A while back, I posed the question, “How far back do you have to go to arrive at a time when you weren’t aware of your body?” To frame the question differently, I’m curious when we lose, what I call, our “body innocence.” Body innocence has to do with knowing what your body can do, knowing what you look like, but not being “aware” of your body—not judging your appearance, not worrying about what you’re eating, not checking yourself in the mirror, or weighing yourself repeatedly. Body innocence is accompanied by cognitive innocence of all things diet and weight-related. Becoming body aware (versus innocent) does not necessarily lead to an eating disorder; however, this is often the first step down a windy, insidious path.
What causes us to lose our body innocence? A starting, and certainly not comprehensive, list: 1) An unsuspecting comment by a family member, friend, or peer 2) A purposely cruel comment by a family member, friend, or peer 3) Losing some weight unintentionally and being consequently reinforced by others 4) Realizing ourselves that we’re not as skinny as other children 5) Being involved in a weight-dependent activity, such as ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading, or ice skating (let’s not even say, “figure skating”) 6) Exposure to constant media messages about unnaturally thin celebrities 7) Exposure to constant media messages about the dangers of being overweight 8) Exposure to constant media messages that promote diet pills, plans, and procedures 9) Exposure to family members, friends, or peers, who aren’t body innocent 10) Abuse