Here’s the last part of my interview series with Mara from Medicinal Marzipan. Below, Mara shares her insights on body image, practical ways to love our bodies and what healthy living means to her. As always, I love her suggestions and think you’ll find them incredibly helpful, too. I also love Mara’s honesty and ability to be so authentic. Again, she really is an inspiration.
Q: Any particular resources, such as books or websites, that helped you overcome compulsive overeating?
A: Well, I read a million and one blogs that I just adore as well as the blogs of many participants in Katy Widrick’s weekly twitter #fitblog chat.
Some particular blogs that help me are:
- The Demoiselles
- Honoring Health
- Katy Widrick
- Beautiful You
- Voice in Recovery
- Live Your Ideal Life
Additionally, reading anything and everything by Geneen Roth is really helpful. Her writing about recovering from a life of compulsive eating has been endlessly helpful for me in identifying and mending my relationship with food.
Mostly though, I wrote my way through it. Check out “Using Blogging To Repair a Damaged Body Image” or my Body Loving Homework assignments, for the ways in which writing can help you better your body image.
Q: Your blog focuses on improving body image and loving ourselves as we are – without losing weight or changing our shape. What are some ways that we can learn to love ourselves?
A: I chose this as my blog’s main emphasis, because it is a message that everyone needs – no matter what your shape or size. We all need to be sweeter to ourselves, because living, remaining optimistic and positive, and working on ourselves is HARD work. Loving yourself as you are means loving your flaws.
There are days when I feel so fat and gross and awful, that the absolute last thing that I can think of is telling other people how to love their bodies, especially in moments when I cannot even fathom loving my own, but on those days, I write about that too. It’s embarrassing, when you’ve become this public face of body positive advocacy to admit to your readers that you are having feelings of utter self-loathing, but you know, we are all human.
We are all doing the best that we can. Honesty is of the absolute necessity, and those people who attempt to tell you that they never feel bad are lying to you. I am happy to say that now, I feel that way less than 25 percent of the time, but it’s something that is always changing. Mostly, I believe that the best example you can set for someone else is to honor your emotions and make the best out of your experiences.
Some ways that you can learn to love yourself are:
- Buy clothing that fits and makes you feel good. This may seem trivial, but I swear it is my number one favorite trick for self-love. Nothing feels worse than uncomfortably lumbering around in clothes that are tight or uncomfortable, thereby reminding you to think negative thoughts about your body. Also, wear clothing that makes you feel good – honestly good, sexy, happy, comfortable.
- Encourage relationships with friends and lovers that are kind to you and respect your body. These are people who love you unconditionally, no matter what your body looks like. These are people who encourage you to be your absolute best self, and don’t bring you down. Being around people who inspire happiness and authenticity in you will help you see the good in every day, and you will be less likely to dwell in your impaired body image.
- Get out and MOVE. Exercise, walk your dog, run around, play with children on a playground, hula hoop, go dancing until you are completely drenched with sweat – whatever it is that you like to do, move your body around and reap enormous benefits. When you are active and make a point to move your body daily, you will begin to respect your body in a different way, as your vehicle for moving you about in the world, and not just an object to be viewed [and judged] by others.
- If you are sexually active, seek out positive sexual experiences. Having sex with partners that respect, honor, and find your body sexy will help you stay in your own skin, and inspire you to view your body that way as well. Do not allow your negative body image to allow you to seek validation sexually from people who don’t deserve you, because when you do that you are sending a powerful message to your body that you don’t respect yourself and that you aren’t concerned with your health and well-being.
- Eat healthfully and drink enough water. Your body needs vitamins and minerals in order to function properly. When you eat foods that nourish you, your body will respond by feeling vibrant and energetic, making it far easier to feel good about yourself.
Q: You also write about “healthy living.” What does leading a healthy life mean to you?
A: Healthy living to me means living a life that is balanced. It means cutting time out of my busy schedule to exercise and move around. It means packing my lunches the night before, so I don’t have to scramble and eat something that leaves me feeling less than awesome. It means taking care of myself – getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and not drinking too much alcohol or caffeine. It’s one of those things that has a different definition to everyone, but for me it means keeping myself safe from situations and settings that make me feel badly.
I will say that my blog is also not about not losing weight, if that makes sense. I am not here to judge you, or what makes you happy. I am here to encourage you to love your body no matter what the day looks like, what your scale says, or whether or not your favorite jeans fit you. I hope to encourage you to love yourself through all those daily obstacles, because ultimately you are worth loving.
However, I will say this – my battle with compulsive eating has left me above my body’s natural resting weight, and thus, I do occasionally lose weight. This does not come from an attempt to “get skinny,” a desire to be regarded as sexier, or have any judgment about health. I am very open about my particular battle, and in my case, I am at a weight where I am uncomfortable in my own skin. I work to eat healthfully and take care of my body by moving it regularly – things which are paramount to my ability to feel good about myself and positively impact my body image. I know from personal experience that when I eat lots of fried food, wheat (which I have an intolerance to), or sluggishly sit around without exercise for days, I do not feel good about myself.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about your story, compulsive overeating or body acceptance in general?
A: It’s a battle. If you are the type of person who is prone to disordered eating or impaired body image, it is unlikely that you will ever be “cured” of these behaviors. You will evolve. You will be better able to maintain these behaviors and their manifestations in your life. You will be able over time to love yourself no matter where you are in your weight/eating/exercising spectrum, but it takes time.
And it takes love. You need to be patient and sweet with yourself, what you are doing is huge, and don’t be afraid because there is tons of support for you out there. Do you have questions or concerns? Shoot me an email at medicinalmarzipan[at]gmail.com or tweet me @mmarzipan.
I love hearing from readers and fielding questions to the best of my abilities. Absolutely most important is that you don’t shove your body shame and heartbreak deep down in your heart and allow it to fester and slowly sprawl out over your life. Did something embarrassing/horrible/scary/sad/maddening happen? Write it down, paint a picture of it, tell a friend, tell the whole Internet – GET IT OUT of your body.
You will thank yourself, I promise. Be brave. You are so very worth it. xoxo.
Mara, thank you so much for a fantastic interview! I’m so honored and grateful for your insight. You’re seriously amazing!
Today’s favorite post. “Relapse Prevention: Strengths & Difficulties” by Carrie Arnold at ED Bites. Carrie is doing an entire series on relapse prevention for eating disorders, so definitely check it out!
P.S. Since I won’t “see” you until Monday, have a safe and wonderful July 4th!