A lesson in acceptance, love and lightness.
In retrospect, what began as what some would call ‘teasing’ or just ‘joking around’ catapulted me into over fifteen years of self criticism, poor body image, total dissatisfaction living in this skin, and an unhealthy relationship with food, probably started the day a family member commented on my arms getting ‘bigger’ and flabby. I was eleven years old. By thirteen, I’d had a gym teacher measure my fat percentage with callipers tell me ‘you should probably lose some weight’. He was clearly being sarcastic (I hope), but in that moment I took it to heart and took it very seriously.
Having been athletic and slim my entire life, gaining the Freshman 15, possibly 20, during first year university sent me straight into calorie counting, excessive calorie burning, food restriction and obsession, even fat burners and diuretics. I also became moody, irritable, and depressed at times when my weight cycled back into feeling ‘overweight’. Living with roommates who were just as body obsessed as I was and who struggled with overexercising, binging, bulimia, and anorexia likely didn’t help my outlook on food and body image. Looking back I would put myself in the ‘disordered eating’ category; my guess is if someone had noticed and had me assessed I was either headed straight into full blown eating disorder or already in it.
At 20 years old, I’d fully succumb to the pressures of a culture that promoted a ‘perfect’ body on every magazine cover I picked up. I enjoyed my 20′s thoroughly, though I”m sure my body did not. Low carb diets, no carb diets, sugar binges, alcohol, late nights; I took great lengths to look like the images in Shape magazine which was a favourite at the time. And even at my ‘fittest’ and leanest, I was still unhappy with myself.
As the end of my 20′s approached, my interest in the practice of yoga deepened and so did my practice on and off my mat. Living consciously, choosing consciously, awareness, non-violence, self-respect, mindfulness became part of my everyday language. Over the next couple of years, I took the time to explore the life I was living: my interactions, how I really felt, my relationships, my career, the inner whisperings of my heart, and most importantly my relationship with myself. The self-study had me digging deep, as it still does to this day. My inner curiousity also helped me break through layers that I no longer needed…
I was in the middle of a 30 day challenge at my yoga studio and ran into an old high school classmate. She’d asked me how the challenge was going to which I replied ‘great!’. Then came the next question, ‘Have you seen any change/improvements in your body?’ I internally took a step back from the question and found myself for the first time in my adult life perplexed by a question I’d answered and asked myself MANY times before. ‘But that’s not why I’m doing this, for a better physique, more sculpted buns, leaner limbs, firmer tummy’, I thought.
I then took another step back from myself. Could it be? After all the hours at the gym, countless moments of viewing myself through a distorted lens picking apart my ‘bingo arms’, the sweat, the dieting, the self-loathing and never feeling good enough. Had I finally let go and fully accepted the miracle of a body I was given. I smiled to myself with delight. I loved my body, as is! I walked out of class that day with a new kind of ‘lightness’. The weight of self loathing, self judgement, incessant thoughts of inadequacy, and not feeling my body was beautiful had lifted. I had finally, really and truly accepted my body as is, and what an incredible gift for any woman! No woman, or man for that matter, needs to feel ‘less than’ because of external norms and standards.
Have you struggled with an eating disorder, disordered eating, chronic dieting? Have you been able heal issues around body image, or self esteem? Would love to hear from you.
Stay tuned for more on how I learned to “Love the Skin I’m In”…
To your health and happiness! Jennifer xo