Before Christine became a dietitian, she spent nine years working as a journalist and recipe developer, first as a food editor at BuzzFeed, then as the features editor for Self, then as a freelancer for over four dozen media outlets. She’s written thousands of articles and hundreds of recipes. She’s also appeared as a guest on Good Morning America, New York One, and the Meredith Vieira Show. You can learn more about her work here.
At Way, our goal is not only to help you break free from dieting and body shame, but also to uncover values and align your way of living and eating with your values. In other words: We help you figure out how to eat, move, and live in a way that’s aligned with what you feel is important for your life. That’s what really sets us apart from all the diets and weight loss programs that tell you what to do, without leaving any space for you to decide what’s best for you.
With that in mind, a huge piece of healing your relationship with food and your body is figuring out what your core values are. But while values-aligned living is something that many people talk about, we’ve noticed from our experience working with clients that most people aren’t clear and need help uncovering values. (I’m an eating disorder dietitian in private practice, and many other Way partners work individually with clients as well.)
When I’m working with someone on overcoming disordered eating behaviors and we’ve hit a sticking point where we’re not making much progress, we’ll often take a step back from talking about food. Instead, we’ll start talking about values. And we don’t just talk about them; I have clients go through the following steps to identify 3 to 4 specific values that feel most important to them.
How to Uncover Your Values
Here’s a guide for identifying your core values, which you can then use to guide you in creating an authentic relationship with food and reframing your body image.
1. Choose the Values that Speak to You.
Uncovering your values can feel elusive sometimes – like trying to catch a cloud. One way to start the process and get a “spark” that helps guide you toward the light of your values, is to simply pick from a list.
List of Values – Start Here
Making a Difference
Being the Best
2. Group similar values together.
Some of your values are probably similar or tied together. Group your values in a maximum of five groups, in a way that makes sense to you. For example, groups might look like this:
3. Choose one value to best represent each group.
Now that you have up to five groups, choose a single value in each group that you think best represents the entire group. (Or, maybe it’s just the one that clearly speaks to you the most.) Circle it or bold it.
Try not to judge yourself, and don’t choose the one you think you “should” choose. Values are personal, and they’re never right or wrong. In fact, part of what’s so great about them is that they’re a little bit different for everyone.
4. The chosen words are your core values.
If any of the chosen words don’t feel quite right, you can drop them. It’s best to have 3-5 core values. Write them down. Ideally, you could keep them somewhere you can easily see them for a while, like on your bathroom mirror or at your desk. A gentle daily reminder of what you truly care about can be a huge help when you’re trying to rebuild your relationship with food and your body.
How Uncovering Values Can Support Your Food and Body Image Journey
When you’re clear on your core values, you can use them to guide how you act, think, and feel about yourself. And, how you act, think, and feel comes out in how you eat, move, and connect with the image of your body. Here’s how integrating core values into body image work can help you create a more positive body image, that’s less influenced by the “perfect” body perpetuated by diet culture and pictures on social media, ads, and commercials:
Knowing your core values brings you one step closer to knowing yourself. And once you’re confident in who you are, it can be easier to practice self-acceptance. When you accept yourself, you’re more likely to embrace and appreciate your body for what it is, recognizing its uniqueness and the value it brings to your life beyond appearance.
Along the lines of self-acceptance is self-compassion, which is about not only accepting yourself, but also accepting that you’re human, imperfect, and allowed to fail and make mistakes. Practicing self-compassion means not striving for perfection, but instead finding beauty and human-ness in the parts of you that are imperfect.
When you know your core values and act on them, you’re true to yourself. When applied to body image, this can lead to a more genuine and realistic view of your body. Instead of adhering to unrealistic beauty standards, you focus on what feels authentic and true to your individuality. Ultimately, this is a much more achievable and sustainable way to think about your body.
4. Respect for Diversity
Understanding your own core values can also help you understand that other people may value different things — and that’s OK! Once you realize that we all have unique priorities, preferences, and goals, you can also start to embrace the fact that we all have different bodies. Just like you shouldn’t expect people to value exactly the same things as you, you shouldn’t expect your body to look exactly like someone else’s. In fact, it’s these differences that make us who we are, and make life interesting.
Whether or not mindfulness is a top value of yours, it’s necessary to put your other values into practice. Being mindful of how your thoughts and actions may or may not align with your values is crucial for growth. When we apply this to body image, it means becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings about your body without harsh judgment. Mindfulness can help you cultivate a more compassionate and understanding relationship with your body.
6. Less Focus on Appearance
While appearance may be a core value for some people, it’s probably not one for most. (And even if appearance is one of your core values, you have 2 or 3 others that have nothing to do with how you look.) Keeping this in mind helps you think about your body in terms of its functionality, resilience, and the experiences it allows you to have.
Knowing yourself leads to feeling empowered, which creates a positive shift in how you view and relate to your body. Feeling empowered means recognizing your body’s strengths and capabilities, fostering a sense of confidence and appreciation for what your body can do. It also means appreciating its uniqueness, and understanding that your unique body is part of what makes you the amazing person you are.
Having a strong connection from uncovering values can make you more resilient in the face of cultural pressures (hello, TikTok influencers) and external influences (like your friends’ bodies) that may negatively impact your relationship with your body. If you’re clear on who you are and what you want out of life, you might be less susceptible to societal beauty standards that can contribute to unhealthy eating habits.
9. Uncovering Values: Long-Term Perspective
Core values often reflect long-term goals and aspirations, and they give you an idea of the person you’re striving to become. Applying your values to your body image can help you figure out what you truly want from your body, and what you don’t.
For example, you might realize that your past obsession with looking a certain way was actually rooted in a fear that you wouldn’t be able to keep up with your grandchildren in your seventies, and family is a core value of yours. When you’re able to take a more long-term look at things, you might realize that moving regularly and eating a wide variety of foods is far more important to that goal than looking a certain way.
Ultimately, Getting Clear and Uncovering Values is Key to Moving Forward in Your Food and Body Image Journey.
One of the big reasons why diets don’t work is because they’re rarely aligned with our core values and the things we truly want. That’s why we emphasize uncovering values as a central part of your journey with Way. Instead of giving you rules to live by that may not match up with what you care about, we empower you to figure out who you are and what you want out of life, then apply that to your relationship with food and your body.
At Way, we combine both approaches to actively create an interactive experience. This experience naturally arises from exploring questions with the focused goal of helping Way members find peace in their relationships with food and their bodies. Our app uniquely blends intuitive eating with behavior science and mindfulness, incorporating short, sweet, and easy mindful breathing techniques in Way. We eagerly anticipate continuing our mission to help everyone find balance in their lives, enabling them to enjoy their journey to health.