I got my first physical in 4 years the other day (I know, shame on me, but I finally got to it!). I stepped on the scale, and DIDN'T CARE WHAT I SAW.
I know, some of you may not think this is a big deal. Or may think because someone is physically active and has a certain body type, that they should not have a difficult relationship with the scale.
But for me, someone who had a "magical number" she had to see on the scale (or else I'd feel like shit) that I clung to from high school to college and even after, not caring about that number anymore is a big deal.
Because there was a time when I felt like I had to do a certain number of crunches every day. When I calorie counted and needed to run it off on the treadmill. When family members frequent warnings of "you'll get fat if you eat like that" replayed in my head over and over, to the point where I'd do it to myself and couldn't fully enjoy a meal.
I'm not writing this thinking that my story is a unique one, and I know my story is a mild one compared to the struggle many people have with their bodies and food.
I've participated in and witnessed women bonding about the diets they're on, guiltily confessing how "bad" they were with their food choices, and sarcastically shaming their bodies out loud. Language holds so much power, and we can sometimes be so cruel to ourselves.
I don't think there's one way to talk about the foods we eat or to talk about our bodies that is the "right" way. I do think that the way we're bombarded with images of what an ideal body type looks like, having a healthy and loving relationship with our bodies is definitely hard work.
Questions to assess the state of your relationship with your body: How do you feel when you look in the mirror? If you were to write down the words you use to describe your physical self, how does that feel? Are you more critical of your own appearance than you are of others?
The turnaround for my relationship with my body was awareness (thank you therapy and yoga practice); because had you asked me at the time, and I might not have even realized how unhealthy the language and the standards I was placing on my body were. I just thought it was normal to want to look differently than I did, or to fear natural changes that our bodies go through (especially as women)!
I slowly became more aware of what I was zoning in on in the mirror, what unrealistic standard I was holding myself to, and what kind of language I was using to myself about what I saw. I began to value building strength and different abilities in my body, rather than valuing how much I weigh.
Changing the way we think and interact with our bodies and our weight is a BIG FUCKING DEAL. And I know that my struggles aren't half as bad as what many women (and some men!) go through, but it's a big enough deal that I had to speak on it and in a way that shared some of my personal experience.
If I could talk to 17 year old Rachelle, which is really when many of my struggles with my body began, I'd tell her this:
1. You are worthy of love and acceptance, no matter what a scale says.
2. Your body does so many incredible things for you, and you're missing it. You're missing how lucky you are to be physically abled in the way you are, because you're picking yourself apart.
3. Eat the cannoli. Fuck the calorie count.
4. Exercise to find ways to feel good in your body, not because you think it makes you "good".
5. I'll say it again, because you need to hear it. You are WORTHY. Right now, not 5 pounds down from now.
Here's what I would teach her that I had to learn along the way:
1. Spend time finding the beauty in yourself. Zone in on the good. Find that beauty mark. That curve you like. The color of your skin. Whatever it is that you can recognize as beautiful, spend some time there and really observe your own beauty. If at first it's hard to identify what it is, spend more time practicing looking through loving eyes (the way you do when you're in love with someone else) instead of using critical eyes.
2. Whatever you're most critical of, find ways that these parts of your body are working for you. Belly pokin out? It's digesting stuff for you though, ALL THE TIME. You'd die if it wasn't doing what it was doing. Put a loving hand on whatever part you're most critical of, and send it loving gratitude for it's function in giving you life.
3. Surround yourself with representation of beauty in all sizes. There's not enough of it in the mainstream media, so you may have to look for it. Thank goodness for social media for giving us so many different unique types of beauty to appreciate.
4. Love up on your body. Run a hot bath and enjoy soothing your body in this way. Give yourself a massage all over. Pick your favorite scented lotion, and take your time putting it on. Cook a decadent meal just for yourself to nourish your body with great food. Treat your body like it belongs to someone you care about!
5. Practice it all, multiple times. Because many of the messages around us tell us we have to change ourselves in some way to be beautiful. So this whole accepting ourselves as we are can feel unnatural and will take practice. Over time, you can build a loving relationship with your body, but like any relationship, it is work!
Here's to deprogramming the culture of self hate that has us always looking outside of ourselves to feel worthy, and learning to love and accept ourselves for the amazing beings that we are.
You're good enough juuust where you're at,
Disclaimer: Our relationship with food and our bodies is LOADED. Sometimes these habits and urge to control our weight can lean towards eating disordered behaviors, in which case getting serious help is needed and never something to be ashamed of (actually, it means you're pretty fucking brave). LiveWell in the Albany Area helps people recover from eating disorders (518-218-1188) .