Body Image & Feeling Joy Within

13511042_10101328990240173_9113512781857079739_n“Been thinking for a bit on body image. I once heard that only 4%of women think they’re beautiful, which made me sad because I know so many beautiful, radiant women. I believe then too that even less are happy with their bodies. I believe it is easy for women, especially when we’re younger to be objectified or to identify ourselves by our bodies.
When we had our business, I lived in this physical realm. My validation and happiness centered on my body, weekly weigh-ins, and my body fat percentage. If I lost I was happy. If not I waited for the next week. Does it not seem absurd for a scale to rule my life and level of happiness? Even when I got to a goal (I’ve been 13% with the flattest stomach and abs) it was never enough. So often we feel this way. We compare ourselves to other women (as well as our own former bodies). We are SO hard on ourselves.
I like the line, ‘promote what you love rather than bashing what you hate.’ What if we did the same thing with ourselves? What if instead of dissecting our bodies and seeing ‘flaws’ we celebrated? My body allows me to get up each morning. It is healthy and rarely sick. It is strong and lets me do kettlebells. It is flexible and lets me do yoga. I’ve got powerful legs that let me bike or hike for miles. It can endure. It can climb mountains. It lets me pick up my nephews and throw them in the air, so I am rewarded with this beautiful smile. Next week it’s going to take me zip lining and to see the country. It’s let me jump out of planes and have so many adventures. It can do so much. It lets me LIVE my life. It is pretty awesome. Lately I am learning too that if you feel really good and happy on the inside, it starts to reflect and show on the outside. Stop being so hard on yourself, you are extraordinary

I posted this about a month ago on my Facebook, it was the most I could condense the dynamic topic of body image. I will be real right from the beginning, this really hits home with me. This is a daily thing. Sometimes I am better than others. But it is easy to be tempted back down that slippery slope into dwelling in the physical. I worked in the fitness and weight loss industry, so the struggle to leave it behind is real sometimes.

I believe that men too can deal with body-image, but I really feel as women, we are conditioned from a young age. We are infiltrated with images in the media. There is a massive change I feel taking place, but it seems we often think of beauty to be synonymous with skinny or thin. Also a lot of validation comes with beauty and body image. Our outside appearance can often rule our lives and happiness level (this is true for me in the past). We are objectified for our bodies as well, condensed down to chest, waist and jean size. These numbers seem so relevant for some reason. And worst of all (personal opinion), is comparison. We compare ourselves to other women (skinny bitches). We compare ourselves to how we may have been at a lighter weight. Wrong. Comparison kills. It kills your joy. Your love in yourself. Your beauty. God created you perfectly as you are. You have your own personal beauty. Your own body. Find joy in that. Why waste time in being jealous or wanting something you can’t have? That is their body, you have your own. Be happy in what you got.

I’ll go back to my history. I was always healthy and athletic. I never really thought about body image until high school. About this time my dad lost over 100 pounds and started a fitness business out of our garage. At age 16 I was dead set on working at my parent’s weight-loss facility. I went to college and earned my degree in exercise science. I started training kettlebells and teaching cooking classes to coincide with proper nutrition. All the while my body was on a roller coaster of change. I would be on crazy restrictive eating programs. I would rock them out. Each week, I had weigh-ins. Most of my days I spent waiting. Waiting on the next weigh-in. Waiting to obtain my goal weight and ‘perfect’ body. My happiness tinged on what the scale said. If I lost, relief, I was solid. If I stayed the same or gained, I was definitely a determined grouch. I would reach a goal. I’ve been down to 13% body fat. I had the flattest stomach and abs. But then I was lost when I was done. Introducing more foods (even healthy) ones, I would just over-eat. So used to restrictive eating, I totally fucked up my relationship with food as well. I ate like I would never again. Or with the mentality that I would cut back again the next day. Needless to say, I went through years of this. Lose. Gain. Lose. Gain. Each time I gained, it would send me into a shame circle that kept spiraling. Being in front of a kettlebell class, I felt people were dissecting and critiquing my body. My whole identity became lost in Body Change. In this physical realm. I constantly judged myself, because in my head, that’s what I figured other people were doing, so I did it for them. For years my validation and life revolved around the scale and the numbers it presented to me. Is there not more to life than numbers? Say for instance, living it and enjoying it.

Needless to say, it really messed up my relationship not only, with my body, but with food. Since I stopped training, I have been working the past 4 years to redefine myself, dig deeper, and love myself more. Looking in the mirror and not looking for ‘flaws’ is a challenge. Women, we all have done (do, I still do sometimes, although less) it. Like the scene in Mean Girls, with beautiful, thin bodies picking themselves apart. I’ll look and think that my face looks fuller. That my thighs are growing. Or that my stomach is poking out more. That’s usually my main area I dwell on, probably because it’s been so flat. What’s dumb is that I know that no one is noticing these things when they look at me. Truthfully they probably notice my boobs, they are huge, and that is the truth. But when I look at myself and drop the judgment, what I see is beautiful and strong and healthy and vibrant. What if we celebrated ourselves, rather than being SO hard on ourselves? Do the mirror drill. Look in it and pick out 3 positives. Look at your body and dwell on all the wonderful things it allows you to do.

  1. I have a big, genuine smile. Smiles bring others in. They want in on that projected joy. Let them in and give them freely.
  2. My legs. Man I have some powerful, strong, badass legs. They are toned and have muscles. I LOVE hiking and I commute by bike to work. My strong legs let me do all these things. I can hike for hours. Climb mountains. Explore National Parks. And peddle wherever I need to go.
  3. Arms, same things go. They are so strong. I can whisk like a fiend at work and bake up some deliciousness. I can toss my nephews up in the air. I throw and play sports. And lift heavy kettlebells. I can hold them up to snap pictures. I use my hands to draw, bake and create.

So are bodies are pretty freaking wonderful. They know how to heal themselves. Your lungs can breathe and your heart can beat all on their, without you having to worry or think about them.

So how do we find contention with our bodies? How do we not fault find? How do we love it?

What I have found is, I need to focus on the positive, rather than on dwelling on the negative (the positive far out-weigh the negative). Also I have had to stop thinking about it. I have removed myself from the scale and the suck hole of living for numbers. I do not know what I weigh and I do not care. If someone asks me if I lost weight, I truthfully tell them I don’t know, it’s not on my radar. Surround yourself with people who love you for the condition of your heart, not solely for looks. My husband tells me what a beautiful person I am (person being the key word here). That’s right, this physical life is temporary and fleeting. Your body is going to change. It’s going to age. For women it will stretch to hold a baby. What matters is how you make other people feel. Are you kind? Are you loving? Are you loving and kind to yourself? Do you feel good in your body? Do things for your body that bring you joy, not because you feel obligated to. If you hate running, don’t do it. Find something that works for you. Hiking brings me supreme joy and bliss. I like lifting heavy kettlebells, practicing my lifts is like art. Weight training, plus yoga helps connect me to my mind-body connection as well. I focus on how my body is moving. I check in with how it feels.

And then food. My relationship with my husband has really helped here. I used to never eat in front of people. I would go through spurts of just not eating. I would be crazy strict again. But together we cook and eat together. We pray before meals. I look at it as a source of nourishment. And I am more lenient. Occasionally we eat ice cream, and I do not beat myself up about it (which I would do in the past, feel guilty for eating).

Also I have learned that when you are truly content and happy on the inside, it starts to show on the outside. Smaller jeans and shorts, that I haven’t worn in years fit. Smaller t-shirts too. People ask me. And I probably have, it just that I have removed it from the center of my life. Put your soul there. Focus on being a better person. Put love there.

 

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