Thinking about how long it took to feel comfortable in my own skin feels utterly exhausting. I still remember the first time I understood that bodies were judged as either good or bad based on their size. I was 7 years old. I was playing with a friend outside one summer day, when she casually said “My dad said the only reason you have bigger boobs than me is because they are full of fat” In this moment I not only felt ashamed of my breasts, but I also decided that I was fat, which I assumed meant defective.
After that comment, I began a romance with my obsession to be thin that would last for years to come. This obsession to be skinny was fueled by pressure from family, peers and the media.
In my quest to be thin, I tried using laxatives, purging, crash diets, diet pills and short stints of anorexia (I really loved food too much for abstinence to be a viable option ;)). In hind sight, there was no way that I could have been fat, between competing as a gymnast and playing every sport my school had to offer, I was actually very fit and healthy. Looking back on photos of vacations where I had anxiety attacks poolside due to my self loathing, I can see clearly now that I actually looked fabulous in my bikini. Not perfect, but healthy, athletic and fit.
So, after 27 years of struggling to accept my physique, I had a huge epiphany last week that showed me I have finally healed. A visiting relative whom I haven’t seen for 10 years said to me immediately upon my arrival at a gathering, “step back so I can have a look at you” I did step back a little shocked by her audacity. She looked me up and down and said “you look pretty good, but you’ve still got a long way to go”. Being that I am only four months post pardom, and taught fitness classes up to my ninth month of pregnancy, I almost burst out laughing at the utter lunacy of the comment. I almost burst out laughing, rather than bursting into tears which would have been the case just a few years ago. It was in that moment I realized that I was finally free, baby belly and all. Free from the criticisms of my family, society and past partners. Free from the hatred I’d felt for my imperfect figure for almost three decades. This new found freedom got me thinking about how I did it. How I very slowly chipped away at the ugly thoughts about my body until only love remained. My hope in writing this article is to save you time, the one thing you can never get back. Don’t wait three decades to respect and appreciate your body, start healing now.
1. RESEARCH YOUR ASS OFF- (no pun intended) regarding how the media and corporations profit from having consumers hate their physical appearance. If we were all truly content with the way we looked, the diet products industry, which was worth $61.6 billion USD in 2012 would be miniscule. The more the veil is lifted, and you fully understand how companies make big money off of our insecurities, the more you will understand that the standards we are trying so desperately to achieve are manipulative illusions. Also, look into the different cultural beauty ideals around the world to understand that there is not only the one unobtainable North American definition of beauty.
2. MEDITATE- Get back in tune with the body you divorced through meditation. In this quiet space recite some body positive affirmations. Thank your heart for beating, your lungs for working, your legs for faithfully carrying you through your days and your arms for carrying your children without fail. Take time every day to show your body gratitude. If you are new to meditation, the web is a great resource for guided body love meditations.
3. PARTICIPATE IN A PHYSICAL ACTIVITY YOU LOVE- So many people sign up for that “new years resolution” gym membership on January 1st, and force themselves to attend the gym three to five times per week ……. for about three months. The reason people don’t fulfill their fitness goals is because they choose an activity they have to force themselves to do. What is the best exercise for weight loss? The exercise you will actually do. So, when choosing a physical activity to help you in your mission to love your body, pick something you really enjoy! Not only will your workouts be filled with passion and get you in shape, they will also help you to build your self esteem and reconnect with your body. An archery class that makes you feel alive will certainly get you further than sitting on your couch looking at your dusty yoga membership you used six times last year.
4. WRITE YOUR BODY AN APOLOGY NOTE- Have you ever written a letter or email to someone you have treated badly but can’t live without? Well, this is the same thing. Think of the negative thoughts and behaviours you have directed toward your body, get as real with this activity as possible and write down the thoughts and behaviours you are apologizing for. Use detail and feel the pain that comes with rehashing your body bashing. Then write out a list of the things your body does right. Make a list of all the things you appreciate about your body; how it is disease free, gets you from point A to point B on foot or allows you to carry your children etc. As a client of mine with rheumatoid arthritis reminded me yesterday; you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. Finally, write how you will behave in the future towards your figure. Again, be detailed. Write to your body as though you are it’s new protector, hero and biggest fan.
BE AWARE OF OTHER PEOPLES JEALOUSY AND PROJECTIONS- Healthy, normal people don't go around tearing others down. If someone makes an unwelcome comment about your body, there is something sad and insecure about them, not you. They are dumping their insecurities on you. For example, I know man who works out obsessively, diets and takes legal and illegal supplements. He looks amazing (think GQ magazine) but constantly complains that he's getting fat and old. This man is very insecure. In turn, he tells his wife constantly that she's getting fat and old. That's how projections work; we conveniently and unconsciously place our own fears and insecurities on others, rather than heal the issue for ourselves. Through understanding this psychological phenomena, I was able to see that most of the comments from others about my weight were their own issue and not mine. BUT for years I took on those comments, internalized them and felt ashamed of my physical appearance. I've had people putting me down for years who were uncomfortable with me shining my light of confidence and happiness around them. So, take a good look at the "haters" in your life and ask yourself these questions:
What do I have that they want?
What is this person insecure about?
How does this person benefit from putting me down?
In this moment I give you full permission to begin the process of loving your body no matter what the scale says or how much cellulite you have. Whether you love or hate your body, it is yours for life. So,why not live your days loving? The choice is yours.