Part 2: Body as Gift

Choosing to shamelessly indulge in whatever, whenever, and actually viewing my lack of self-control positively, has been a game-changer. As a result, I’ve been happier these past couple months than maybe ever. Hallelujah! 

So happy, that is, until I find myself in front of a mirror. Which is often. 

Ugh. 

Because it is then, despite my greatest effort to override the destructive thought patterns, that I find myself instantly, almost like on autopilot, slipping into cruel comparison between myself today and the former version of myself - a self that was essentially being manipulated in some way since the age of 13. I’ve been ashamed to witness myself longing to be as thin as her again, beating myself up for lacking the self-discipline to get back to her.

Whyyyyy can’t I just be free from this? Forever. Please.

Is it not so painfully unfair that otherwise contented and healthy women can feel utter despair in their bodies simply because those bodies have evolved, and because a quest for thinness is engrained in us to be the ultimate goal?

Well, I’ve recently had another big moment. I’ve decided that I’m not buying into this nonsense anymore. Adios. Farewell. I’m moving on. I refuse to allow superficial criteria determine my value, or that of anyone else. There is greater depth to human beings, and so many infinitely more important issues on this planet into which I want to pour my energy instead. 

So when that unwelcome, awful voice starts to chime in now, I consciously stop it in its tracks before it can completely hijack my mind. Instead, I choose to give thanks for all that my body allows me to do, and I choose to see beauty; I am consciously retraining my brain and thought processes. It definitely feels stupid at times, but I get up in the morning and go straight to the mirror to say “I love you” and variations of “You’re a strong, happy, confident babe,” when my automatic tendency would be to immediately hone in on my arms that are bigger than they used to be, or my stomach that isn’t quite as toned. With enough practice I'm confident these new thoughts will fill my mind just as quickly as the negative ones that have so easily weaseled their way into my joy for so many years. Try it, too?

Despite being firmly committed to eradicating the entrenched beliefs about beauty that run rampant in our culture, and being equally as committed to my journey of self-acceptance, there are definite moments of uneasiness. I’ve felt uncomfortable in my new body. Criticized it. Felt disgusting at times. Dreaded getting naked. Grabbed at fat I wish I could just cut off. And in those moments I often think that it actually would be easier to just declare that this self-love shit is far too hard and just force myself to lose 20 lbs so that I once again meet the narrow standard of beauty I once held for myself, and the standard of beauty society holds for us. But then this cycle of mine would only continue, with superficial preoccupation remaining, and I just can't bare that. I really, truly, can’t.

So I’m now choosing to embark on the harder path. I’m going to do “the work.” The real, emotional, ugly work, so that this veil of judgment is lifted for good. I’m going to stay put in the uncomfortableness of embracing myself as I am, completely. Today. No diet. No prerequisites. It will eventually become more comfortable. I am going to stick with this until my enjoyment in any given situation is not impacted by the way I look, or how I stack up against the other women around me, which has been the case for so long. I will also no longer support the idea that there is only one version of me that I will accept, and that life will be unsatisfactory whenever I stray from that version. I urge you to do the same.

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve never actually known the adult body I was born to have because I have been on some program for the better part of 15 years trying to derail genetics' course. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Well nature is brilliantly magical, and I'm finally ready to get to know this real body of mine. How she looks when she is blissful and free and truly savouring the deliciousness of life, on and off the plate. Not restricted and bound by self-criticism.

I want to dance in her, make love in her, lay on a warm beach in her, without one second of these activities being robbed from me because I'm absorbed obsessing about the spreading cellulite on my legs or how much better I’d look if I was jussst 10 lbs lighter. I want to partner with her, instead of punish her.

What a remarkable privilege it is to even have a working, healthy body in the first place. Today, I choose to focus on that.

We're all at a different stage with this. There are some people who can say with all honesty that they are happier when they are eating kale three times a day or following strict meal plans. Well, respect to them (or maybe you!).  But I have a confession: that actually isn't me.  The pleasure I get from eating chocolate daily is truly greater than that I received from the XS tag on the pants I once cherished.

There is no right answer here, and no universal approach to eating and wellness that is perfect for all of us. Kale or no kale. Choose your own adventure. Some days that choice is going to be indulging in 7 cookies because they’re damn tasty (I mayyy have done that today), and other days it won’t be. The point is that I’m not going to let it matter either way, and neither should you. But what does matter, I believe, is that you listen to your body and make your decisions about what to eat based on what truly feels right and good, not just for the sake of jumping on some trendy bandwagon or to appeal to a shallow standard of beauty that most people don't meet.

This journey is forcing me to redefine my definition of accomplishment. Or should I say, it is giving me the gift of redefining. I am searching for greater depth and purpose.

“For however debilitating it can be, an obsession with weight functions as a profound source of meaning, giving those who aspire to a "good body" something to strive for, a goal by which to measure their success and worth (or lack thereof). Indeed, it's virtually impossible to let go of this purpose-giving preoccupation without finding and/or creating new sources of meaning to replace old attachments and mental habits. This is what makes recovery from an eating disorder a spiritual journey. It is an ongoing process of learning to transform the very pain and emptiness that the obsession functions to cover into a new source of personal growth and well being.” (Michelle Lelwica)

Even if you have never struggled with such extreme issues with food and body, ask yourself if your sense of self-worth and purpose has been based on the image you uphold. If not, yay you. If it is, I invite you to start considering other criteria that are less surface level and more to do with you, say, following your passion, being generous, or loving unconditionally.

Could your new measuring stick of success be based on the number of strangers you smile at on the street, the amount of time you spend in nature, the amount of patience you are able to demonstrate while teaching your parents about Facebook, the fitness goals you crush, or the number of times you trust your intuition?  

There is such liberation that comes from being open to new definitions of success that have nothing to do with the physical body. Not to mention, endlessly more potential for fun and pleasure and soul-filling satisfaction.

Today I want freedom, I want strength, I want radiance.

What do you want?