For as long as I can recall I haven’t been happy with my body. Which is, unfortunately, what most women I know experience. We grow up hearing and seeing how the female body is bad and all the ways we can make it better. We can buff out stretchmarks and rub away cellulite, “bounce back” from having babies, and exercise all the fat away. If only we can get to this place of perfection, then we will be happy. Right?
Yet for most of us, this happiness never happens. Our bodies aren’t meant to fit into a box, to stay one way forever, or be “perfect.” Weight fluctuates, life happens, and never at any point are we satisfied.
The truth is, there is no problem with our bodies, the problem is how we think about our bodies.
At every weight over the last 30 years of my life the problem was never about what I looked like, the problem was in how I THOUGHT about what I looked like. I’ve been a starving and miserable and food obsessed size 0, and a depressed and food obsessed size 14. I didn’t like myself at either of these sizes, nothing was ever good enough. I was never skinny enough, fit enough, anything enough. The only time I have been “happy” with my physical self was when I was doing a popular fitness program and weighing every bite of food I put into my mouth. But that was also dangerous for me. I go to the extremes, intensely monitoring my food intake or binging until I feel sick on a cheat day. Food has been all or nothing for me, the enemy if I am honest. My body has been a mountain to conquer, yet when I get to the top I realize there are more peaks to climb. Nothing has ever been good enough.
What I have been learning over the past year or so, and honestly, this year the most, is that is has never been about the food or the weight, or the pants size. It has always been about not feeling enough as is, low self esteem, and reaching for perfection and love and recognition. I thought if I could get the outside of me to be a certain way, surely the inside would feel better, too?
I’m learning to think about what sounds good to me. It’s so silly, but something silly as “letting” myself have a bagel, or adding some creamer to my coffee, allowing myself to view food as a pleasure rather than as the enemy. There’s anxiety in feeling like I am letting go and what will happen? It’s scary, in a way. But liberating, too. I have intense fear in “getting fat” and how I will be viewed (I think most women do.) Will I still be loveable? It’s funny to see it write out, because I know intellectually what the answer is, but I have put so much effort into reaching for physical “perfection,” that letting it go is hard. I’m not letting myself go, I’m finding myself. I’m learning what I want versus what I’ve been told I want.
*note: this is not meant to make anyone feel bad about who they are and what they identify as (fat, skinny, healthy, etc.) Most of us have body image issues at any weight and I am not saying anything is better than the other. I’m just sharing my particular view point and issues.
Letting it go for me means asking myself each day what foods sound good. It turns out, my body craves all sorts of things and it all balances out. It also craves gentle exercise right now. Exercise has always been a battle of wits for me. What can I conquer, prove to myself and others? Right now it is about asking ME what I want.
Letting go means loving WHAT IS. I know the majority of the world would look at a picture of me and see a normal, straight sized woman. They may say, “why would she think these things about herself?” The truth is, all of us are fighing some sort of demon. I have been smaller and bigger than what I am right now, and felt exactly the same at each size. It was never about the weight or what I looked like, it was a reaching for something outside of myself to fix what I felt on the inside.
The thing is, we have to CHOOSE to be happy. We have to CHOOSE to love ourselves as is.
For most of us, thereis no magic weight or size that will make us happy, I promise you this.The key is to tell your brain that you are okay and enough and loveable AS IS. If you looked the same as you do RIGHT NOW, would you be happy? That is where I am now. Do I have some health goals that I am working on as we speak? YES! But I am also doing the work daily to stop old thought patterns in their tracks.
5 million times a day my brain tries to tell me things about my body. It says, ” You should run more,” You should eat less,” “If you buy the bigger pants size you are giving up.”
It is my job to hear those thoughts (they aren’t going anywhere,) and redirect them. I say in my head, “Stop, it’s ok.” I love the affirmation,
I have a body.
I say that one alot, because my brain can’t refute it. When I notice how my belly rolls when I shave my legs, instead of beating myself up, I say, “Thank you for growing two babies in there and making room for that.”
We can choose to hate our bodies or be grateful for them. Each time I catch myself in a mirror and want to criticize, I force myself to find something I love instead. I say it out loud. “I love my hourglass shape. I love my strong shoulders. I am beautiful.” This is so powerful and trains our brains to be grateful for what we have instead of critical.
Another powerful thing to do is to be grateful for what our bodies can DO. We might now love all that our bodies are at any point int time, but I sure am grateful for the ability to walk and hug and just be alive, you know?
So can you learn to love and appreciate your body as is, right now? Even if it isn’t what you want for the future, can you be kinder to yourself as is? Maybe even enjoy what is?