Category Archives: Body image

You’re already in shape

You don’t need to “get into shape.”

You’re already in shape–your shape.

Forcing and fretting to fit into a different shape isn’t better because you change the original design. Nothing is better than the original you.

“But I’m all out of breath when I walk up the stairs or jog with my friend; I get so tired when I stand for too long. I need to be in better shape.”

My friend, you are experiencing what it feels like to be alive inside your own body. The breath you feel is your lungs working; the aches you feel are your muscles coming to life; the fatigue you feel is your body simply asking for rest. Nothing about being alive is bad or wrong.

There are no rules that say how far you have to go before you stop; there is no law that says you have to move in a particular way. Move in a way that feels good to you, that feels right for your body. Dance, stretch, run, walk, jump, roller skate; find movement in yoga, Tai Chi, Taekwondo, Karate; have fun with areobics, jazzercise, zumba; find challenge in climbing walls, mountains, and forest trails; find vibrancy in swimming, kayaking, canoeing, or water dancing. Each body likes and wants to move, but discover how you want to move for you.

Exercising compassion and love and grace for yourself  is far more effective in achieving the body love you want. When you love yourself, you realize your body shape is perfect; you’ve been in the right shape the whole time. You’ll move to connect with your body rather than exercise to force yourself into a different kind of body.

No need to “get into shape” because your original design is already present, you’ve simply lost sight of it. You’re already in a good and beautiful shape. Connect with yourself as you are right now; listen to what your body is telling you; move according to how your body wants to move. Watch how your original design– your heart, your body, your breath, your strength, your stamina–becomes powerful and present again.

 

When my daughter was called “fat”

The neighbor kiddo called my daughter fat. They are both only 8-years-old. As a recovering anorexia patient, of course I was triggered. Thankfully my healthy voice is dominant right now, and this is how the conversation with my daughter unfolded:

“Hmm. How did it make you feel when she said that?” I asked.

*shrugs shoulders* “I don’t know,” Daughter said sheepishly. “Is it true? I feel like maybe it’s true. I don’t understand because she said she didn’t know why she said it. She said she ‘just felt like saying it to me.'”

“That sounds confusing,” I said.

“Yeah.”

I explained, “Her comment doesn’t make sense for two reasons. One, you aren’t fat, so the comment is wrong. It isn’t true. Number two, and most importantly, even if you did live in a larger body, your size has no bearing on who you are. You would still be the same creative, compassionate, funny, gracious person you are in the size you live in now. While your body can be lots of different sizes, your heart stays the same. So her effort to try to make you feel bad doesn’t even make sense. It’s confusing.”

“Why did she say it? She said she didn’t know why and she just felt like it.”

“Sometimes when people get a bad or hard feeling in their hearts,  like sad, mad, jealous, disappointed, hurt, or scared, they want to get rid of that bad feeling so they can feel good. One way people do that is to make someone around them feel bad. It’s like taking off the bad feeling and putting it on someone else to feel. It makes them feel better to see someone else feeling sad or mad or hurt or whatever the feeling. A lot of times, unfortunately, people don’t even know they’re doing this.

Your friend, rather than telling you she had a bad feeling in her own heart, tried to make you feel bad instead by calling you fat. My guess is she didn’t even realize she had a yucky feeling inside and that’s why she didn’t understand why she said it.”

“I wasn’t going to tell you what happened. But it was growing and growing in my chest and I thought it was going to explode outside of me!”

“Yes! That is a great explanation of feelings, Baby Girl. When we don’t talk about our feelings, for you the feelings were confusion and maybe hurt, they sit inside our bodies and they grow and grow until they have to come out. Your friend’s feelings exploded on you in the form of a hurtful comment, that ultimately didn’t make sense. It’s always better to talk about how you’re feeling in the moment so they don’t explode later.

You did the absolute right thing in telling me. Do you feel better?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. If this happens again, then come tell me and I’ll help you. I’ll talk to your friend and her mom. It’s not okay that she was trying to hurt you.”

“She might hate me if you talk to her.”

“Well, if she hates you because of her own actions, then that’s on her and she isn’t a good friend in the first place. Would you rather me not talk to her?”

“I want you to. I need help.”

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My daughter came to me a few days later and said it happened again. This little girl called my daughter fat and tried to cover it with “I’m only kidding” when my daughter tried to stand up for herself. As promised, I pulled this young girl aside and gently explained that her comment isn’t true and that it isn’t okay joke around about people’s body size because it’s hurtful.  It isn’t funny.

I texted her mother and let her know of the situation and my words to her daughter. We had a positive face-to-face conversation about it later. She confessed her daughter keeps all feelings inside despite her attempts to draw her daughter out; often this little girl comes off as just plain mean. I offered my understanding and support, mom-to-mom, friend-to-friend; she gave me permission to talk to her daughter anytime a situation warrants adult intervention.

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Here’s what I want you to know dear reader. Everything I said to my 8-year-old applies to any age, and any gender for that matter. Feelings are human and not age dependent; personal character is human not body size dependent.  Joking or making comments about body size doesn’t make sense at any age for any gender. So if anyone has ever insulted you about your body size, large or small, try to remember there is/was something negative growing inside of them and it’s exploding on to you.

In the spirit of grace and love, and if the situation lends itself, let them know their comment doesn’t make sense. See if you can navigate the conversation deeper, beyond body size, and pin point what’s really going on for the person who is trying to hurt you.

 

 

Have scale, will destroy

One of the symptoms of an eating disorder, or even disordered habits, is an obsession with the bathroom scale.

Almost like a drug, I craved weighing myself everyday, multiple times a day. I would weigh myself in the buff, first thing in the morning; I would weigh again in the middle of the day (often to my horror weighing more because of gravity and wearing clothing); sometimes I would weigh myself at night to confirm whether or not I had restricted enough. If my weight was up, then I made a firm decision to exercise and restrict calories even more the next day.

I had to weigh myself. I had to make sure I was keeping in control. That my weight was either staying the same or dropping lower. If I couldn’t weigh myself, I would wring my hands with anxiety, swearing up and down that I was gaining weight by the minute, until I could step on the scale again. It was only when I saw the numbers that I could quasi-relax. Even if the number was up, I knew what I could do to control the number back to where I wanted it.

Right before I went into anorexia recovery, my husband removed my scale from the house. I was pissed. I went through anxious withdrawals, tears, cravings, and a lot of anger. It was two months before my anxiety about weighing myself began to fade. In recovery, my therapy team took “blind weight” measurement (they saw the number, I didn’t) to track my progress away from death and back into healthy range. Once I was out of danger, they stopped weighing me.

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve seen my weight, and I don’t plan on ever knowing how much I weigh. My doctor knows, and she is the only person who needs to know.

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AnneRecently my friend Anne and I had a long conversation about body image, weight, Weight Watchers, food struggles, and scales. At the mention of getting rid of my scale, Anne immediately declared she could never get rid of hers. As we dug deeper into the conversation, her anxiety about not being able to track her weight revealed a lack of trust in her own body–a fear that if she couldn’t weigh herself then surely her body would would creep up in pounds.

Anne’s fear mirrored my own past fears. It’s a fear our culture struggles with as a whole: if we don’t keep track of our weight, then we’ll get fat and that is bad. Shameful. Unhealthy. Terrible.

Thing is, the scale doesn’t make us fat or keep us thin. It’s simply a combination of metal and plastic and glass and numbers. The scale has no real power, but we tend to give it the power to destroy our body trust, sense of beauty, and self-confidence.  We hear all the time, “the number on the scale doesn’t define you.” Yet we cling to the scale, allowing our feelings and belief in ourselves go up and down with the numbers.

No one needs a scale. If you have a health condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, that depends on you maintaining certain body weight, I have three points:

  1. Your doctor can weigh you.
  2. You can measure blood pressure and blood sugar without a scale.
  3. Your body talks to you. You don’t need a scale to tell you that you don’t feel good or that you feel amazing. The way your clothes fit will let you know whether or not your body shape is changing. You don’t need a scale to tell you that your pants don’t fit or that your shirt looks fabulous.

You can trust your body, friend.

Scale smash 2Anne and I didn’t want the scale to have power over our bodies or minds anymore. So we destroyed our scales. (Turned out my husband had hidden our scale in the deep recesses of our garage, so thankfully I had one to smash to smithereens!)  Anne and I reclaimed power, confidence, beauty, and trust back within our selves by turning the rubble of metal, glass and plastic into art.

It was an empowering, freeing, and cathartic morning. I Scale Smash 1highly recommend that everyone do it! People have been smashing their scales around the country in an effort to raise awareness about eating disorders and negative body image for a while. In fact, check out this story behind the Southern Smash, which is a non-profit organization annual event.

 

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Mine is on the left; Anne’s is on the right. Our scales are unrecognizable. Glass, wires, and gizmos from the scales turned into colorful and meaningful messages from within ourselves–something far more valuable than a scale could ever express.

Body Love Manifesto

 

Body trust–letting go of control that forces my body to fit into the shape it wasn’t designed to be. Rather, a harmonious flow between my body and me; cues and responses passed back and forth on the tides of intuition.

Body love– relaxed joy at what I see in the mirror and how I feel in my skin. Genuine comfort in the size, shape, and strength that make up my unique physique. Choices I make that take care of me. Deep belief that I am a beautiful being.

The world doesn’t agree with these things. It doesn’t know or encourage body love. It shames if my body is too big; it favors if my body is small. Work harder, longer, sweatier, or I won’t be good enough. Valuable. Beautiful. No matter how favorable I am, I could be better, smaller, fitter, healthier. Larger bodies are no good; smaller bodies are not good enough.

What’s so bad about living in a larger body? Why is a smaller body better? It doesn’t make sense that size even matters.

Fit and fresh and fun in any size is how we’re designed. What does fit mean anyway? Culture demands “health” be a certain size. But for me, that size does not apply. I move and breathe and sleep and eat in the home I’ve been given–this body of mine doesn’t fit what culture demands. And that’s okay. The world doesn’t have a say in what my body wants for me–it doesn’t get to say what healthy is for me.

Healthy means I find what feels good, eat what sounds good, and listen when my body says ‘I’m good’.

I don’t force or slam my body into shape. I love my body in strong, gentle movements. I notice each stretch, each breath, each movement it makes. I notice pleasure when something tastes good, smells good, feels good. Pleasure is a natural gift, a healthy sign that I am alive; a symptom of body love.

I find balance, focus, strength in pace with my body.  I flex intention with each breath in, I smile in gratitude with each breath out.

When my body talks, I listen. When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m full, I stop. When I’m tired, I rest. When I’m sad, I cry. When I’m happy, I dance. When I’m stressed, I take a step back. When I’m angry, I choose my words wisely. When I’m injured, sick, or depressed, I slow down; I nourish my body, mind, and spirit gently and intuitively, trusting my body back to health.

No one knows my body better than me, except for the good Lord above, and He designed this body–my body–with intentional love. To be loved. To receive love. My body, so uniquely designed for me, thrives on food, grace, movement, and love. No one else gets to say what that looks like or feels like. There are no rules to follow. No lists of what I should and should not do. No foods that are allowed and not allowed. No physical regimes that I must or must not follow.

Body love is between my body and me, a harmonious trust inside of me.  Harmony honors health; health honors harmony.