There are so many books to read and lessons to be learned on relationships. The relationship you have with your significant other, friends, and even the relationships we have with coworkers or people we interact with on a day-to-day basis. But not enough people are talking about the relationship that we have with our bodies.
This is a relationship that was tainted and distorted for me for years until I began to be intentional with how I speak to my beautiful body. Before I came to love myself exactly as I am, there was an internal battle that began when I was only 7 or 8. A girl in my second grade class told me that sucking in my stomach helped to build abs, so that’s exactly what I began to do. A few years later this behavior transformed into me rationing what I ate. My best friend and I would eat a snack for lunch (if that) and I grew to be obsessed with how this changed my body.
I was a plump little girl who developed before the rest of my friends did. I had hips and curves and I found myself longing to be someone else’s size even though in most cases our bodies were the same size or I was actually smaller than whoever I was comparing myself to. I didn’t realize it at the time as a 5th grader who was dying to fit into someone else’s jean size, but now I understand that this is considered body dysmorphia.
Body dysmorphia, or body dysmorphic disorder/BDD, is a mental health disorder where the person becomes consumed with parts of their body and appearance that, in their view, are extremely flawed. As a result, you tend to go to outrageous measures to fix these flaws.
BDD shares some commonalities with disorders that you might be more familiar with like anorexia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Similar to these disorders, you are overly concerned with body image or adapt to ritualistic behaviors like constantly looking in the mirror or weighing yourself.
For me, I developed an unhealthy relationship with food and dieting to the point where I was extremely dehydrated, starved, and passing out as a result. At this point in my life I was eating so little that consuming food actually made me feel worse. It didn’t help that my hormones were so out of wack- making me feel nauseous, therefore making me not want to eat even more. (More on that another time.)
At some point as I moved towards my late teens, this unhealthy relationship with food took a turn and I started to eat anything and everything. I binged without a second thought and lived like this for years. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized that this wasn’t the freedom I longed for either. I began to hate what I saw in the mirror and knew that I couldn’t continue to live life in the extremes.
If you see similarities in my story to yours, please don’t wait to get help or think that this behavior is normal. There is freedom in understanding your body’s needs and looking after it with intentionality and love. I wish I could go back and tell my 7 year old self that there is more to life than abs and I know my 16 year old self wishes she could have a redo of family dinners that were picked over. But all I have is today and I do my part to find balance in eating while practicing healthy and happy habits. I’m learning to love my body as I work towards new goals instead of hating it every step of the way. I no longer obsess over my weight and this is a big area of growth for me because I was the girl who weighed herself everyday.
At this point in my life, my only goal is to work for and with my body instead of against it (remember, that’s also our body’s goal for us: to work for us) and inspire others to do the same.
This is an overview of my last 25 years, but please know there have been so many detours and pit stops on my journey to body positivity. To this day I still have to be intentional with who I let influence my inner self talk and I avoid people who make me want to retreat to the middle schooler who rationed her meals. When I do find myself slipping back into that negative space I repeat this affirmation to myself:
I am beautiful.
I am healthy.
I am loveable just as I am.
Do you believe that to be true about yourself? If not, would you try repeating it to yourself until you do? In case you haven’t heard it today or ever: you are beautiful, healthy and loved.
PS: if you’re looking for a meditation to help you transfer love to the parts of your body that need it most, try a yoga nidra meditation to connect with every part of your body.
Before you can move forward in life, whether it is in a relationship, a job, or a new endeavor, success will only come after you learn to love and appreciate yourself.