We’re 19 days in to the New Year. Did you resolve to lose a stone? Did you tell yourself you were disgustingly greedy over Christmas and now need to make up for it? Have you been cooking up soups and berating yourself every time you look in a mirror?
I haven’t. And I’m not telling you this to be smug or to put you off any goals you have. I haven’t lost 2 stone by not dieting, and I haven’t dropped a dress size.
What I have dropped is the self criticism and self loathing when I look at myself. What I have lost is the feeling of anger at “letting myself go”. In fact, I’ve spent time getting comfortable in my own skin. I’ve not said something mean about my full tummy, or substantial thighs, and I can honestly say, the positive talk, the encouraging comments are really starting to have an impact!
I’ve been large for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember I’ve hankered after a different size and a different shape. I’ve spent many an hour looking down on myself for not being the size 10, got it all together, perfectly flawless woman that is portrayed on tv and in the magazines. For a few years I’ve tried to talk positive, but there’s always been a “but” somewhere in the conversations with myself and the parts of me I don’t like. “I accept my belly, but I would love it a bit more if it were smaller/more toned/less scarred” is not self acceptance. Acceptance (to me at least) means knowing that if this is the size and shape I am to have for the rest of my life I will be ok with that. If my full tummy remains full until I am laying on my death bed, I will have lived a long and happy life with it. Those parts of me I found unacceptable are becoming parts of me that are respected and loved.
This may sound like utter madness to you; “The woman is talking about loving her belly, she’s crazily talking about accepting and respecting her thighs!” but how many of you, on a bad day, look at your body in the mirror, and grab disparagingly your flesh around your middle? Or slap your bum or your leg and look with disgust as they wobble? We grow up thinking it’s personally normal to assault parts of our body when we look in the mirror on a bad day. Our body becomes the focal point for all the stress, tension, hurt and anger we amass in a day. Ask yourself, have you ever said something like “I wouldn’t be feeling this way if I were thinner”, or “I’d be more confident if I had bigger boobs”, or “My body is that of a boy, I don’t feel womanly.”?
And where has it got you over the years? There will be a few who will have changed their diet, and will have created an exercise regime and have created their ideal selves. But there will be others, a majority, for whom even the dieting and exercising didn’t change a thing. You still disliked your body. It didn’t lose weight from the right places, or your muscles don’t show up like you thought they would. You thought that a “new you” would be the answers to your problems, but it didn’t. You still come home and look in the mirror and look at yourself with disgust and loathing.
So I’d like to suggest to you a little experiment;
For 3 weeks, avoid the fashion and gossip magazines, skip the self improvement programmes such as weight loss, or looking better (except maybe Gok Wan, because he inspires!), and turn off the cereal and yoghurt adverts suggesting a “New You for Summer!”.
For the same 3 weeks, pay attention to how you talk about yourself. When you feel that self criticism start to rise from your lips stop it and simply say “I’m beautiful” out loud, or in your head. Don’t grab the bits of your body you don’t like, instead, take extra care of yourself, moisturise or massage, if you can afford it, book yourself in somewhere for a pamper. Just treat your body well.
And finally, for the 3 weeks, avoid diet talk, or conversation with other people who are self criticising and focussing on their faults.
I’m pretty sure how much you’ll see a difference if you take yourself out of the media bombardment, and if you can say nice things about yourself enough times, it will start to sink in.
It is hard, it’s taken me years to get to this point now where I actually am liking my body and feeling honestly comfortable in it, where I can actually say I love my round, scarred, soft belly!
It’s taken me a long long long time to be actually able to step out of the diet rat race, and say “I’m really truly accepting my body, and I’m no longer dieting”.
It’s finally sinking in that health really can be at every size.