One of the things I've struggled very hard to learn was how in the world people could teach concepts like, “If you want to change your body, you first must love your body.” Wait … what? Isn’t that sort of contradictory? If you love something, then you don’t want to change it … I thought?
So I kind of pushed away that idea and went about keeping my body fat low by doing what I knew worked: pushing myself through crazy intense workouts and not eating enough food. Sure, I was fit, but I wasn't healthy. Big difference.
Food ruled my life. I obsessed over my looks, my clothing sizes, my caloric intake, the photos people would post of me on social media, and how I could pull off sleeping 5-6 hours per night while sustaining all of this madness. Yikes. Looking back, it’s almost laughable that I thought this approach was easier than just loving myself.
So, fast-forward a couple of years and a whole lot of butt-kickings from life. I could no longer sustain the same fitness-poor nutrition regimen I had at age 23, and had a whole lot of added responsibilities taking my time and attention. I put 30 pounds on my frame, and as a fitness professional, did not take to it well at all.
The first time I shared my insecurity was here on MindBodyGreen, with my confession of being a "bigger" yoga teacher. Writing that article was like one of those scary dreams where you're naked at school. But it was also totally liberating, and for the first time, I felt successful in my quest for body image acceptance. It put me on the path to go deep with myself and find a process, something tangible, to understand the logistics of loving myself exactly as I am.
Here's how I learned to embrace my weight gain. Hopefully these ideas can help you, too!
1. I found other parts of my identity and cultivated them.
I used to identify with looking fit, lean, and strong. I was an athlete, and I needed to show that with my body. Instead of letting that be my main focus, I allowed myself to pay more attention to the other parts of me that make me a whole person. I developed my writing more. I spent more time with my family. I went deeper into my yoga practice. Find different roles of your own and give more time and attention to them, seeing how awesome of a person you are.
2. I started telling my body, “Thank you.”
For the seemingly simplest of things. “Oh heart, it’s so nice of you to keep beating for me and keep me alive.” Ha! But seriously, we take so much for granted, considering the miracles required by our bodies to just keep us alive. Give thanks to your legs for carrying you through life, to your eyes for allowing you to see beauty, to your hands for letting you feel a precious touch.
3. I tried new fashion trends that flattered me.
Oh yeah, the skinny jeans became a ghost of closets past, for sure. You know what’s awesome though? Leggings. Leggings of all sorts, and fun dresses with belts, or long fluttery tops. Spend a little bit of time finding clothes that truly flatter you and you feel confident in, instead of wearing clothes that may highlight your insecurity. It’s a gentle process, and confidence is a must.
4. I got angry and wrote a very unapologetic letter.
Anger can be a very effective emotion. It’s real. We all get angry. We all have “hot spots” that just need to be barely touched to ignite our inner fire. So I just let it out in as raw and honest a way as possible in this letter to Victoria’s Secret. Maybe it’s not the media you had issues with regarding your weight; it could be an ex-lover, parent, or softball coach. Release that anger and forgive all the way through.
5. I gave myself permission to be totally honest and take my time.
This is perhaps the most important. We are creatures of habit. In my personal story, I had 23-plus years of unhealthy eating habits in my repertoire before I had my “healthy lifestyle awakening.” I’m only five years into the game. With something like eating, a habit we do three times or more daily, 365 times per year, my brain and body were much more accustomed to the habits of my 23 years. So, I accepted that it would take some time, but I could keep at it one day at a time, being honest and accepting of myself each time I took a small step back, or made progress. It’s gotta be an authentic journey; that I know for sure.
Embrace it all, friends. We are all beautifully created with such unique stories, gifts, and talents to offer to the world. Do you have any tips on how you learned to embrace your body? If so, leave them in the comments below. I’d love to keep adding to this collection! Now go give yourself a big hug, you sexy thang!