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Weight Coaching | April 12, 2022  | by  Shari Broder | 2 COMMENT
Why Self-Objectification is Harmful and How to Stop It | Weight Loss for Foodies Podcast

I think women spend way too much time and energy trying to meet some societal standard for how we should look, and this confirms patriarchal ideas that what women look like is the most important thing about us. 

In this episode, I’m talking about how we unknowingly do things that perpetuate this problem and what you can do to change that. 

I’m not blaming you. 

I think many people are unaware of how their behavior on social media and elsewhere contributes to or exacerbates a problem we didn’t create. 

The problem of viewing women as objects to admire for their appearance has persisted for a very long time. In 1792, Mary Wollestonecraft wrote, “Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman’s scepter, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.” 

The problem of focusing on our appearance is in some ways worse than ever, now that we spend so much time on social media and are constantly comparing ourselves with others.

Not only is a lot of womens’ valuable time and energy spent trying to make our bodies look a certain way, it's hurting us psychologically AND physically. Think about the time you waste fretting about your appearance.

Think of how you could put that time to good use! 

Listen to learn what self-objectification is, how it harms both the women who objectify themselves and the ones who see their self-objectifying photos, and what you can do to stop or reduce it.   

To learn how to have a peaceful relationship with food and eating, check out the free resources below and the Weight Loss for Foodies course. 




Read the Transcript!

[00:00:00] Do you post photoshopped photos of yourself on social media to get compliments? Do you glorify other people's selfies and photos with exaggerated flatter? Is this self objectification? Stay tuned and learn what self objectification is, how it harms women and how to stop doing it and discourage others from doing it, too.

Wouldn't it feel amazing to stop obsessing about everything you eat? To ditch dieting forever and drop that extra weight in a sane and sustainable way? Well, you can do it. And I can't wait to show you how I'm Shari Broder and welcome to the weight loss for foodies podcast. 

Episode 181. Why self objectification is harmful to women and how to stop it.

Thanks so much for being here. I am really psyched to get into this topic because I know so many people struggle with social media and how it makes them feel. And it's a really important topic and it also has to do with self image and weight and everything else. So before we get started, though, I'd like to thank today's sponsor Betterhelp, Betterhelp offers professional counseling done securely on. Betterhelp will assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist. Get started today at better help. And that's one word Betterhelp.com/shari And receive a 10% discount off your first month.

I think women spend way too much time and energy trying to meet some societal standard for how we should look. And much of that is based on an idea that wasn't our [00:02:00] own about how our bodies should look. I know there were pressures on men and non-binary people too, but the pressures on women are different. Although what I have to say today really is applicable to everyone. In this episode, I'm talking about how we unknowingly do things that perpetuate this problem and what you can do to change that. Now I'm not blaming you. I think many people are unaware of how their behavior on social media and elsewhere contributes to, or even exacerbates a problem that we didn't create. The white male patriarchy created it.

The problem of viewing women as objects to admire for their appearance has persisted for a very long time and probably forever. In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote,"Taught from their infancy that beauty is women's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body and roaming round its gilt cage only seeks to adorn it's prison."

Now think about that, that's the truth. It was true then. And the problem of focusing on our appearance is in some ways worse than ever now, because we spend so much time on social media and are constantly comparing ourselves with others. The problem with this, besides the fact that a lot of our valuable time and energy is spent trying to make our bodies look a certain way, is that it's hurting us psychologically and physically. And think about the time you waste, think of how you could put that time to good use. I mean, how much time do you spend trying to shop for the right outfit that won't make you look too fat and how much time do you spend each day getting dressed, doing the same thing?

What should [00:04:00] I put on so that I don't look, oh, I look too fat. How much time do you spend fretting about your appearance or feeling like you don't look good enough? How much time do you waste trying to figure out how you're finally going to lose that weight? Are you still wasting your time searching for that miracle diet that, sorry, doesn't exist?

And what about the time you spend exercising? Not for your health, but to try to make your body look a certain way, flattening those abs. And I hope you never, ever overexercise to make up for overeating because that is abusing your body and it's obsessive behavior. And those are just the little stupid time-wasters, but there are other problems.

We talk about how frustrating it is to be valued mostly based on our appearance and the standards that are set for us are totally unrealistic, but it's not only men who were objectifying women, women do it all the time. We've all probably done it. The problem is that we contribute to this by self objectifying on social media.

And what I mean by that is posting pictures of yourself, mainly to get compliments about your appearance. There have been studies around the world about this and they've concluded that women who post on social media to get compliments about their appearance hurt both themselves and the women who viewed their posts.

Girls increasingly rate body image as one of their biggest stressors. This pressure to have a certain body,usually an unattainable one, if you aren't a Hollywood star who spends inordinate amounts of time on it. And that's what the help of a personal trainer and chef. [00:06:00] Well, it underlies the ever increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

By the way, eating disorders maybe the most deadly type of mental illness in terms of morbidity rate, it's a serious problem. 

There's something known as objectification theory, which has researched and considered how self objectification of women in our culture positions women to be at even greater risk of developing these things: eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, mental health consequences, such as anxiety, body shame, insensitivity to your internal drives and decreased peak motivation. All because when you self objectify, you're placing the emphasis on the superficial and are reinforcing that for others. There was a study done at the University of South Florida to explore how women's social media consumption contributes to self objectification, body surveillance, appearance comparison, body shame and appearance-based self-worth. Also the study sought to understand whether women perceive themselves differently when they were not using social media. Well, it's not a big surprise that it found that women compare their physical appearances features and bodies to other. Beauty ideals are determined by evaluating other women's social media accounts and how many likes and positive comments people write on their appearance focused content now.

And those are pictures that people Photoshop and all this other stuff. It's not even reality, right? Sometimes it is, but it doesn't make it. Women in the study, cited low self-esteem depression, disordered eating compulsive exercise, or bulimia nervosa, [00:08:00] as reasons for deciding to delete or temporarily deactivate or take breaks from social media.

So those were the smart ones, the ones who realized that social media was having a bad effect upon their mental health. And they had to do something about it. And what did it do? It made them feel less pressured. They engaged in less comparison overall. They were more mindful of the present moment and they relaxed their standards for their personal appearance.

In other words, they felt better when they weren't on social media. So why does everyone spend so much time on it? Well, just as an aside, I suppose I spend maybe 15, 20 minutes or so on Instagram every night. And I just don't follow those accounts that would make me feel crappy. So I'll talk more about that in a minute.

Have, but have you felt that way? Are you continuing to post photos to get compliments or are you a few simply overly complimenting. On their pictures on social media. And if so, why are you doing these things? Oh, wait. Yeah, everyone likes getting compliments. But there was a problem when your own sense of self is such that you feel the need to suck around for them.

And when you get them at the expense of other women, it doesn't improve your self esteem. When you need other people's approval to feel good about yourself, it reinforces poor self-esteem. Your time would be better spent working on feeling better about yourself, rather than trying to get other people to say nice things about how you look. At the expense of those other people. 

This seems like a good time to mention that this is the main reason why I've taken the approach in my coaching practice, in my, in weight loss for foodies to never use before and after photos to advertise the [00:10:00] success of my coaching students. Many people fo that to get more business than I do because it makes women think that they'll get those results, which are almost always temporary, but then they think that that's what results they'll get. You know, it's sorta like if you eat what Jennifer Anniston eats every day, you'll look like her, which of course is crap. I know that doing so does more harm than good.

And I won't be someone who contributes to the self objectification trend with before and after photos because they are self objectifying. And the accomplishment of losing weight in a healthy way, having a peaceful relationship with food and eating, getting in shape, those things are all rewards in themselves.

We shouldn't need to brazenly seek validation of our success from others. I want to convince you if you're doing this to stop and if you're not doing it to be aware of it when other people are doing it and don't let it get too. So here are a few other things that make it such a problem.

1. You're evaluating your appearance, your unique, wonderful looks based upon standards that you didn't come up with. And that may be unattainable. Objectification theory states that women who are in the habit of constantly evaluating how they look, they internalize this outsider view of themselves. Therefore they're putting their bodies out as an object to be evaluated and picked apart. It's not how you would objectively think about yourself. If you were a three year old kid looking in the mirror, which may be the last time you really liked doing that, wouldn't you rather have your own standards? Do you really want your appearance to be the most important thing about you and women generally? As I mentioned earlier, studies show that when you do this, the [00:12:00] constant obsession about how your body looks actually increases feelings of shame and anxiety, it doesn't make you feel better, both for you and your friends who view the photos.

2. You're perpetuating the idea that how you look is the most important thing about you, which isn't true. Self objectification is one dimensional. Even if you are a particularly attractive person, physically, and people reward you for that by giving you attention, which probably feels good, that's only one aspect of the amazing person you are, and it's the least important thing about you because you are more than a pretty face or a body. Your heart and soul and mind are more important. So why emphasize the superficial just because everyone else is, right?

3. The third thing is you may be hanging your confidence on the number on the scale and how your body looks. Now you can want to lose weight because you want to take the best care of your body. You want to be healthier. You don't want to huff and puff when you walk up a flight of stairs and those kinds of things. Contrary to what some of the body positivity proponents believe, which I'm not dissing at all, but some people in that movement and some people in the intuitive eating world think that you shouldn't try to lose weight. Ever.

Well, there's no shame in wanting to try to lose weight in a healthy, non diet way. And I say non diet because diets tend to abuse the body and they don't produce long-term results. And not only that, but the way I teach people to lose weight is just a peaceful, much healthier way to eat. And so losing weight really seems to be even less gratifying in this process than just not feeling guilty eating the foods you love and not feeling like you have to eat food, [00:14:00] just because it's there and all of that.

If you're constantly obsessing over the number on the scale to the point that it's affecting your mood and your mental state, that is unhealthy. If the number on the scale determines whether you have a good day, there's something seriously wrong. In other episodes, I've mentioned a woman I know who is so obsessed with her weight, that she actually weighs herself every morning and every night, she's now 91 years old and is still obsessing about it and weighing herself twice a day. She claims she can't stop. It's a habit, which we all know that's crap. Sadly though, she has the lowest self-esteem of anyone I've ever known and has been depressed her entire adult life, and remains obsessed with keeping her weight at a certain number. And she actually announces her weight to people, which I think is really rude and inappropriate. Clearly it hasn't made her happy being at a certain weight. And it just seems like such a waste of a life. 

Do you have a magic number for the scale? And if you do, where did you get it anyway? Is it how much you weighed when you were 18? Is that what some flipping BMI chart says you should weigh. Or are you basing it maybe on clothing catalogs that say that the model in that awesome outfit you want is five foot 10 and wearing a size, extra small.

Oh, that drives me nuts. I like when websites let you click on an alternative and see somebody in a size 16 and how it looks on them. Are you hoping to make your body look away that it can't? There are certain things about your body that you can't change. And your body weight can fluctuate daily and you can actually lose body fat while the number on the scale goes up, if you're gaining muscle.

But the real problem is that you're treating [00:16:00] yourself like an object. When the number on the scale is so important to you, you are more than a number on the scale and all the scale can tell you is about the force of gravity on your body here on planet Earth. It doesn't know anything else about, you doesn't know what a loving, amazing person you are or how much your family and friends love you or anything that really matters. That number on the scale is just information.

And I use it. I do weigh myself weekly just to see if what I'm doing is getting me where I want to be. Or if I'm not, if I'm gaining weight and I started thinking, well, am I eating a little too much? 

4. The fourth thing is comparison is the thief of joy. I'm guessing you've heard that quote and it's been attributed to both Teddy and Eleanor Roosevelt, but it doesn't really matter who said it. How often do you feel like crap because you compare yourself to someone else: to their face, their hair, their body, their accomplishments, whatever? I know, it's human nature to do this. We all do it. I find myself feeling envious when I see women my age with fewer wrinkles than I have only to find out that they regularly get injectables or have had other plastic surgery or have been editing their photos like crazy before posting them. I don't admire them. I feel sorry for them if they have to go to those lengths to essentially lie to their friends about their appearance. 

There are the women who I haven't seen in years, but I see their photos on social media and they actually look like someone else because they've had a ton of plastic surgery or they've edited their photos. But that doesn't work either because happiness is an [00:18:00] inside job, not an outside one. Not only that, what value is a "like," or an exclamation of your beauty when you've edited the photo to look better?

We're either comparing ourselves to someone else or they're comparing themselves to us. And either way someone is going to feel crappy. Is that why you're posting? I seriously doubt it, but you should know that that's the effect that it can have. So what can you do to stop this harmful self objectification, both your own and that of the people, you know? 

1. Stop and think about why you're posting on social media before you post. Are you just seeking attention? Are you trying to get people to tell you how great you look or do you have something legitimate to share?

2. Learn how to deconstruct what you see on social media, critically analyze other people's online portrayals in your own mind. You'll stop envying them when you realize that they're doing it because they don't feel good about themselves.

3 Obvious, but I'm saying I'm anyway: stop following any social media accounts that make you feel bad. I mean, what's the point of continuing to follow them? Even consider taking breaks from social media or getting off it entirely if being on it sucks and makes you feel like crap

4. Stop telling everyone how beautiful they are, how their family looks in their posts, automatically. I mean this craze to tell everyone, regardless of their appearance, that they look beautiful or gorgeous drives me nuts for several reasons. The main one is that it perpetuates the overblown value of our [00:20:00] appearance, especially for women. The other thing is that many of these people are just lying in their posts.

It's just this reflexive" gorgeous!" "beautiful family!" While I realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, how many times have you looked at someone who you think is frankly, quite unattractive physically, but who gets, you know, 48 friends to post beautiful or gorgeous when by most standards, they're really not? They may be the most generous, loving people you know, but gorgeous is not what comes to mind when anyone looks at them or thinks about them. 

There's a difference between someone looking happy in a photo and someone looking beautiful. What if instead you posted something like "great picture." if it's a good picture of this person, regardless of how pretty or ugly you think they are, or something like, "it looks like you're having a blast" or something that isn't about their appearance?

When someone loses weight and especially when they're posting their little before and after. photos, please don't comment about it. It's fat talk and it perpetuates the idea that thin bodies are better. You know, either say something else nice. Or don't say anything.

That is how you break the cycle of self sexual objectification. You stop doing it and you stop encouraging others to do it. It's how you start viewing your own body as a vessel of love and so [00:22:00] many other good things and not something just to be shrunk and molded until it fits some ridiculous body standard, which it probably can't.

That's how you start the journey of loving and respecting your body and loving and respecting other people. Not making them feel bad, looking good and feeling good are rewards in and of themselves. Having high self-esteem means you don't need all of your friends on social media telling you how beautiful you are. You already love yourself for who you are, and that won't change if you gain five pounds or you get wrinkles or gray hair. If self-esteem is an issue, it's really great to work with a therapist. You can call betterhelp or go to someone local or whatever, but you really can change your self-esteem without posting pictures on social media to try to get compliments, which doesn't improve your self esteem. 

If you would like resources for how to make peace with food and eating and drop the weight in a natural way that sustainable for the rest of your life, go to my website, Sharibroder.com and check out the free resources. And thank you again for listening. Have a fantastic week.

Thanks so much for listening. Don't forget to subscribe for regular motivation and inspiration and head over to my website, sharibroder.com to grab the free resources I've created to help you practice what you're learning on the podcast. I really appreciate your help spreading the word by leaving a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. See you next time.

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About the author 

Shari Broder

My mission is to help foodies ditch dieting and lose the weight for good. Discover what is really causing your weight issues (it isn't that you love food!), and learn how to stop obsessing about food and make peace with food and eating. Get off the diet hamster wheel once and for all and learn to eat consciously, stop emotional eating and enjoy the foods you love while permanently losing your desire to overeat.

  1. Shari, We're taught from little girls that looks are all that matter, we're the pretty fluff on the periphery of the male world. Thank God times have changed and things are improving, but we still have a long ways to go.

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Meet Shari

I am now retired from weight coaching, but hope you will enjoy the  blog posts and podcasts I created.