Unless you live in some isolated bubble here in the United States and most of the world where mass media reaches – you probably have thought negatively about your body. Maybe you even did stuff to try and change it. Diets, exercise, shakes, soups, pills, granny panties – you name it is out there to make you look the way you want! We (as a culture) are obsessed – but that is obvious. And ancient history too.
I was obsessed too once. Coming from the background of a poor chubby kid who always felt awkward in her skin… I decided to go on the bag of pretzels and can of diet soda for lunch diet. It only cost me $1.10 from the vending machine too. I remember my girlfriends telling me I should eat more at the lunch table (as they at their sandwiches and Lunchables) — and I just thought they were crazy. I mean, LOOK AT ME! I AM “FAT”!
So this all lead me to an even more obsessed place, soon my habits started changing more drastically. I would exercise in secret to the point of exhaustion. I would only eat an orange or a frozen waffle on Saturday. It was consumed by the food I ate and didn’t eat. I hated my body and I didn’t even see it changing before my very eyes. I knew I lost weight, but I didn’t care how I looked. I would not shower for days because I was too tired. Same goes for brushing teeth and combing my hair. There was bloody discharge out of my left breast at one point. I didn’t even care. I was a malnourished 13-year-old girl. The light had gone out of my eyes. But at what cost?
Fast forward 17 years later – and I am 30 as I am today. I am no longer in a spiral of restricting food or unrealistic mindsets. I work 40 plus hours a week and like to go out with my friends when my introverted side isn’t taking over. I live a normal life. Food no long takes up the space it did before and the need to control my body is not nearly as great. I don’t own a scale. I never even look at the doctor’s office for fear of that number overwhelming my mind again.
It’s been a process getting here. Growing up/into into my own skin I’ve learned some valuable lessons about how to love my body. Accepting this is the only home I’ll have for my whole life.
Here are my takeaways thus far.
Giving myself grace allowed me to break free of rigid habits. Saying it was “okay” to have a cookie or something off my meal plan was huge. I’ve always liked to play a little unfair. And holding myself to standards that stress me out is something I refuse to do as an adult human. Be gentle and kind to yourself. The world gives you a hard enough time as it is!
2. Getting tattooed.
This may sound corny but getting tattooed has improved my self image. It was something I always wanted to do but never had the time or money. Once I got my first large piece on my arm – it was like body image “magic”. I was proud of my body and the beautiful artwork it held! Not for everyone, but for me this was a big deal.
3. Joining a gym.
Maybe this one is obvious, but for a long time I was anti exercise. I hated to sweat! I’ve never been very athletic, but in the middle of a state of inflammation and misery I decided to start eating whole unprocessed foods. And go to the gym. It started off just with 20 minutes…and I was dying by the end of it too. I slowly built up my endurance. And it was great to see the results it had in my rest and mental clarity. Losing weight and stress was just a bonus!
I love talking baths. In the water I feel weightless and free. Its my favorite way to distress after a long day on my feet. Everyone should get back to being a kid and take a bath now and then in my opinion. Swimming too.
5. (Healthy) Relationships with other woman.
I don’t have any biological sisters, so when I moved into a sorority house my last year of college it allowed me to see other woman close up. To see them put on their make up and laugh and love their bodies in pajamas and dresses. To see wonderful girls of all shapes and sizes so happy helped me accept my body and be happy too.
After college and getting a job, I took an active interest in my health. Learning about my body helps me understand why I feel the way I do and how to embrace or change it. Podcasts and books have been great resources.
7. Putting my best face forward.
I have a morning ritual where I take a shower and get ready. I do my hair and make up almost everyday. Not out of vanity, but because I know it helps me feel more confident about meeting people and facing the day. It boosts my morale therefore I do it. Consistently.
Painting my nails, taking a long hot shower, buying a great pair of jeans, going for a sunset walk – all things I do to take care of my body and soul. I make time for these things especially when I am down.
9. Examining my inner worth.
True beauty I know comes from the inside. I’m not a model. I don’t need to look a certain way to make a living or make anyone else happy. But I know that my true value and the things that really make me of worth are the heart and soul that can not be made up or dieted or air brushed. The legacy I leave will not be the beauty on the outside, but the inside. The side that does.
10. Getting outside my head.
This is big for me. When I started focusing my attention on others. I started getting better. I started noticing an increase in my happiness and feelings of worth increased. The summer I worked at a summer camp as a counselor 23 hours a day was the most sacrificial wonderful thing I could of done to jump start my first summer out of treatment for anorexia. Relationships with others can be very healing. As can shifting the focus from the inside to the out.