3 Simple Steps to Body Love
We are inundated and have become immune to the societal pressure placed on the everyday woman by the photoshopped images on social media and the perfectly posed models who grace the covers of fashion magazines. This unrealistic and unnatural standard of beauty and fitness is everywhere. The pressure to be and look ‘perfect’ is disheartening when the standard of perfection is not achieved.
Though the tide seems to be changing, there are very real body- shaming stigmas placed on the average woman. The weight of body imperfections is especially felt by women of the younger generation. To add insult to injury of imperfections, there is the added ever-growing pressure and discourse of life in 2020.
When I was very young, I suffered from feelings of self-hatred from body image issues. At four years old, I bore the ‘sick’ label because of my type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Let’s remember this was decades before the internet, carb counting, insulin pumps, and blood sugar testing by finger stick.
I was a performer, a dancer, and an overachiever. I lived in a home that was at best chaotic and at worst, unsafe. A 9- year-old girl, growing up in this unstable environment left me susceptible to commercials and print images of supposedly perfect women, it was a recipe for disaster. As a teenager my goal was to weigh 88 pounds. At my highest I weighed 162 pounds. I am 5’ tall.
How did the compulsive need to have a perfect body manifest itself in me? I literally tried to beat myself thinner, pounding my fists into my stomach. I starved myself, limiting my calorie intake to only 800 calories a day. I exercised compulsively, took laxatives, and used speed, all while injecting insulin every day. I am still not sure how this behavior didn’t kill me, but it did land me in an eating disorder rehab facility prior to my 21st birthday.
The underlying problem being, I felt that I didn’t measure up. I wasn’t good enough no matter how hard I tried. When I was a young girl, I didn’t feel loved. Being a professional dancer exacerbated my feelings on not measuring up, adding fuel to the ‘not good enough’ fire. I still struggle with self-hatred and have a hard time loving myself, let alone allowing someone else to love me. Thoughts are powerful and the thoughts I’ve had about myself well into my 40’s are reflected in my lifelong history of being single.
I have been an expert at setting myself up to fail. I often felt like I could never catch up and at times I truly wanted to die. Escape became my primary coping mechanism, glaringly obvious in my move across- country, from New York to Los Angeles at age 19.
My entire life, I’ve struggled with my failures. Finally, I had to face my life and my heart and simply stop hating myself for being myself. Was that realization quick? Was the journey easy?
On the contrary. In my book ‘Dance Because You Can’ I share how I came to understand the power of Acceptance. Acceptance is not about liking something, it’s about the radical acceptance of a situation and it is the key to moving forward.
It took work to become the master of my mind, to stop the constant and all -consuming flow of self- hating negative body image thoughts. I knew to change this pattern, I had to set realistic goals and expectations. After a traumatic accident in 2009, my fitness focus became my physical health, strength, and rehabilitation. Simply put, I started working towards being strong while managing my diabetes well. Today, I am determined to honor and treasure my body and my life.
With this new mindset, I have stopped putting so much pressure on myself. I now choose to be present and live life fully. Today, when I go to the movies and eat popcorn, I no longer beat myself up with abusive self-talk.
This new and developing relationship with myself is a lot about trial and error. I am figuring out a lot about my relationship with food; what works and what doesn’t. How my medication affects and interacts with my exercise routines, and how balanced nutrition with regular meals play a crucial role in my physical and emotional well -being.
As I approached 50 years of age, I stopped comparing myself to others. I finally realized that competing and comparing myself with others is a waste of my mental and emotional energy. I made new, more realistic determinations for my life. I assembled a team of medical and nutritional experts to help manage my chronic condition.
As a result of an acceptance and ‘letting go’ mindset, I hit my goal weight. I exercise regularly because I enjoy being active and I am still a dancer at heart. I simply feel better when I am moving regularly. Even during the pandemic, I reaffirmed my determination to value my body and my life. I remain focused on my wellness routine and have vowed that just because I am isolating at home and more sedentary, it does not mean I have to gain the Covid 19.
At 51, I am finally comfortable in my own skin and confident in my body. I enjoy eating well, feeling strong, and being fit. I am creating my personal brand of ‘Over 50 Fit and Fabulous’.
If you’re like me and you have battled both the bulge and negative self-talk, I give you permission to be you, just as you are. Try implementing some of the techniques that have worked for me and many others.
- Honor your life.
- Discover the things that work for you.
- Take baby steps one day at a time
What’s your wellness goal? When developing your goals, remember that in each moment, you are winning just by living. Let’s start loving our bodies just as we are at this very moment.