Unless you live in some isolated bubble here in the United States and most of the world where mass media reaches – you have probably thought negatively about your body. Maybe you even did stuff to try and change it. Diets, exercise, shakes, soups, pills, granny panties – you name it is out there to make you look the way you want! We (as a culture) are obsessed – but that is obvious.
I was obsessed too once. Coming from the background of a poor chubby kid who always felt awkward in her skin — I decided to go on the bag of pretzels and can of diet soda for lunch diet. It was only $1.10 from the vending machine. I remember my girlfriends telling me I should eat more at the lunch table as they ate their sandwiches and Lunchables — and I just thought they were crazy. If I ate what they were eating I would get fat. They were exceptional. I had a slow metabolism. These were the thoughts hamster wheeling in my head.
This all lead me to an even more obsessed place, soon my habits started changing more drastically. I would exercise in secret to the point of exhaustion. I would only eat an orange or a frozen waffle on Saturday. I was consumed by the food I ate and didn’t eat. I hated my body, and I didn’t even see it changing before my very eyes. I knew I had lost weight, but I didn’t care how I looked. I would not shower for days because I was too tired. Same goes for brushing my teeth and combing my hair. There was bloody discharge out of my left breast at one point. I didn’t even care to tell anyone. I was a malnourished 13-year-old girl. The light had gone out of my eyes. But at what cost?
Fast forward 20 years later – and I am 33 years old. I am no longer in a spiral of restricting food or unrealistic mindsets. I work 40 plus hours a week and like to go out with my friends when my introverted side isn’t taking over. I live a normal life. Food no long takes up the space it did before and the need to control my body is not nearly as great. I don’t own a scale. I never even look at the doctor’s office for fear of that number overwhelming my mind again.
It’s been a process getting here. Growing up and into my own skin, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about how to love my body – accepting that this is the only home I’ll have for my whole life.
Here are my takeaways thus far.
Giving myself grace allowed me to break free of rigid habits. Saying it was “okay” to have a cookie or something off my meal plan was huge. I’ve always liked to play a little unfair. And holding myself to standards that stress me out is something I refuse to do as an adult human. Be gentle and kind to yourself. The world gives you a hard-enough time as it is.
- Getting tattooed.
This may sound corny but getting tattooed has improved my self-image. It was something I always wanted to do, but never had the time or money. Once I had my first large piece on my arm – it was like body image “magic”. I was proud of my body and the beautiful artwork it held! Not for everyone, but for me this was a big deal.
- Joining a gym.
Maybe this one is obvious, but for a long-time I was anti exercise. I hated to sweat! I’ve never been very athletic, but in the middle of a state of inflammation and misery I decided to start eating whole unprocessed foods and go to the gym. It started off just with 20 minutes on the elliptical. I slowly built up my endurance. And it was great to see the results it had in my rest and mental clarity. Losing weight and stress was just a bonus.
I love taking baths. In the water, I feel weightless and free. It’s my favorite way to distress after a long day on my feet. Everyone should get back to being a kid and take a bath now and then, in my opinion. Bath bombs don’t hurt either.
- Healthy relationships with women.
I don’t have any biological sisters, so when I moved into a sorority house my last year of college it allowed me to see other woman close up. I saw them put on their makeup and laugh and love their bodies in pajamas and dresses. There were wonderful girls of all shapes and sizes so happy all around me – this helped me accept my body and be happier about who I was.
After college and getting a job, I took an active interest in my health. Learning about my body helps me understand why I feel the way I do and how to embrace or change it. Podcasts and books have been great resources also.
- Putting my best face forward.
I have a morning ritual where I take a shower, do my hair (even if it’s a messy braid), and put on makeup. I do not do this out of vanity, but because I know it helps me feel more confident about meeting people and facing the day. It boosts my morale therefore I do it – consistently.
Painting my nails, taking a long hot shower, buying a great pair of jeans, going for a sunset walk – all things I do to take care of my body and soul. I make time for these things especially when I am down. Fellowship with friends and loved ones are self-care too.
- Examining my inner worth.
I know true beauty comes from the inside. I’m not a model. I don’t need to look a certain way to make a living or make anyone else happy. But I know that my true value and the things that really make me worthy are the heart and soul that cannot be made up, dieted, or air brushed. The legacy I leave will not be the beauty on the outside, but the inside.
- Getting outside my head.
When I started focusing my attention on others — I started getting better. I started noticing an increase in my happiness and increased feelings of worth. The summer I worked as a camp counselor was the most sacrificial wonderful thing I could have done to jumpstart my last time out of treatment for anorexia. Relationships with others can be very healing. As can shifting the focus from the inside to the out.
Author: Rebecca Bateson
Author Bio: Rebecca lives in Columbus, Ohio. She loves good coffee, bad beer, and free credits on the jukebox. She works a normal job and does normal things, except that one time she went to Australia. This year she is thinking about getting a cat.
Link to social media or website: http://www.instagram.com/rbateson