Yesterday, I dished out five lessons that I’ve learned in the last few years, particularly in the last several months since becoming a body image blogger. Here are five additional lessons:
6. I’m not the only one. We hear that poor body image, disordered eating and eating disorders (and depression and anxiety) are common, yet they’re still secretive and many people feel ashamed and alone. Thanks to the many women who’ve shared their stories here on Weightless and other blogs and websites, I know that I’m not the only one who’s struggled with these issues. And these women have struggled and recovered, and are working through any other issues. And that gives me and many, many others hope. Repeat to yourself: I’m not alone and I can get better.
7. Exercise isn’t just for weight loss. I know that many people exercise because they want to look a certain way, but there are so many more benefits to working out. Don’t get me wrong, I like that I’ve gained more muscle tone, and that some spots look tighter.
But for me, working out is also invigorating, soothing, and makes me feel powerful. Moving my body, whether it’s through Pilates, yoga, strength training, cardio, or one of my exercise DVDs (those things are great, and I have way too many to count), helps alleviate my anxiety, build endurance, clear my mind and make me feel great overall.
I also notice that when I don’t work out for a few days, I feel a bit disconnected from my body. Exercise helps me become more attuned to it, and my needs. It’s like it sharpens my ability to listen.
Viewing exercise solely for the purpose of shedding pounds puts a lot of pressure on yourself. Try to enjoy the process, not the end result, because the reality is that being active is key for a healthy lifestyle. That’s why I’ve learned that it’s important to pick something you enjoy, whatever that movement might be. Exercise isn’t meant to be a punishment. It can be challenging and tough, but not torture.
But, while I love exercise, there are days I just don’t feel like doing it, whether I’m exhausted or lazy. And that’s OK. There are other things I thoroughly enjoy and love but I may dread doing. For instance, I love writing, but some days, I dread it because I feel like the Mohave Desert — all dried up with no ideas or wise words.
8. Honor your body and accept yourself. Many of us feel separated from our bodies. When we can’t stay societal-standard slim, we feel betrayed by our bodies. They become our enemies. And if we aren’t deemed small enough, then we don’t have permission to be confident. Instead, we must be embarrassed and apologetic that we don’t fit some unattainable thin ideal.
Whatever your appearance right now, as-is, honor it. Remember everything that your body helps you do. It was a long process for me, but I realized that my body helps me a lot. It’s with me always, even when I bashed it, insulted it and didn’t take good care of it. It deserves to be treated well, and so do I.
9. Body image is an ongoing process. We don’t just stop eating healthfully or moving our bodies because we’ve achieved a certain goal. No, living a healthy life is a daily process, which takes effort. Sometimes, it’s simple. Other times, it’s a struggle, and we feel like we’re trying to move mountains. We won’t always feel like exercising or eating veggies. We might overeat. We might not work out. That’s life.
My point? Building a positive body image is just that: building your body image one day, one thought, one self-care activity at a time. Some days, you’ll love your body. Other days, it might be harder.
For me, progress is when I can recognize a negative thought and stop my bashing. It’s when “I feel fat” slips out and instead I try to get to the root of the problem: Am I just bloated? Am I upset, anxious, frustrated, exhausted? What is my body trying to tell me? It’s when I’m frustrated with my body because it won’t contort a certain way in Pilates class, and I pause, and say to myself that it’s OK; I’m doing the best I can.
10. There are tons of fantastic resources. I wouldn’t have learned many of the above lessons if I hadn’t been reading insightful blogs and books for many years now. The more I read, the more I realized that life goes beyond being skinny, that some women’s magazines and this societal ideal are wrong and absurd. I discovered the extent of Photoshop, the ineffectiveness of dieting, how weight works, and what being healthy really means. Here’s one long list of recommended resources on body image, eating disorders, healthful eating, and more from women who’ve struggled with and are recovering from these issues. Take advantage of these valuable resources. In many of these, you’ll feel like the writers are telling your story.
What lessons have you learned about body image, being healthy and taking care of yourself? Have the above lessons been helpful to you?
Be sure to check out Weightless this Friday. I have a great interview with Golda Poretsky of Body Love Wellness. Golda counsels women and men on healthy eating, dieting and radical body love. She also blogs at her website and several other sites on body image and self-acceptance. We’ve interviewed each other, so my interview will be up on her website, too. I hope you check it out. Golda is not only insightful but also very inspiring.
Also, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be giving away a few books for eating disorder awareness week (that’s next week). If anyone is interested in sending me free copies of eating disorder and/or body image books that I can give away, please email me at [email protected]. Thanks! 🙂