Hey you, guess what? The size of your body has absolutely f*ck all to do with your worth, and who you are as a person. And maybe this is more a note to myself, and may be irrelevant to you – I hope it is. But I know that diet culture is real, and in the past couple years I have been learning a lot about it, what it meant to be steeped in in for decades, identifying why it is a problem and how harmful it can be, and trying to change course as much as possible so that it doesn’t affect my girls the way it affected (and still affects) me.
I accidentally stumbled upon something I wrote exactly 2 years ago when I re-shared a Facebook photo last week and didn’t see the caption when I was sharing it. But when people started commenting, I re-read it, and wow it hit me like a tonne of bricks. It affected me because I could feel the pain that I have gone through in my life regarding my body, and the feeling that I know so many women experience.
Here’s what I wrote: (Original text from March 25th, 2019)
Let’s talk about body image for a minute…I remember being 9 years old thinking I was fat.
I remember being called fat behind my back by a popular boy in grade 4.
I remember working out everyday going into grade 9 hoping to lose weight.
I remember losing that weight fast and people thinking I had an eating disorder.
I remember counting my calories and restricting them to 1200 calories a day, not a calorie over, even while playing competitive sports.
I remember feeling guilty when I ate something that was ‘bad’ for me.
I remember looking in the mirror even when I was 120 lbs and thinking I was too big.
I remember obsessing over losing “that last 15lbs” after I had my first baby.
I remember comparing myself to other postpartum mom’s (especially on Instagram) and wishing I could be as skinny as them.
And now what I want to remember is how much I freaking love my body.
How incredible it is and how resilient it is.
How it grew and fed 2 babies, but even if it didn’t or couldn’t, it would still be perfect.
I still have my moments of not feeling like enough or wanting to fit into clothes that fit me before I had my babies. Feeling guilty over eating ice cream or a donut. But now more that ever in my life, I am learning to not just accept, but celebrate and LOVE my body, no changes needed.
I am learning to respect it enough to give it what it needs, with food and exercise. Learning to eat when I’m hungry, and move to feel good, not to change the way my body looks. And to actually ENJOY dessert.
I know this will be a lifetime of work and growth, but having 2 small girls, I see the importance now more than I ever have.
I know that their strongest role model and biggest influence in their life is me. Them seeing me respect my body, feeling and acting confident and never telling myself that I’m fat or I need to change, but instead celebrating it.
I know many women have had or are currently dealing with serious eating disorders or body dysmorphia.
I also know that most women have had moments of not feeling like enough. Let’s stop the cycle and empower our daughters through our own actions.You are enough, you are beautiful, you are perfect.
Reading this made me tear up, because it’s exactly what I needed to hear. The truth is, I don’t think about my body all the time, this is kind of the highlight reel of the worst and hardest stuff, but I do think about it more than I would like to. And growing up, I am so fortunate that I did not have an eating disorder, but I definitely dabbled in disordered eating, a term I had never heard of until recently.
My journey with body-image issues
I know the reason I experienced these feelings is one part, my personality and wanting to please, and two, is all the media I consumed. I used to LOVE trashy, teen magazines. I even remember making a “vision board” filled with pictures of washboard abs and model-long legs. And three, I was bigger than “average” in my early years, I got my period when I was 9 (9!), and so naturally I developed waaay earlier than my friends and peers. I was bigger than all the boys until high school, and used to look longingly to my petite and small friends. Without noticing the growth of these negative thought patterns, it developed into what I can now see was a problem. And then the pendulum swung to the other extreme when I naturally lost a bunch of weight entering high school, and was finally “skinny” like I wanted to be. Here came the attention “wow, you look so good”…And now the fear of getting bigger set in, because clearly people liked and noticed me in a smaller body. But when my body composition didn’t change much for about 15 years after that, I kind of forgot I had an issue, and actually felt quite good in my body, but now I see that “feeling good in my body” for that stretch only happened because it fit my ideal of beauty.
Then I got pregnant with my first, and guess what, the weight didn’t slip away like I thought it would after I had her with breastfeeding. Enter the negative body thoughts once again. That old familiar feeling of looking down on my body, wishing it would change, feeling like a worse version of myself because I didn’t fit back into my pre-baby clothes. I kept those clothes for years and kept trying them on every few months after a stint of exercise, or diet change, only be disappointed when I still couldn’t get my jeans up over my thighs. It’s been a journey, and the journey continues, there are days where I feel great and others when I feel my old negative thought patterns creeping back in.
Here are some mindset shifts I have made in the past few years, that have helped me immensely, and I am sharing this because I hope they can help you too.
Buy clothes for the way they fit my body, not for the size on the label.
I honestly wish clothes didn’t have any size on the label, because there is a serious amount of self-talk I needed to do to get over the number or letter on the label. So when I finally went to stores to buy some new jeans, I didn’t even try on my “old size” like I would have, I sized up 2-4 sizes and only brought those in the dressing room. Then when trying them on, I would mix them up and not look at the label before trying them on. Then I simply purchased the pair that fit me the best, the ones that were the most comfortable. Oh, and fully get rid of all those clothes you had before that you “wish you could fit into”, or plan on fitting into after you do the next 30 day detox. They are just sitting there taunting you, so donate them/sell them/give them away! Buy new clothes that make you feel fabulous.
Surround myself with images of all body sizes
This is one I am still working on, but am getting more and more comfortable with it the more I do it. Because I spent years wiring my brain to believe that stick-model thin is beautiful, now I need to work to re-wire my brain and my idea of what beauty is. In the past couple of years I really have noticed that so many companies are going above and beyond to include all body sizes/ages/colours as their models. I especially love what dove, knix and thinx are doing with their campaigns, and there are a lot of other companies following suit. I have also curated my instagram, since I spend some time there everyday, it was not effective for me to follow other women who were my old ideal of beauty (aka skinny), anytime I looked at someones post and noticed that old familiar feeling of comparison, I immediately went to unfollow them. Instead I started following many body-positive accounts, ones who show the truth of their bodies. I admire their bravery when it comes to posting such vulnerable photos of themselves, but can see how sharing those photos is changing the ideal of beauty (I think a lot of us have some re-wiring to do).
Appreciate your body for what it does, not for how it looks
When Covid hit last year, I started going for a walk every morning, and during these walks I finally had the mental space for myself and started a body-gratitude practice. So on days when I didn’t feel very grateful, I went through the motions of body gratitude, and eventually it started to stick. I would start with my feet, “I am grateful for these feet, I love these feet. I am grateful for these knees, I love these knees…” and I would work all the way up to my hair. Take a second to appreciate every body part, lingering on those body parts I may not yet love, by repeating it 5-10 times. Notice how I word my gratitude practice to “these” instead of “my”. Read below to see why I made this switch. Next I move on to the actions my body does that I’m grateful for: “I’m grateful for my strength, I’m grateful for my interests and passions, I’m grateful for my spontaneity…”
Act as if this body you are in is a prized leased car
This one might be a bit of a stretch for some, but this thought really helped me. Ok, so here goes…
You are not your body. You are what is inside this body; your personality, your likes/dislikes, your mood, your achievements, your hobbies, your intelligence, your kindness, etc. So if you see your body as something that is on loan, you may treat it a little differently. THIS is the body you were given to live out this miraculous life you are living. It is not WHO you are. You are not your hair, your skin colour, your stretch marks, your scars, your smile. You are everything that comes out of your mouth, all of your thoughts, your compassion, your impatience, everything you do. If you can shift your perspective (and this may take some time to get used to), you can compare your body to a car on lease, but you only get to lease one car your entire life. When you are born, you are randomly gifted with a car, you don’t get to choose the type, you just get what you get.
In that scenario, would you feel bad about yourself if your leased car got a flat tire? Or if it rusted? Or if it got in a car crash? No, you would instead try to do everything in your power to treat this car like a valuable and prized possession, because you need this car, you cannot get around without the car, you cannot see your family without the car. You need this car to live out your life.
Now shift that back to your body. You were given this body, nobody else has this body, it is yours to use for now, but only if you take care of it. Look at everything this body allows you to do. This list will be relevant for some but not others, so make your own list to spend a moment and appreciate the body you have. This body allows me to:
- Walk and move
- Experience pleasure
- Receive and give love
- Taste food
- Hold my children
- Run after my children
- Grow and feed my children
- Travel and experience new sights
- Get to know other people and make friends
- Learn, grow, expand mentally
These are just a few of the obvious things having this body allows me to do, what does your body allow you to do and experience?
I hope that in sharing my personal journey and some of the techniques I have developed can help you too with your own body image during times of negativity. There are a few other things I have been adding in and learning about which have helped me, such as: intuitive eating, intuitive moving, journalling, and positive affirmations. Perhaps I will write about those next time, but today, I felt compelled to share these. Sending love to you beautiful <3