How To Stop Hating Your Body
I was 8 years old the first time I thought I was fat. My stick-thin friends called me "normal" and "healthy," but even back then I knew it was code for fat. During reading circle time, they would poke my unflexed legs and watch in amazement as they jiggled instead of staying still like their long, sinewy limbs did. Hot, uncomfortable shame swept over me and I vowed to begin a diet and exercise regimine immediately so I could be skinny just like them. Jane Fonda workout videos and fat-free everything became my best friends. Looking back, I am amazed I even knew about dieting and weight loss. I also am struck by how sad it is that as a little girl I cared more about what I looked like than playing outside or watching cartoons. I think it boiled down to fitting in, something of paramount importance to all adolescents. Add in divorcing parents and social anxiety and it makes sense I was desperate to feel in control of my young life.
This insane, ludicious obsession with thinness enveloped me for nearly 15 years, and sometimes (rarely now, thank God) threatens to creep up on me at times in my life when I am stressed or feel out of control. It got in the way of me going out, having fun, and generally leading a normal life. I let food and weight control me instead of me controlling it. While my case is on the more extreme side, I truly believe the majority of us (especially women due to the correlation society places on our looks and our value) can relate to feeling shameful about our looks simply due to a number on a scale. The truth is that the size clothes we wear has absolutely NO relation to who we are as human beings, but try telling magazines and TV that. Our entire lives we are spoon-fed the belief that you can never be too young, rich or thin. In reality, the thinner I got, the more depressed and miserable I became.
What I want to share with others is not that "society sucks!!" or that we are doomed to be slaves to a patriarchal, image-obsessed society. The media has actually come a long way since I was a kid, now showcasing "plus-size" (hate that term because it in itself is shaming) models on magazine covers like Glamour and Sports Illustrated. It will never be perfect and sadly, millions will continue to suffer from eating disorders as the mainstream message is to conform into the white, thin box.
Instead I want to explain how I learned to stop punishing my body for its alleged sin of being too big. My Oprah "ah-hah" moment came when, in the hospital from a blood clot and anemia likely not helped by living off grapes and Diet Coke for my entire freshman year of college, I suddenly realized I didn't want to live like that anymore. I wanted to be happy with myself just as I was, not "if only I was X-weight." I wanted to stop filling my brain with insane figures like how many calories are in a french fry and instead just eat the damn french fry! It took years to actually walk to walk, but the more foods I gradually allowed myself to eat and the more pounds I gained, the more I stopped caring so much about something as insiginificant to my happiness as a couple pounds.
Today I move my body because it feels good, not just because it burns calories. I will never be a size 2, no matter how many miles I run. The term body type exists for a reason- it's usually related to the weight your body settles at. I had to stop forcing myself to be this model-skinny person that I was never designed to be. Even those gorgeous girls aren't really that thin- everyone is photo-shopped! Stop comparing yourself to fake images and body accetance will be a lot easier to swallow. (pun intended!)
Diets fail because no one can live in such a strict vacume nor should they; food is wonderful part of life! Letting go of my disordered eating showed me how food binds us as a culture. If I had never learned to stop obsessing, I would have missed the best date of my life with my how-husband where we gorged ourselves on wine, pasta and rib-eye. It was one of the best meals and memories of my life, capped off by ice cream for dessert, of course!
Realizing how much our bodies do for us has also helped me embrace self-love instead of hatred. Pushing a baby out of you will do that pretty fast, as will being sick in any way. I also worked towards being a little less ungrateful. Instead of complaing about how "unfair" it is that some girls can eat whatever they want and not gain weight, now I am grateful for having ten fingers and ten toes in a world where there are thousands of people who cannot move their legs or are blind, deaf or otherewise physicaly disabled. Reality check!
The final step on my journey towards self-aceptance of my body was the hardest but also most impactful. I stopped being a jerk to myself. It's crazy how we will tell ourselves the cruelest, most hurtful things in our heads. I'm talking things we would never say to another person for fear of making them cry. I used to look at my "fat" legs and say I was worthless, ugly and would die alone. Nice, huh? When I began to practice actively saying "You rock!," "You are beautiful," even "Nice ass!," my world changed. I felt better about myself and not just my apperance, but me, who I really am. I felt like I was my own personal cheerleader. Because that's what we all deserve to have in ourselves, Be your own best friend, the one supporting you no matter what. Say nice things to yourself, every day. Especially when the negative, dark thoughts enter your brain. Tell them to GET OUT! Now this is not advice to be ignorant of your flaws, but instead realistically see yourself as not perfect but more of a work in progress, as we all are. Set small goals for things you want to change if you have them, but don't obsess about it. Life is waaaaayyyy to short to attempt to be perfect. Honey, it ain't never gonna happen! Even Instagram is an altered reality of filters and specific angles, all designed to fool the world into thinking that is what someone looks like 24/7. I hope that everyone: man, woman, and especially child, can learn from my many mistakes and useless body-shaming. How do you stop hating your body? Begin treating your body as this amazing, strong and really useful vessel that houses, but is not a reflection of your beautiful soul.