When it comes to accepting your body, do you need serious help? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see a body that you love and accept? Or do you pick it apart and criticize every little thing you want to change about it? I guess it's the latter.
A large majority of people, especially women, do not like what they see in the mirror. In fact, they downright hate what they see in the mirror. I would have included myself in that majority until about 5 years ago.
Now, I'm not saying I always like what I see in the mirror, but the difference is that I've learned to appreciate what I see, instead of hating it, criticizing it, or picking it apart.
For years, I had this crazy morning "ritual" where as soon as I woke up and got out of bed, I would walk to the bathroom, pull up my shirt, look in the mirror and see how big (or flat) my stomach was. It was my morning fat check.
If I was dieting or starving myself, or had started a new meal plan or fat burner, I would check to see how much weight I was losing, or if any of the pudge had miraculously disappeared overnight. If I was off crawling with my food, which happened more often than not, I would lift my shirt, look at my bloated belly, pinch my love handles and curse myself. Then I'd swear to do it again and "good" for the rest of the week.
I began to make a running list in my head of all the foods I needed to stay away from, and I promised that I would only eat salad for the next 10 days and nothing else.
It was exhausting and severely detrimental to my well-being AND my self-esteem.
I really hated what I saw every time I looked in the mirror. It didn't matter if I was thinner than the day before or not. I would criticize, push, pinch, shove and shake my head in disgust. This is how I started every day for years, so you can imagine how I went into the day feeling about myself.
Sometimes I would end up on the floor in a ball of tears when I tried to get dressed for work. Other days I would feel on top of the world, because my stomach was flat that morning, and I was convinced that whatever I was doing was FINALLY working, and I was a rock star. But that didn't last long, because I would end up overeating and breaking that great, lofty promise I made to myself, again.
Basically, the Morning Fat Check set the whole mood of my day in motion. Most of the time, it resulted in a crap (excuse my French) of devastation, feeling like a failure and riddled with shame and disappointment.
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The big turning point for me was the day I called a close friend from the mine for support. I was in tears about how fat I felt. I hated the way I felt in my skin. I was gaining weight and feeling bloated, swollen and defeated. And I was out of control with my eating. I was looking for someone to be in the trenches with me; to feel my pain.
But what I got instead was a healthy dose of tough love. The words my friend spoke at that moment stung, but they were the catalyst that profoundly healed my multi-year battle with food and my body,
After waiting for me to finish whining and complaining, she calmly said, "I'm sorry you feel this way and that you're struggling, but this obsession with your body and your weight is so consuming. GET OUT AND GET SERVICE STOP feeling sorry for yourself, get off the couch, get out and make a difference in someone's day who needs you. "
BAM! It was like a stinging slap in the face, but it was just what I needed to hear. Those words set off a series of events that have radically transformed the way I see myself, and my body to this day.
So here are some of the steps I took to learn to accept my body and stop hating myself. This change didn't happen overnight, but I was committed to the process. It took patience, consistency and a lot of courage.
first step to accepting your body
Stop the Morning Fat Check + Daily Weigh Ins
The first thing I did was give up the Morning Fat Check and I stopped looking in the mirror so much. As hard as that was to break, it was a huge part of my healing process.
Beating my body and criticizing it in the morning left me depressed, angry and defeated. No matter what I did, it was never enough.
And the crazy thing is that the weight can vary from 2 to 7 pounds in a given day depending on the circumstances, so I never knew what it was going to be on a day-to-day basis and that created even more uncertainty and feelings of failure .
So I vowed to stop lifting my shirt, looking in the mirror and stepping on the scale first thing in the morning. I even threw away my scale!
At first, I had a huge fear that if I didn't constantly check my weight or height, I would become uncontrollable. Because how would I know if I was getting skinny or not? How would I know how I felt that day and if I was meeting my weight loss goals?
But, what began to happen, as I let go of the constant stream of self-deprecating outward-focused comments and lifted my shirt each day, was that I began to focus on the other incredible qualities I had and how I felt inside. The
Step two of accepting your body
Assessment of the practice
It was a powerful practice for me in body acceptance. Once I gave up my Morning Fat Check and started focusing on what I was feeling internally, it prompted me to really feel connected to the miracle of my body.
As a nutritionist, yoga teacher and former massage therapist, I have studied the body a lot. I understand a lot about its anatomy, what foods are good for it, etc., but I always treated my body as a separate entity. I was disconnected from it and felt it was a burden.
I hated that it wouldn't listen to me, or drop the weight I wanted, when I wanted it to. I felt like my body was constantly betraying me and I was constantly struggling with it.
Each day I committed to writing and/or saying three things to my body that I appreciated about it. I focused on its strength, its health and all the little subtleties of my body that I often don't think about because they are literally on autopilot.
This practice alone helped me create such a deep appreciation and respect for my body that I no longer wanted to say mean things to it. And the funny thing is, after a while, my clothes started to have a looser fit. Go figure.
Step three to accept your body
Tune and listen to your body
As I mentioned in step two above, I was in a constant battle with my body and completely disconnected from it. By practicing daily appreciation of my body, I was also able to become more attuned to it.
I began to pay more attention to the subtle and not-so-subtle signals my body would give me. After eating, I would notice what I felt in my body, not what my mind thought about what I was eating (which was usually full of judgment, by the way).
It would help me feel connected and give my body what it needed. I stopped listening to the craziness in my mind and the outside world, and started listening to the wisdom of my own body.
It usually looked like resting more often, not working as hard, or pushing as hard and doing much less than I was used to. I relaxed more and ate less because I was paying attention to my satisfaction cues. I slowed down at meals and enjoyed what I was eating. I was getting faster and not overeating like I normally would when I was distracted.
All of this led me to feel much more comfortable in my body. I would check and see what type of movement would feel good instead of what I thought I should be doing (to lose weight). Some days it was yoga, some days hiking, some days weight lifting.
My body appreciated that. And it started to change. It didn't happen overnight, it was a journey, but one that was so challenging and transformative.
Remember: accepting your body takes patience, practice and consistency.
Not only was I implementing these steps daily, but I was also doing additional personal growth work to examine my skewed relationship with food. While everything was connected, I had to dig deeper to get to the core of some of my eating behaviors.
These 3 key elements mentioned above were the most powerful and really helped me come to an incredible acceptance of my body, which resulted in my body normalizing to its natural weight over time.
So, I'm curious; how do you feel when you look in the mirror? What has been your experience with your body? Do you feel like you accept your body? Or do you hate it and struggle with it? Would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.