How I Deal With Body Image Issues

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It’s been about 3 years since I said goodbye forever to diets and scales. Obviously reversing and relearning everything I believed for at least 20 years hasn’t been easy, and my journey is definitely not over.

 

I’ve come a long way since...I have a healthy relationship to food. Which to me means I don’t think about it often. I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full. Meal prep once a week. Eat mostly whole foods because they make me feel my best. I don’t overcomplicate it. I don’t binge at all any more, and I hardly ever eat emotionally, because I’ve developed many other coping mechanisms that feel much better than weighing myself down with a heavy meal.

 

I just recently got to the point where I’m able to exercise regularly (for me that means 4-6 times a week) without being obsessive about it. Along with all of that, I feel great in my body. I look in the mirror and accept (sometimes love) what I see. Again, I don’t really think too much about how my body looks, I just focus on how it feels.

 

But the one thing that still knocks me on my ass is seeing pictures of myself now, and old pictures of myself when I was deeeep into restricting my food via cleanses, body building “bro tips”, and all that. While bingeing SO freaking often, and obsessively working out 6 days a week (seriously, missing one day would cause so much shame and self-loathing).

 

I was a lot smaller than I am now (in my mind), which is something I forget until I see pictures of myself back then. When I see those pictures, I feel a strong sense of loss. I get angry at myself for not appreciating that body when I had it. I think to myself “ugh, I was so pretty back then”. And if I had previously thought I was pretty right now, that thought goes right out the window.

 

Because I don’t weigh myself, I don’t know how much larger I am now. If anything I feel like I just filled out more. But what gets me the most is seeing my currently chubby face, and arms. In my mind, everyone is judging me, and everyone notices and is thinking "haha, she failed". 

 

Here’s the part where someone might tell me “then do something about it”. And this is the part where I snap out of it and remember what it felt like to be in that smaller body…

 

First of all, it didn’t feel like my body. Maybe because I had worked so damn hard to get it to look that way. Every bite of a “bad” food, every skipped day at the gym freaking terrified me... because I felt like I could lose this body I had worked so hard for in any moment.

 

I didn’t feel comfortable in that body. It didn’t feel powerful, or womanly. It almost felt weak and frail, despite the amount of exercise I was doing. I didn’t know how to comfortably move that body.

 

I spent so many hours staring in the mirror, taking selfies, trying on a million outfits. And more than anything, most of the time I hated what I saw in the mirror. Which would lead me into a spiral of shame, anger, frustration...which would then trickle over into my relationships.

 

My mood would depend on my weight, my measurements, how “good” I was that week. And boy if I had slipped up...you would not want to be around me. I had insane mood swings. Secret binges alll the time. How can one claim to be so “healthy” but eat so uncontrollably? I thought that if anyone found out, they would know I was a fraud.

 

I isolated myself from others because I didn’t dare tempt myself to eat or drink anything that was “off plan”. When I saw people eating “unhealthy” I stepped onto my high horse and legit got angry at people for “not caring about their health”. On the contrary, God forbid I ever let anyone see me eating something "unhealthy". Those foods I would eat quickly, shamefully, in secret. 

 

I do not like who I was then. Did I look good? Sure. Was it worth it? Absolutely fucking not.

 

Which brings me to the present....last night I was scrolling through pictures on my phone to show a friend an older picture I took with Amanda Latona at Mr. Olympia, because she had the same picture.

 

It brought me back to my “thinner days”, and again that sense of loss creeped up. And y’all, I’ve had to mourn for that body time and time again. Just because I’ve learned to accept my present body, and I preach body acceptance does not mean I’m suddenly exempt from my own struggles. 

 

This is how it usually ends up when I see older pictures of myself. I think “oh my gosh, I looked so much prettier then. And I used to get hit on wayyy more often, that’s a good indication of how much better I looked. I should try to lose weight again, but do it secretly. How can I do this? I’ll just eat less. I’ll listen to my body more. Yeah, that’ll work.”

 

And then to be honest, after a day or so goes by I just completely forget about it. Sometimes I vent to my fiance about my struggles and he’ll remind me what truly matters to me. That always helps too.

 

Then I just return to what works for me, and what feels best for me. I remember that I may have looked a certain way then, but where I am not feels so much healthier and happier than I’ve ever felt in my entire freaking life!

 

I wear clothes that feel good and fit well, no matter the size. I eat mostly as people would say “healthy foods” (seriously, I’m known as the “healthy girl” at work). I allow my body to guide my food choices and decide what, when, and how much I eat. I don’t go out and party very often. I wake up early most mornings to lift weights. I go to yoga once a week. I meditate almost daily. Focus on what I’m grateful for often. Offer service, love, and attention to everyone around me. Write and learn new things often. Play my guitar all the time. I just live a life doing what feels best to me.

 

As far as my weight and body size....it all comes back to listening to my body. And then I let my size land wherever it may.

 

Practicing healthy habits does not promise a smaller body.

 

Which brings me back to the topic of this entire post...how I deal with body image struggles. I feel the difficult feelings and the loss of my “past body”, as I mentioned. Then I move forward and focus on what truly matters to me. Which is how I feel... and 95% of the time I’m happy, energized, and confident.

 

What else matters to me more than anything is how I make others feel. How I show up for my family, friends, strangers...anyone I come in contact with. If I had spent my entire life trying to obsess and control over how I looked, I would have never had the opportunity to inspire, motivate, and support those around me.

 

And that, my friend, is how I remind myself that it’s not about the way I look. It’s about living my life to the fullest, and contributing as much love and service to this world as I possibly can. That is why I'm alive.