I have a confession to make: I feel like I’ve had a mini-relapse, or maybe a small setback.
Therese Borchard’s editor Holly Lebowitz Rossi has told her to write from wherever she is, not from where she wants to be. This is most helpful to readers, she says. So that’s what I’ll try to do today.
It’s easy to spout off advice about positive body image when you’re feeling pretty good about your own and when you’re happy with your weight. When you’re feeling A-OK, you think, “Gee, this whole building-a-better-body-image thing isn’t so hard after all. What’s all the fuss about?”
You sit from your high horse – or from your perfectly perched position on your pedestal – and watch virtuously, unable to look deep into the layers that surround self-criticism and body hatred. You’ve forgotten what that pain feels like…
This summer I was at my lowest weight. I was eating regularly but my dad had gotten really sick, and between driving to a hospital that was over 70 miles one way, scared about what might happen and then dealing with what did happen, I guess the weight loss was my body’s way of coping with the stress and then eventually grieving.
And so I lost some weight. I hadn’t really noticed, until other people mentioned it, and my clothes felt loose. Months after the funeral, I started buying clothes again (shopping for my mom and me is therapeutic and, if you could call it hobby, then shopping is our hobby).
This Monday night I was packing for a trip to NYC to see our family. As I was trying clothes on – and on – I kept noticing that many of my clothes would stop right at my hips, or envelope them like a sausage – at least in my eyes, of course. I noticed the same thing several weeks ago, but I figured my regular workouts might help with that.
But it seems like I’ve gotten back to my normal, healthy weight naturally. And instead of being happy, I’ve been upset that I’ve gained weight.
And so with all my body image wisdom, I suddenly went from a wanting-to-be-perfect body image blogger to an equating-my-appearance-to-my-self-worth hypocrite. I’ve been committing many of the body image “blunders” I talk about on this blog.
Even though I’ve been active (it’s a must for my stress relief) and feeling fairly strong, I’ve gotten on the scale several times. I’ve badmouthed my hips, wishing they were a few inches smaller. I’ve wondered why my exercising isn’t making me lose weight (or have more muscular arms). I’ve felt fat. I’ve let worries of what others will think of my appearance, of my style, of my weight and shape rule my mood and boost my anxiety.
And, ultimately, my respect and love for my body – and myself – has become conditional.
I think part of my body image blues – and hypocritical tendencies – is my sleeping, which has been really off. I can’t fall asleep until much later (in the morning). I try to wake up early and move my body most days. I’ve also been eating carbs like nobody’s business.
Either way, facts are facts, and I’ve had a shaky body image lately.
How I Tackle A Body Image Setback
It’s hard for me not to be hard on myself, especially since I want to be a positive example to readers. But the reality is that no one is perfect, and building a more positive body image is a process. I’d tell any reader that slip-ups are fine. Learn from them and try to move on.
So I’m trying to take my own advice (at least the last few sentences). As such, here’s how I plan on busting my body image blues and making sure that my respect and appreciation for myself have no conditions – and how you can, too:
- Look at other inspiring blogs. For instance, just yesterday, looking at Sally’s post with photos of other bloggers was a huge help! These women are all different shapes and sizes, and each and every one of them looks stunning. Each woman looks proud in her skin. And that’s inspiring! Here are other inspiring posts you can check out: here, here and here.
- Keep taking good care of myself. No matter how mad I might get at my hips, I try to continue taking good care of myself by working out, eating nutrient-rich foods and doing things I love. Like yesterday I went to the gym with my mom like we always do, and I tried to think positively – meaning, I wasn’t exercising to shave off inches from my hips; I was exercising because it makes me feel better about life. It makes me feel stronger and gives me clarity. And fuels my confidence.
- Check in with myself. I need to figure out why my positive self-image is slipping, and see what my body really needs. Like I mentioned above, it’s probably sleep and eating a more balanced diet (not to lose weight but to feel better). And I’m also excited about my trip to NYC, but I’ve had tons to do, so that could be a contributor. Basically, you want to examine your habits and delve into why your negative body image is coming back. This way, you turn a setback into a learning opportunity.
- Remember my body is a brilliant and beautiful machine. Our bodies help us do so many incredible things that seem simple but are far from. But when I’m bashing my hips, that’s the last thing I’m thinking about. So I have to remind myself, and I re-read my post on the 50 amazing things my body helps me do.
- Refuse to restrict or overdo it. My first instinct when I realized that my hips had expanded was to eat less dessert or smaller portions and to exercise ASAP (umm, sounds a lot like the diet mentality, doesn’t it?). But this kind of thinking is a slippery slope, leading to unhealthy habits and a damaging mindset.
- Remind myself that I’m more. I’m more than my hips. Sounds simple enough, but it’s another important reminder. When you’re so focused on how terrible you look and feel, this is the last thing you’re thinking of. All you can think of is “Ahh, big hips! Gross! How can I fix this?” When you’re consumed with body hatred, it’s really hard to get out from what can feel like a landfill of heavy body-bashing rubble. Instead I try to focus on me and my other much more interesting qualities. And I remember that it’s much more valuable to work on those.
How have encountered bumps in your path to a more positive body image? What pulls you out when you’re in a deep body-image funk?
Today’s favorite post. “To Anyone Who’s Ever Felt Like They Should Be Prettier, Thinner, Smarter…” at Healthy Girl, because so many of us can relate. You’ll no doubt get inspired!