Seeking Solace

Setting up boundaries does not mean walling yourself off from the world

More stories from Julia Van Allen

Seeking Solace
May 13, 2019

Part of a healthy relationship with oneself and the outside world is enforcing healthy boundaries. While the word boundary initially set off alarms for me, as someone who used to interpret the need to set boundaries as the need to cut off the outside world entirely, I now see their merits.

According to an online article from Psychology Today, one of the most important steps in setting boundaries is to know thyself. In order to decide how to keep certain negative influences at bay, it is necessary to know which of these negative influences have the most detrimental effects. In their simplest form, boundaries act as a guidebook.

Anywhere there’s a possibility of harm, a boundary can be used to lessen or eradicate that harm. For me, I found the need to put up boundaries between myself and talk around crash dieting. For years, my poor body image was only worsened by the constant barrage of negativity that came from people pinching the extra bits of squish around their middles and denouncing a major food group. While this boundary wasn’t created to keep certain people out, its purpose is to protect my peace of mind.

While eating healthily and creating an exercise program based on activities that I enjoy is a key part of my self-care routine, I find that accepting my body as it is right now and appreciating all that it can do is a major milestone in my journey towards self-love.

So, practically, how do I create boundaries around crash dieting and disordered eating behaviors?

For starters, I’ve cultivated a circle of close friends who view food similarly. We talk about food as being the fuel we need to do the activities that we love, not as the bane of our existence that would be so much easier to live without. My friends and I never discuss fad diets or our needs to lose a lot of weight in a crazy amount of time. We acknowledge the importance of being a healthy weight, but also celebrate the individuality each one of us brings to the group

Another way I placed a boundary between myself and crash dieting is through social media. One social media trend that I cannot stand is the one for “skinny teas” and “appetite suppressing lollipops.” Who thinks of this stuff?!

These teas act as laxatives that completely clean a person out. Appetite suppressing lollipops throw off the body’s hunger systems and send it into survival mode, clinging on to whatever fat stores it can find in times of starvation. Does anyone else ever notice that the people advertising these teas or lollipops on their social media are always rich celebrities who got their figures through personal trainers and surgery, not through drinking a tea that trapped them in the bathroom for hours?

I create social media boundaries with this kind of stuff by choosing not to follow the big names who advertise it, instead following body positive activists like Meagan from Body Posi Panda. Positive influencers who discuss the inherent worth in every person have helped me personally as well as introduced me to whole communities of people who are also tired of hearing that their bodies will never be good enough. In case anyone was wondering, no I don’t follow any of the Kardashians/Jenners on Instagram.

Personal boundaries can be set to protect oneself from the negative and toxic influences of the world, but their purpose is far from keeping things out. Boundaries set the standard for how a person wants to be treated, which is one of the most loving things they can do for themselves. Boundaries are not there to wall us off, but to keep out the toxic influences that try to tear us down.

Van Allen can be reached at [email protected].