Hating yourself doesn’t make you thin, just like loving yourself doesn’t make you fat.
That title is something I’ve thought about a lot for the past year. We go to Laguna every year (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016), and it’s kinda like my new year. A time to reflect back on what has changed during the previous year.
If you look back through those posts, you will see I was stuck in some disordered and destructive mindsets around food and body image. Some of them are subtle, but if you look you will see them. All those years, except 2012, I would say I was more on the recovery side of the spectrum with my ED. However, during 2012 I was gluten-free (hello, politically correct way to have an eating disorder). If you followed me then, I pray (honestly, I’ve prayed about this) that I didn’t make anyone’s ED worse.
For the three years after that, I was still stuck in some spectrum of disordered and unhealthful tendencies with food and exercise. I blame that on the diet culture we live in and me not knowing there was another way to live.
This year in Laguna was so different.
You know when you try to take a deep breath and you can’t fully fill up your lungs? So you take another deep breath, but still can’t quite get enough air in?
Well this year in Laguna, I finally felt like I could breath deep enough. I could get all the air in. I could fully take in everything around me because I’ve done so much freaking body image work this past year and it’s changed my life. I feel like I’m finally able to be fully present in my life and it feels f-ing awesome because I’m not spending my time stressing about controlling/manipulating my body.
Sometime a couple years ago I realized my body was never thin/toned/muscular/perfect enough. Even at my thinnest or strongest or whatever-est. I was living in a place of continual frustration because I was obsessed with how my body looked. I finally came to the conclusion that hating and judging myself around food had never made me thin. And if that was the case, then loving myself probably wouldn’t make me fat.*
So I decided the physical parts of my body isn’t what needed to change, it was the mental part. So I stopped exercising for several months (like completely stopped other than occasional walks with Maggie and yoga) and started working on how my brain viewed my body. Because your body hears everything your brain says.
I learned to stop seeing the flaws that we’ve all been taught to see when we look in the mirror. I realized that women are trained to want to be thin, which usually results in us being trained into disordered eating behaviors.
In the media we are bombarded by what a woman should look like and this has a devastatingly negative impact on our self image. I was in a yoga class recently and the yoga teacher (a teacher I won’t be taking another class from) was talking to a pregnant women in the class and asked her how far along she was. The convo went like this:
prego woman: 4 1/2 months.
yoga teacher: oh you look so good, you’re so tiny!
prego woman: thank you!
I was outraged by the whole thing. When did being tiny when pregnant become something to compliment someone on? Being tiny when pregnant has zero physiological value. It only has social value. And this all goes to prove how messed up our society is. And it should make you mad. It makes me mad. It makes me mad that growing up I knew the harshest insult I could hurl at my sister was to call her fat. How at the age of 9 years old had society taught me that fat on a woman’s body was a bad thing?
Having a healthy relationship with food and being well does not guarantee weight loss. Weight loss is something you have to let go of before you can find peace with food and movement.
When people hear I’m a dietitian, they think, “oh you can put me on a diet and help me lose weight.” It makes me so bummed people jump to that when I actually do the opposite of that work. I help people stop dieting, be be okay with eating processed foods and start to respect their bodies.
Personally, the principle of Intuitive Eating that was hardest for me to embrace was just that, Respect your body. I eat in an intuitive way and I believe it is the best way of eating for me. But I have had to do a tremendous amount of body image work to get to this point I am now. And there are still days I wake up having awful body image days. I am a woman living in a society that has a very narrow view of what is beautiful, but I want to start working to expand that narrow view of beauty.
There are three things that have been helpful in allowing me to respect my body:
- Surrounding myself with podcasts that discuss body image, body positivity, Health at Every Size, Intuitive Eating, etc. Some of my favorites are: Food Psych & Mind Body Musings. Also any YouTube video with Isabel Foxen Duke in it is gold.
- Doing a social media cleanse.**
Step one: stop following people who make your feel like crap. It’s easy to fall into compare and despair mentality.
Step two: start adding in things that make you feel good. Follow epic woman on IG like: @BodyPosiPanda, @HealthyIsTheNewSkinny, @IsabelFoxenDuke
- Yoga. It has taken me 7 years to finally get yoga. But the awareness it has brought and the compassion it allows me to feel towards my body is unreal.
If you feel overwhelmed with your poor body image and don’t know where to start, I’d remind you that people typically overestimate what they can do in the short-term and underestimate what they can do in the long-term. That just means, you don’t have to make changes all at once. Once a day, expose yourself to something from the list above that promotes positive body image. Once a day adds up to a lot in one year. It can have a huge impact. Trust me.
If you have a difficult relationship with food and your body, I hope you will look into my online course and see if it is something that resonates with you.
*Fat used as a descriptor and not as a word with a negative connotation.
**This is the only time I will endorse a cleanse, otherwise your liver has you covered.
Quick note: I decided to put me and my experiences into this blog post. It would’ve been very easy to write this post without including any reference to myself, but I think it’s more helpful for you to know what I’ve been through and where I am today. When commenting/emailing me, please remember that I am a person with feelings.