How can we stop acting in a way that is oppressive to ourselves, and finally live the best life we’ve always dreamt to live?
There are studies that have shown that this kind of internalization of negative stigma and bias not only affects our emotional and mental health, for they also carry physical health consequences. What’s worse is we can even pass it down to our children and their soon-to-be kids!
This act of labeling not only harms us and those whom we love; it's also ineffective to what we’re trying to accomplish in life. So join us today as we talk about the power words have. Be kind and be grateful for your life.
In this episode, Dr. Adrienne discusses cases of self-oppression as she reminds us to be mindful of the words we associate ourselves with for each has the power to either make or break us.
What you will learn from this episode:
“Stop acting in a way that is oppressive to yourself. You don’t need it and you don’t deserve it.”
– Dr. Adrienne Youdim
00:00 – In My Mother’s Home Country: What happened to the 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini?
01:53 – Important Disclaimer: “In no way do I mean to minimize the life and death experience that our sisters across the globe are facing”
02:26 – Oppression from Within: The negative labels that we associate ourselves with are a form of self-oppression and these have consequences on our health
06:37 – Too Powerful to Not Reshare: Talking about that mind-blowing study that speaks to this issue of labeling
08:21 – What Can Be Done: Today’s health bites from Dr. Adrienne
14:03 – Parting Tip: “Stop acting in a way that is oppressive to yourself. You don’t need it and you don’t deserve it.”
“The labels are a form of self-oppression because they limit our freedom from trying something new, or the opportunity to potentially succeed because we’ve never let ourselves try.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
“People who label themselves and don't have positive self-acceptance are less likely to make substantive and sustainable change, and less likely, as a result, to reach their health goals.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
Ways to Connect with Dr. Adrienne Youdim:
If you're looking for more compassionate mindset hacks around your relationship with your body and your weight, I really encourage you to check out my book, Hungry for More: Stories and Science to Inspire Weight loss from the Inside Out on my website, www.dradrienneyoudim.com. I know that this book is resonating.
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The Impact of Self-Oppression, Self-Criticism, and Self-Reassurance on Weight and Well-Being
IN MY MOTHER’S HOME COUNTRY: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 22-YEAR-OLD WOMAN NAMED MAHSA AMINI?
I have been deeply affected by the current events in the Middle East, specifically in my mother's home country of Iran, and it's got me thinking a lot about oppression.
For those of you who are not aware, there are raging protests currently happening in Iran and across the country and the world in support. They’re in response to the death of a 22-year-old woman by the name of Mahsa Amini, who was apprehended by the “morality police'' for inappropriately wearing a hijab or headscarf and showing her hair. She was taken into custody for so-called reeducation classes and died three days later from the injuries suffered from police brutality. Since then, at the time of this recording, it could be more by the time you are hearing it, it's reported that an additional 50 protesters have died and many more have been injured; although the restricted access in the country, including governmental shutdown of the news and internet, make it really hard to know for certain.
First and foremost, my heart is with these women, for their families, and for what they have endured and for the ongoing oppression that they've faced. My prayer is that at this moment, there will be change for the Iranian people and the change will result in restoring basic freedoms that are their birthright. Free from social injustice, free from political injustice, economic injustice among so many, many more.
And so, this whole situation got me thinking about oppression, and not just oppression by external forces, but internal forces as well.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: “IN NO WAY DO I MEAN TO MINIMIZE THE LIFE AND DEATH EXPERIENCE THAT OUR SISTERS ACROSS THE GLOBE ARE FACING”
Now, before I go on, just let me say that in no way do I mean to minimize the life and death experience that our sisters across the globe are facing. And I also am keenly aware of my own personal privilege, the opportunities that I have by being in a safe and supportive place. Because my mother, who was forced to cover her head as a child, and my father who was oppressed and discriminated against, immigrated to the United States to allow for this privilege for myself and for my siblings.
OPPRESSION FROM WITHIN: THE NEGATIVE LABELS THAT WE ASSOCIATE OURSELVES WITH ARE A FORM OF SELF-OPPRESSION AND THESE HAVE CONSEQUENCES ON OUR HEALTH
But again, this idea of privilege got me thinking. Many of us listening to this podcast are in a privileged position and free from this kind of external oppression. I may be missing the mark here in some cases, but for the most part – and I’m saying “most” – most of us are free from this type of external oppression, and yet we expose ourselves to oppression from within.
Not uncommonly, a patient who comes in to see me in my medical practice for weight loss will refer to him or herself as fat or will use other diminutive or negative terms when referring to their own bodies. Perhaps, they label themselves in a way that takes away their freedom to try something new or do something that they crave.
I wonder, have you ever done that to yourself? Have you ever said, “Oh, I could never do X, Y, or Z. I'm not fit enough, athletic enough, coordinated enough”?
The labels are a form of self-oppression because they limit our freedom from trying something new, or the opportunity to potentially succeed because we’ve never let ourselves try. This is oppressive. And not only does it feel good, but it has negative mental, emotional and physical health consequences. Studies, in fact, show that when we internalize negative biases about our bodies, like we take on that fat label and the other negative terms that come along with that, we’re more likely, of course, to experience shame. We're more likely, of course, to feel depressed and to have depression and anxiety.
But get this; studies have shown that this kind of internalization of negative stigma and bias also has physical health consequences. For example, internalizing negative stigma and biases increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and metabolic disease, and this is independent of the metabolic risk factors they may have for those diseases. So that is to say that the link between fat shaming or internalization of bias and metabolic disease is not that the excess weight is giving you metabolic risk factors. It very well may, but even when we account for those risk factors, there is a higher incidence of metabolic disease in those who internalize stigma, and a higher risk of mortality. Again, not because of the physical ailments themselves, but expressly as a consequence of the stigma and the internalization of that stigma. This kind of thinking, believe it or not, increases inflammation in the body. Inflammation has harmful and negative effects. It also results in epigenetic changes, that it means changes in the way that our DNA or our genes are expressed and the way that we pass on those genes down to our progeny.
So, negative stigma and self-talk and internalization of the stigma and bias has really specific and tangible, concrete negative effects on not only emotional health and well-being, but physical health and well-being in a way they can not only affect ourselves, but also be passed down to our children and our children's children.
More than that, people who label themselves and don't have positive self-acceptance are less likely to make substantive and sustainable change, and less likely, as a result, to reach their health goals. So not only is this thinking mean and harmful, but it's ineffective to what we’re trying to accomplish.
TOO POWERFUL TO NOT RESHARE: TALKING ABOUT THAT MIND-BLOWING STUDY THAT SPEAKS TO THIS ISSUE OF LABELING
There's actually a really powerful study that I've shared, but it's really so mind-blowing that I need to reshare it. It speaks to this issue of labeling.
And so, they took a group of individuals and they separated them into two separate groups, drew blood, and came back and told Group A, “Guess what, Group A? You all have a gene that has identified you as being athletic. You have the “athletic gene”. Yay you, Group A.” And then to Group B said, “Sorry Group B, but in fact, you don't have this athletic gene that we've tested for.”
Now, mind you, this was a bogus test for a bogus gene. They took Group A and Group B, they tested them on a treadmill both before and after hearing this news about the bogus gene that they may or may not have tested for or had, and they found that Group A, the group that was told that they have an athletic gene, actually performed better on the treadmill the second time around, whereas the group that was labeled as unathletic due to this bonus gene fared worse or had a worse result on this athletic test or on this treadmill test.
So, it really speaks to the power of words and the power of labels. You can actually change your fitness level as quantified by a physiologic treadmill test just based on how you label yourself.
WHAT CAN BE DONE: TODAY’S HEALTH BITES FROM DR. ADRIENNE
So, what can be done?
First of all, please know that you're not alone. It is said that we have 60,000+ thoughts per day and many of them are negative thoughts; they’re brooding ruminations, so let's just call it like it is. If you have – I'm just going to say it – shitty thoughts, you're not alone. But with intentional awareness, you can make a turnaround, so I want to offer you some steps.
Number one, again, be aware. Notice the thought and say to yourself, “Oh, there's that thought again.” Awareness is the first step to making or creating substantive change in the way you think.
Number two, don't judge. It's bad enough that you’re having a negative thought, that you're having a thought that makes you feel bad. You don't need to feel bad on top of feeling bad, so don't judge yourself for having that thought.
Number three, create some distance. The most important piece of advice that I once received was “Just because you have a thought doesn't mean you have to believe the thought.” Seriously, that is priceless. Create distance between yourself and the thought. You are not it, and you don't need to believe it.
Number four, question the thought and turn it around. How else can you see this idea? Is it true that you really can't do something or is it just that you haven’t tried? Or maybe you’re out of practice? Is it true that you failed or is it just that you slipped up? Reframe your thought. Question it and reframe it in a way that is more positive and palatable to you.
Number five have positive self-acceptance. Maybe you're not where you want to be right now. Maybe you're not where you want to be with your health goals. Maybe you have gained weight. Maybe you have become inactive. Maybe you have gotten in the habit of eating on the run or eating less nutritious food instead of taking the time to prepare or cook healthier options for yourself. Whatever the case may be, instead of badgering yourself about it, can you have positive self-acceptance? Which means you say to yourself, “Yes, this thing happened, but it doesn't define me or who I am. I can make changes.” And that is such an empowering place, that it comes from a place of empowerment, not from a defeating, diminutive place.
And it's associated with the ability to make sustainable change. Think about it. How much more likely are you to do something if you approach it from a positive mindset? Not to mention that all of that negativity, all of that brooding, all of that being in the past, it takes away from your bandwidth and your ability to put your energy forward and into change.
There's also a beautiful study that demonstrates this principle. Individuals who were trying to lose weight were asked to recall a “dietary setback”. So perhaps it was a meal that they didn't intend to consume or they overindulged or they gained weight, whatever that dietary setback was for them. And then they were asked to rate that dietary setback on a scale of 1 to 10, from one, how okay it was, to ten, how bad it was. They found that those that rated their dietary setbacks on a higher scale of negativity were less likely to get back on the bandwagon, so to speak. They were less likely to resume those initial positive behaviors.
So how you see yourself, how you see your dietary setbacks are going to affect your ability to move forward. Have positive self-acceptance. Accept yourself for where you are in this moment and relieve yourself from the burden of the past so that you can put your efforts and your bandwidth into positive change.
PARTING TIP: “STOP ACTING IN A WAY THAT IS OPPRESSIVE TO YOURSELF. YOU DON’T NEED IT AND YOU DON’T DESERVE IT.”
So, my health bite for today is stop acting in a way that is oppressive to yourself. You don’t need it and you don’t deserve it.
And here's another thought. Maybe we can give reverence to those who are not as fortunate as we are by not squandering our own freedom. Maybe this act of self-love can be viewed as an act of gratitude for the fortunate lives that we live.
In essence, I'm saying I know I have privilege over others; I know that I’m in a privileged position. And I'm going to show my gratitude by being kind to myself and living the best life I possibly can.
If you're looking for more compassionate mindset hacks around your relationship with your body and your weight, I really encourage you to check out my book, Hungry for More: Stories and Science to Inspire Weight loss from the Inside Out. It's available on Amazon. It's also available on my website, www.dradrienneyoudim.com. I know that this book is resonating. Thank you to all of those who have read it, shared it, and messaged me about it. Feel free. If you are one of those people, DM me at Instagram, @dradrienneyoudim. I love hearing your stories, but I know that this book resonates because the stories are universal. And so I hope you use those stories to have a little bit more compassionate kindness towards yourself, and to use them as an engine for positive change.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Health Bite. I look forward to seeing you again next week.
Until then, in good health.