Photos of emaciated women with titles like 'beautiful' or 'perfect' under them
A refrigerator with 'WALK AWAY FATTY' created in magnets on the door
Quotes like 'Be the girl you were too lazy to be yesterday', 'Make your lover proud and make your hater jealous', and 'The more you work out, the weaker his knees get.'
This kind of stuff makes me sad because it reminds me of who I used to be and how unhappy I was then.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I went on a diet. It was extremely strict (I will not go into detail in case some people are looking to it for 'thinspiration') and I based my self-worth on whether I was 'perfect' on the diet or not. Notice I did not say my eating was perfect. I would say things like, 'I was perfect today.' Clue number one.
As I the newness of the diet wore off and my body craved calories, I would occasionally binge. I would hate myself afterwards. I felt ashamed of myself. Notice I did not say I was ashamed of what I ate. I was ashamed of myself. Clue number two.
To keep myself from eating, I would write things like 'walk away fatty' (and the like) and post them on the fridge and around the house. I would convince myself there was 'rat pee' in anything that looked caloric. I would berate myself in the mirror for any fat on my body that I could pinch. I thought I was just motivated. I thought that I just had a goal. Clue number three.
One day, I got home around 11:00 PM. I was ravenous as I'd had a small dinner around 5:30 or 6:00 (I would be so starving I'd have to have dinner that early). So, I got home and I ate an apple with peanut butter. (Which, by the way, is a great snack.) But apples weren't on my diet. And I'd already had a Tablespoon of peanut butter that day. I was so angry and ashamed of myself for the next day or two that I cried in embarrassment and shame. I cried because I ate an apple. I realized then that I did not want to be the person I was becoming. And I stopped.
So began my journey with finding a healthy way to have a body that I love. I can honestly say I love my body more even though it carries 8 more pounds than it did then. Sometimes a few pounds less, sometimes a few pounds more. I have realized some things about health, weight, weight loss, and food that I know for sure (I'm channeling Oprah...can you tell?):
- Loving on yourself is better--and more effective--than hating on yourself.
When you truly love something or someone, you want to do good for it. You wouldn't feed your dog, your lover, or your baby toxic garbage. So why would you 'feed' toxic thoughts and feelings to yourself? When you love, you treasure. You keep safe. You keep healthy and happy. When I decided that I was going to be good to myself, it changed everything. That includes the things I say to myself in the mirror, the way I feed my body, the way I move my body, and the ways in which I nourish myself, body, mind and spirit.
- Thinking about what you want is way better than thinking about what you don't want. When I started envisioning myself with a stronger, leaner body, I started making choices to create it. When I started envisioning myself accomplishing goals (fitness and other), I knew what it was I had to do and created forward momentum. When I started really thinking about who it was I wanted to be, I started becoming that woman. The beautiful, amazing thing about this is that it works better than the disparaging remarks that we say to ourselves and it makes you feel so good! Do you know what it feels like to love yourself? If you can't honestly say 'yes,' then you must change the mental chatter in your head. This is a good way to do start.
- Gratitude is fertile soil for growth. A teacher of mine wisely pointed out that most people think that gratitude means you are happy and content with how everything is-the status quo-that everything is hunky dory. NO! All gratitude means is being thankful for what you do have. It certainly does not mean that you never want more. But if you aren't coming from a place of finding the good in what you have, you have no foundation from which to grow. I'll just write that again as it bears repeating. If you aren't coming from a place of finding the good in what you have, you have no foundation from which to grow. Research clearly shows that people who practice gratitude are happier, healthier people. I know for me, I am most insecure about my tummy. It is so easy for me to go to that 'disgusted' place while I look at my belly in the mirror. But I know that won't help me and will probably make me just want to go eat a cookie. So instead, I think about how grateful I am for this power center. How that area of my body converts food to energy to keep me alive. How that area is a reliable 'tell' for my emotional state and always lets me know when I have lost my center. I think about how that area will someday house another life. How I am lucky to have healthy, working organs. And of course that makes me feel better. And it makes me want to eat healthy and do some crunches to keep it toned and strong so it can support the rest of my body. It is an interesting challenge to 'love on' the place you most hate on your body. But not unlike all other obstacles, the only way over it is through it. Preach!
- Take yourself MORE and LESS seriously. You are a complex, stunning, amazing creature. You have talents. You have interests. You have roles and relationships. You have responsibilities, commitments, and hobbies. You have passion and drive. Why in the world would you think that your worth was based on your weight? Well, I did so I can tell you why. Because you believe that that's what society values and you live in society. Because you believe that's the 'real world.' Because you think that that's what men care about. Now I'm as vain as the next girl, I'll admit it. I believe in presenting myself to the world as a fit, together, stylish person. But I've been down ten pounds from my current weight (underweight) and up ten pounds (pushing overweight) and I didn't lose any jobs, any friends, any sex, or any love. Because those ten pounds either way do not make me me anymore than my haircut does. (I have also gone through a handful of those....maybe I'll do a hair montage someday!) I needed to take myself more seriously! If you aren't basing your self-esteem on the qualities of your character, you need to take yourself more seriously too. Give yourself credit where credit is due! Ironically, I also needed to take myself less seriously. I would throw a fit if my eggs were cooked in butter. I would freak if I had to have anything but almonds or a hard boiled egg for a snack. I would get truly angry if my husband took any of my food which I so coveted. Guh. It makes me embarrassed to even admit this stuff but it's true. I needed to take myself a lot less seriously too. And now if I swing too far in the either direction (like when I decide it's cool to wear sweatpants to the store or if I start fussing that I ate one too many gluten-free vegan sugar-free teff mufins), I'll remind to take myself more or less seriously as appropriate. And so it goes--the dance of finding and holding onto one's balance. It ain't easy but it's worth the effort.