of these shameful messages so all of this stuff is learned and there’s people who profit off of this. The diet industry, wellness industry, and beauty industry are billions of dollars. They are worth so much money and they are profiting off of our insecurities. 

It’s not our fault that we’ve learned to think this way. It’s not our fault that we engage in dieting, but once you understand that social justice perspective, it can be very galvanizing. That’s where that rebellious energy has to come from. Then we decide to rebel and not participate and even fight back against that. We have to decide that we are going to take back our power, reclaim it, and not engage in it anymore.  

[37:31] Working through the hard feelings  

It’s totally normal to feel that way and it’s not your fault. It’s really an innocent response to living in a culture that demonizes certain bodies. As a result, the voice of our inner critic gets really loud and that almost masks the shame. Underneath that there is shame and there are also a lot of other emotions. When we talk about emotions, acknowledgement is really important. Just like acknowledging that feeling, knowing that you are not alone, and there is space for you to feel that emotion. Summer suggests that people do emotional work with a professional if they can. It is also important to know there’s so many other people out there that feel exactly the same way. Finding communities with minded individuals, because once you see your story mirrored, once you hear it mirrored, and that’s why podcasts like yours and mine can be extremely beneficial. We realize we’re not alone, and that can defuse some of that shame.

[41:48] Recovery – outcomes and building resiliency 

Some people have the expectation that I’m just going to feel really good every day. Unfortunately that expectation is a little unrealistic because you’re not going to feel good every day. It is possible to get to a place where you feel pretty neutral in your body every day. Depending on what you experience, depending on the level of oppression or privilege that you hold, you may hold a greater level of awareness of your body, because it doesn’t feel safe in certain environments. It is important to get to a place where you can look in a mirror and you don’t have an emotional reaction and that’s pretty accessible and achievable. It does take practice. It’s not just something that you do, and then you’re done and you never think about it.

[47:43] Summer answers the fun questions

Summer’s favorite food right now is smoked pork belly with glaze. She had it at a friend’s house and it was delicious. If she had a superpower it would be to fall asleep anytime. Her favorite way of self care is to go to the beach or the mountains and just relax. Balance means honoring whatever season of life she is in. If she is in a season of life that is really tough or stressful, being able to meet herself with a lot of forgiveness, compassion, and being really gentle with herself. If she is having a season of life where she is feeling really upbeat, productive, and getting stuff done, then she honors those energies. It is really just letting go to honor whatever season I am in.  

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