I have never loved my body. Even my 16 year old, five-foot-six, 105 pound self didn’t love her body. Until recently, I didn’t think I should love my body. It isn’t perfect and it certainly doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen in the magazines. I have a ways to go, I tell myself. Then I will be happy. Then I will love my body.
I’m getting married in a year and almost every wedding planning guide I could find includes some kind of “start your bride body workout” notation on the time line. What exactly is a bride body? I’d imagine it looks like the ever illusive bikini body. So, not only am I planning the happiest day of my life with all of my best friends and family, I now also have the added pressure of looking like Cindy Crawford while doing it. No sweat. (Or in my case, apparently, a lot of sweat.)
My point is, there is pressure everywhere to have a perfect body.
Not too long ago I was throwing a pretty huge pity party; full of self loathing body shaming pity. I have been at my current weight for a while, despite numerous and varied attempts at losing weight. I was feeling better and noticing definition in muscles I didn’t even know I had, but those trouble spots were still there and that damn number on the scale wasn’t changing.
Then I had a thought: what if this is it? What if this is just what my body is going to look like for the rest of my life? What if I show up to my wedding in a year from now and look exactly like I do right now?
I let my mind run with that for a while…
I think I would eat healthy and work out for the sake of my health instead of a means to losing weight. I might even start to enjoy those things and maybe break the cycle of emotional eating.
I wouldn’t be disappointed when I got on the scale and nothing had changed. I would probably stop getting on the scale at all.
I would find a bathing suit that was comfortable and worked well with my figure, instead of avoiding bathing suits all together because I don’t look good in a bikini yet. And I would wear it every chance I got.
If I knew the way my body looks would never change, I would work to make peace with who I am and learn to appreciate and love myself as I am.
I realized I had bought into the lie; the perfectionist lie that we should all be striving for the magazine cover look alike body – and the even bigger lie that my value is defined by that body, by my body.
There is certainly no shame or blame in wanting to be physically healthy and happy and to be able to run a mile without having a heart attack. But those things need not be attached to what your body actually looks like.
This summer I did the Couch to 5K program just to get myself, well, off the couch – to get moving and do something to keep my heart healthy. I’ll admit, I was disappointed when I got on the scale and didn’t see a change. But it felt good to push myself to do something that intimidated me. I was surprised at my body’s ability. I was proud of myself.
I am slowly learning that it is far more important and far more valuable for me to do things out of a love for myself and less out of a dislike for the way I look. My relationship with my body, with food, and with the scale has always been a treacherous one. But it is really just a symptom of something deeper – my relationship with myself.
I want to approach body image from a self-care perspective; to focus less on what I look like and more on how I feel. I want to redeem my relationship with food and exercise. Is there a way to get in shape without the judgement and negativity? I believe there is and I think it starts with seeing myself just as I am and seeing the worth and value that is already there.
One thing I have done to start that shift in perspective is to put the scale away. The only thing weighing myself does for me is start a war of hateful self talk that makes me feel bad about my body. It’s not an issue for everyone but it is for me and I know that removing the negative things in my life is the only way to start seeing more of the positive things, and to start appreciating all the good that is there.
Another thing I have started doing recently is practicing yoga in the morning. Let me just say that I am not a morning person. At all. Never have been. But I know that if I can get my mind right first thing in the morning and connect to my body in a positive way, it will have a ripple effect through the rest of my day. I will make better food choices and stay aware of the motivation behind my cravings. Just show up, I tell myself. I roll out of bed and onto the mat. And the rest just kind of happens.
There are so many other things I can do, and plan to do, to better myself and get beyond my body shaming self. But I know it’s a journey and I’m in it for the long haul. So I take one thing at a time and try to be kind to myself, acknowledging the progress.
What are some positive things you can start doing today to feel better about yourself and connect to a more positive body image? It’s so vital that you know how beautiful you are and how worthy you are of being cared for, most importantly by yourself. Just chose one small thing and start doing it. Just show up. See what happens.