There is a lingering plague in our society which effects both males and females, but since I am a woman I am going to talk about the female perspective.
A few days ago, I was chatting with some amazing women online and we were talking about how it is so easy to get stuck in hating your body. There are both external pressure from media and internal pressure we put on ourselves to have a perfect body before we accept ourselves so the rest of the world will do the same.
Quickly food becomes the enemy, 6-pack abs the goal and exercise the antidote.
I have been on both ends of the spectrum, both ‘fat‘ and ‘fit‘. Inside both of those realities, I still hated myself. I was still seeking outside approval; looking to have someone validate me.
I was the same woman at 132 pounds and size 4 that I was at 220 pounds and size 20.
In the words of my very mouthy grandma, “Who is looking at you anyway?” There is more truth in this question than one realizes. Basically only you are looking at you; truly looking.
Look deep and make some decisions about who you want to become.
I am going to be 35 years old in a few weeks and I am happy to report a few things that will be amazing for anyone who is in the midst of struggling to get out of the body image battle.
- I rarely think about how I look during the day – I am fully present in doing meaningful work.
- Getting dressed in the morning is easy and not because I have 4% body fat and can wear anything, rather I have clothes that fit and don’t care what number is printed on the little tag that no one sees.
- Calorie counting and being OCD about food has stopped.
- I don’t show up with a cooler that looks like a purse when going to other people’s homes to eat.
- The number that appears on my scale in the morning pops up for 5 seconds and that is how long it is important – 5 seconds.
- My whole life isn’t shaped around eating a certain way or making it to the gym. There are weeks when I don’t even get to a gym and the world has yet to stop turning.
- I buy bigger sizes because they fit better and I don’t bat an eye. “Large? Bring it on, I have shoulders to cram into that suit coat!”I look at magazines with fit, hot women on them and appreciate the work they do to get there and know no one is paying me to work out. I get paid to help people live full and meaningful lives which requires carbs.
Here is a bit of my journey these past years … maybe it helps?
No one is alone with the food and body image issues, yet when you’re in it you think you’re the only one. And for some reason there is a lie in our society that once you are older than 24, these should and can’t be an issue anymore. Choosing to stay alone with it keeps you stuck, if you are reading this and think you are the only one, you’re not. Talk to someone!
For me it was something I struggled with for a long, long time and then competing just magnified all the issues with food and body image. Oddly enough, I thought having a rocking body would make them go away; how misinformed I was!
Then, when I got really sick after my competition and gained 30 pounds, well I decided I was a failure and ugly and being ‘beautiful’ was impossible.
For me, my health in the area of body image and eating came from focusing on it less. I stopped working with a nutritionist, trainer, and gave myself a whole bunch of grace. I had to sit in the mess of my poor thinking, self hatred, and muffin top for awhile before I could get momentum to go the other way.
I basically applied the minimum effective dose to my health.
What is the least amount of thinking, focus and work I can do to get a good result?
I found I had a whole lot more time to think about and do other things which opened up a whole new world of possibility, hobbies, friends and rest.
The ‘What The Hell Effect’ changed nearly everything.
Basically it is the idea that once you slip up, gain a pound, eat some ice cream, don’t work out etc; all you do is throw your hands up and say, “What the hell?!” and then let everything else go.
- I took on the battle of the ‘WTH Effect’ rather than myself. Not fighting ME was paramount to success.
I am not super skinny, cover magazine ready and struggle with bad thoughts about myself like everyone else; but I also know how to grab them and lock them up. Something I love about thoughts are you can grab them and either keep thinking about them or lock them up. I have a bad thoughts jail where all the horrible thoughts get put. I own the key – they only caution for myself is that when I lock up the newest bad and unhelpful thought is to not let out the other ones.
Throw it in, lock the door and keep going!
I also got rid of the super skinny clothes – the ones that I only wore for about 2 months. Having them in my closet, mocking me, didn’t help. I made sure my closet was full of clothes I could wear and looked good in.
One of the hardest things for me was to learn how to eat like a normal person again, to not freak out if I had a French Fry, a bowl of ice cream, a candy bar etc. I made that a goal, not losing weight. To be able to go out for supper, not be a stressball about eating, and enjoy my time with friends. To have a glass of wine with dinner and be ok. To not punish myself with exercise.
Being me and loving it.
I now weigh something like 155 pounds, am a size 8 and am cute but not bikini body hot and I am rather happy about it – but it took me leaning in for over a year. To not look for the extreme and quick fix, but to pick the long, slow journey of healing.
Healing for my health, body, emotions, self image and spirit.
Separating myself from my body was paramount for success. I am not my body. My body helps me do life and I want a good one – super skinny and hot doesn’t help me (I have to give it way too much focus, time and energy) and hating what I have doesn’t help either. Learning how to love myself has led me to take better care of me and be able to love others more effectively and with more grace.
- None of this is a ‘quick fix’ but it is a lasting one; at least in my world.
I share all of this in case any of it is helpful. Know I am totally ‘in it’ with you. Maybe I am farther along on the path or you are ahead of me; whatever the case we travel this road together.