We are all going to face some days where you just don’t want to look in the mirror. Self-love and appreciation can be incredibly hard during times like these. But do not fear! Here are a few things you can try when you are struggling to appreciate you!
Your favorite leggings and sweatshirt, a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, even a dress. Anything that feels comfy and good for you. Sometimes, though, you want to avoid baggy clothing on an already bad body image day. See what works for you!
Turn your home into a spa for the day. Focus on spa activities that feel good but don’t emphasize appearance too much. Paint your nails, do a face mask, take a bath with bubbles and wine (only if you are of age) and a good book!
List out all the things your body does for you on a daily basis. Think what it DOES not how it looks. If you can’t think of anything, go back to basics! Your body lets you live by breathing, etc.
Seriously. Sometimes putting what is bothering you — exactly as it is bothering you — out on a page is so relieving. It takes the jumbled thoughts and makes you see them a bit more clearly. Often, it is easier to challenge the thoughts when they are physically on a page in front of you.
If you can, make your favorite meal. Whatever it is. If you like mac-and-cheese, make it. Want ice cream for dinner? Have it. Just because you don’t love your body today doesn’t mean you shouldn’t honor hunger.
Wear whatever that one outfit is that literally makes you feel like gold. I am giving you permission to take it out of the dirty laundry pile, if that is what you need to do. Because feeling good in what you are wearing — especially on a bad body image day — can help a lot when going out into public!
We all have them. It is normal. How much we like what we look like is going to fluctuate. But learning to appreciate our bodies anyway, even on the bad days, is the basis of self-love.
This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals.
“Ugh, I had too many cookies. I will have to go to the gym for hours later.”
“I ran three miles, so I can have this ice cream.”
“I worked out a lot this week, I can eat whatever I want.”
“I cheated on my diet yesterday. I have to go work it all off today.”
“I would love to have some of that dessert, but I didn’t work out today.”
Do any of those phrases sound familiar?
If one or more does, I am so sorry. I’ve been there. I know how horrible the constant guilt, work-out, repeat cycle truly is.
Exercise mindsets centered around food and dieting and working off what was eaten are unhealthy. They are dangerous and cyclic and a recipe for disaster.
But they are also the norm. They are promoted by society and normalized by peers.
You can find references to “magic” workouts on magazines. Exercise fads are almost as insidious as diet trends! They are discussed almost constantly.
Seriously, I dare you to go a day without hearing (or mentioning) working out, dieting, food or guilt around something you ate.
But, would you like to know a secret?
Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.
Exercise isn’t something you do because you think you had one too many cookies.
It isn’t something you do because you want to eat a certain way later.
It isn’t something that gives you permission to “let loose.”
Our society treats exercise like the end-all-be-all of what you can and cannot eat. It is the magic permission slip for dessert. It is the go-to for guilty thoughts and fixing that cheat meal.
(Oh, and those cheat meals… those are bullshit, too.)
Food is not good or bad or healthy or unhealthy. (It’s all about that moderation!)
Food is not something you earn.
Food is not something you compensate for with hours on hours of time at the gym.
Let me tell you something. I used to think that food was all of the above. I logged hundreds and hundreds of miles running. I worked out all the time.
I was miserable. I had an eating disorder that constantly told me food was bad. And I punished myself with exercise.
And now, years later, in recovery from my eating disorder and months and months away from compulsive exercise, I look around me and I see the same unhealthy relationship with exercise everywhere.
I hear it in conversations I pass on the street or floating around the air in cafes. I watch it in the monotonous strain of those who attend the college gym with a pained, dead look in their eyes.
It’s not healthy.
But, as I have started to add exercise back into my life, I have redefined my relationship with it.
Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.
Exercise is something you do because you have lots of energy and you want to move.
Exercise is something you do to relieve stress…and not the stress that comes from feeling like you ate something you “shouldn’t have.” (Shouldn’t have really doesn’t exist, unless, for example, you are lactose intolerant and had a lot of ice cream…)
Exercise is something you do to appreciate all that your body is capable of achieving.
Exercise is something you do because you feel strong and powerful and fierce.
Exercise is something you do to enjoy the outdoors and the fresh air.
Exercise is something you do only when you can enjoy it.
Exercise is something you do because you enjoy it.
Let me say it again… Exercise. Is. Not. Punishment.
Trust me, I have used it as one. The other, enjoyable, self-fulfilling, side of the exercise spectrum is a lot more fun.
This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals.
As it warms up and winter clothing *finally* starts to withdraw into the back of the closet, discussions about body appearance move to the front hangers. ‘Tis the season for ads promoting how to get the body you want before summer and different diet trends to help you get rid of those last few pounds.
Feeds start to fill with alluring “body goals.” Promises re-emerge to take up that New Year’s resolution to hit the gym that you dropped on January 3. I sound sarcastic, but honestly, it’s OK to not go to the gym or drop those pounds!
And that’s the point.
Magazines, friends, commercials, etc. all say it’s time to get in shape before you hit the beach.
But, you don’t need to.
You don’t need to have abs and trim thighs and sculpted arms to be seen.
You don’t need to look like you work out every day to be worthy of space.
You don’t need to be a certain way to dress in shorts, skirts, a bathing suit, something that shows your legs or your form.
And anyone who says you do is wrong.
You can tell them I said that. Please do.
Society and (especially American) culture send messages basically saying to be worthy — of love, belonging, respect, space, time, empathy, etc. — you need to be a certain body type.
To be worthy, you need to look worthy.
But worth does not lie on the skin. As cliché as this is, “beauty is not skin deep.” (I honestly have no idea who said that, but they were/are correct and I give them mad props.)
Someone who looks different than you is just as worthy of love as you are.
We, and here I mean society as a whole, because, like it or not, we who disagree with thin ideals are part of society too, judge so much on how we look and what we wear that we forget the object of the judgment is a person too.
A person with feelings and dreams and desires who just wants to love and be loved.
Who cares if you have some shape to your stomach and you like to wear bikinis?
Who cares if you don’t have super thin thighs and you sport shorts in the warm weather?
Who cares if you have scars, stretch marks, birthmarks, acne, etc. and you don’t try to hide them?
If you answered “I care and it bothers me to see” to any of the above questions, it’s time to reevaluate your values because you just defined someone simply by their appearance.
What a petty thing to do.
In the spirit of full disclosure, when I read the questions I wrote above, I think: “I care if people think that about me.” But you know what, that’s OK and, honestly, to be expected.
Society conditioned me to care what people think.
Society conditioned me to think I have to hide my flaws.
Society conditioned me to think I have to work out and look a certain way in order to take up space. (When did exercise change from something we do to alleviate stress to something we do to punish our bodies for the way they look? But, that right there is a different article for another week.)
Society conditioned me to think if I don’t look like a model, I can’t love who I am.
As hard as it is (for me too), I challenge us both to let go of those fears — if only for five minutes — and wear the shorts, the bathing suit, the outfit that doesn’t hide every flaw.
I challenge us both to drop the ridiculous standard we hold ourselves and others to in the spirit of just enjoying the world.
I challenge us both to view our bodies not as the enemy or of something to be ashamed, but as a means of exploration of the places around us. Of the vehicles that allow us to laugh, smile, hug, play sports, lounge on the beach, swim in the water and soak in the light.
Because, in the end, whether we look a good in a bathing suit is not the memory to look back on when we are older.
This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals.
In my opinion, navigating the world of fashion has some potholes.
Maybe a lot of potholes.
Fashion, at least as we know it in contemporary society, is rife with body ideals and
unattainable beauty standards. Models are such a small percentage of the population, body type wise. Actually, the ideal body type we see in the media and on fashion magazines is nearly equivalent to that of a prepubertal girl. Seriously, I am not kidding.
As someone who really loves fashion and clothes and expressing myself in this way,figuring out how to appreciate fashion without bombarding myself with image upon image of edited, manipulated, unattainable bodies has been challenging.
Here’s how I do it: I don’t.
I simple don’t look at fashion media. Occasionally, I search Pinterest for inspiration. But mostly, I figure out how to appreciate fashion through my own body and appearance.
Fashion, therefore, serves as a means of appreciation for my body. It is a neutral ground of body acceptance.
Through clothes, I work to acknowledge my body. I don’t necessarily LIKE my body, even if I like my outfit, but I can appreciate my body as a part of the art of fashion. Body neutrality.
Part of my recovery, past and current, is figuring out who I am both in what I like and how I present. Throughout my recovery, I experimented a lot with clothing styles. I went from dark and gothic, to dark vintage, to somewhat alternative, to a strange mix of all of the above.
Fashion style is personal. It doesn’t have to fit into a box with a label and a color and sit on a shelf that is labeled “me.” It can change and flow and be fluid. Much like us, fashion is not static.
Embracing the fluidity of my personal expression, though it means I have gone through lots of clothes, has allowed me to experiment with my comfort zones and boundaries. And, boy, have I learned how to thrift shop! (You have to, if your style keeps changing!)
Even now I look in my closet and wonder what in the world I was thinking when I bought this or that article of clothing, much like I look back at my past and wonder why I did something or why I picked what I picked or cringe because an experience was just really embarrassing and I didn’t realize it.
And, that’s okay. People change. Trends change. Clothes change. We change.
It’s all part of life.
Recovery is a journey. One in which one changes and discovers oneself. One does a lot of introspection. But it is not a journey walked completely in solitude.
Often, I feel like I don’t acknowledge all the ways in which others have helped me along my path this far. I feel conceited in saying so, but it’s true. I focus a lot on me. Me me me. And that’s okay–I’m here to recovery ME–but I find it meaningful to take a bit to reflect on how much I care about those around me. I may feel lonely sometimes, but I am never alone.
To my parents:
I cut you out of my treatment for a while. I thought I would be better off doing it all on my own. I was wrong.
You love me unconditionally and only want the best for me. And though we do not always agree, (as is the case with most family relationships) you will always be there for me.
I am so thankful.
To my wonderful treatment friends:
I wouldn’t have made it this far without you. I owe much of my recovery to you.
The amount of strength that fills the room when we are together is immeasurable. Its effects enumerable. And my gratitude incommunicable. You saw me when I tried to be invisible. You helped me when I was crying in a corner and losing all my shit over something I don’t even remember anymore. You listened to my curse heavy rants and nodded along. You validated me and got me and held me up and pushed me down when I needed to sit my ass on the floor and get a hold of myself. You laughed by my side through the good bits and held my hand and hugged me through the unbearable. You understand in ways only those on this journey can.
I am so immensely thankful for you all. I love you all dearly and you have touched my life in a way I will never, ever forget.
To my child hood and high school, long distance best friends:
You mean so much to me. You check in on me when I’ve gone MIA because I suck at texting and communicating on a regular basis and often mentally reply and never send a physical text.
You support me in my recovery even if I don’t actually see you. You send me reassuring messages and talk to me about my character and how I am capable of more.
You offer to come see me and don’t get angry when I say I can’t do that because I am too depressed or self-conscious or I have been crying for 48 hours straight.
You love me anyway. You love me with my flaws. You see me for me. You show me I have worth. I can’t say thank you enough.
You’ve seen me through it all and not judged me. You accepted me when I *finally* told you about my eating disorder and then pushed me in my recovery.
You told me I was fucking insane when I needed to hear it and reassured me that some of my fears were unfounded.
You did it all from afar.
You are individuals I admire so greatly and respect immensely. I love you.
To the men’s cross-country/track team that has accepted me unconditionally:
I was trying to figure out how to anonymously address you all. Because you all mean so much to me. And “the men’s cross-country/track team” doesn’t seem fitting–albeit true. Because you are so much more than just people who run in circles and to address you in that manner seems a bit…dissatisfying.
I know we met because I am dating one of your own, but you’ve all become some of my best friends and most trusted confidants. You saw me before I started this journey. You saw me when I was about to give up all over again. You saw me in my hope and joy and in my depression when even smiling was too much work.
You’ve pushed me in ways you can’t know. I’ve been challenged a lot simply because I’ve been exposed to so much. I’ve had to learn how to go with the crazy flow and deal with teasing and embarrassment and being the subject of attention and getting yelled at across a room or cafeteria or outdoor space or whatever.
And though I still feel like I don’t really fit in (because I feel so different in my abilities… read I can’t run for shit anymore and I am not allowed to anyway…) I’m beginning to see how that is false. And the more time I spend with you, the more I begin to believe it as well. I love y’all so much.
To my boyfriend, who has stuck by me through it all:
I don’t know if I would be here without you. I really don’t. I don’t know if I would have gone back to the treatment center far away. I don’t know if I would have pushed myself as I have. I don’t know if I would be at this point in my recovery.
Because you told me you believed in me through it all. I could keep going when I didn’t believe in myself because someone still did–you did. And you still do. You tell me you are proud of me for all I have done, you notice how I have grown, you encourage me when I need it, and you hold me and tell me it is going to be okay when I don’t think it ever will.
You’ve loved me through all my changes and assured me that my physical ones were okay (even though I still don’t believe you because it will only ever sink it when I believe it from myself). You remind me that I am not loved or worthy based on how I appear, but who I am and all that I have to offer and can do. You’ve been there for me, long distance or not, and stuck by my side through this wild ride…and seem to want to take on what is still to come of it. And when I curl into a ball and cry and start to believe I am a horrible human being and deserve nothing in the world, you hold me for a bit, ask if there is anything you can do, accept it when I say no, and then offer to watch a show or do something fun or go someplace with me to make me feel better.
You’re my recovery hero and you have helped me realize that I DO deserve recovery and love and happiness and respect. I love you for that, but, most of all, I love you for you: the wonderful, caring, inspirational, thoughtful you.
I searched Pinterest for a while looking for topics on which to write. But I didn’t find any. I couldn’t seem to get my mind around any of them. I wanted to write some post about something deep and whatever, but you know what… I don’t need to and I am not going to.
Life is kind of a whirlwind. Recovery is more of a tornado. I often feel like I’m being whipped around in circles from one thing to another and then back again. But, interestingly enough, I’ve come to like it a bit. It’s a lot more interesting and satisfying than the perpetual depression of my eating disorder. I don’t mean to say it’s all good things in the tornado. Occasionally, I whirl by the Wicked Witch of the West and have a moment of fear and anxiety. But then I somehow land in Oz among the flowers and there’s a period of calm again–or as calm as it really can be in recovery.
It’s interesting though, because there is a lot of freedom in fear. It sucks, of course. But if you do whatever you fear, and then you do it again, and again, and again, and you keep going, the fear leaves and you just have freedom. It’s a process and it takes a LONG time. But each time you do the thing you fear and you make it to the other side, you get a little bit more space from the fright. You get a little bit more free.
Yesterday night, as I was preparing for bed, I pulled of my shirt and I stood in front of the mirror in my sports bra and I brushed my teeth. I looked at myself straight-on in the mirror and let my eyes wash over my body. I let them run over the shape of my stomach and my arms and my chest and let the feelings come. I noticed the thoughts that usually come with looking at my exposed body–the judgements and criticisms and slight sense of discomfort.
But I smiled instead of covering up again and just kept looking. I did it because I needed to and because I physically couldn’t put a shirt back on with a toothbrush in my mouth… but mostly because I needed to do it. Because it kind of doesn’t matter what thoughts come to me. They are only thoughts. They do not mean that I am any less of a person. And I may not believe that entirely just yet, but I stood through the discomfort anyway and embraced it.
It sucked a little bit. It sucked to not like everything I saw. But I only dislike it because of a standard I have in my head that is absolutely ridiculous. I will never fit the standard that society holds for me and that, therefore, I have in my mind is correct.
But it isn’t correct. It is warped and unachievable and unhealthy (at least for me). And that’s the way it is–like it or not.
I keep thinking about a poem I read the other day. It’s entitled “Enough” and it reads:
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
I think it spoke to me because I am so ready for it all to be “enough.” But what I like so much about this poem is that it finds enough in the simple. Breathing is enough. Sitting is enough. Being is enough.
Stop refusing life. Stop refusing to open yourself up to the world. Let just being be enough. Let being YOU be enough.
So standing in front of that mirror yesterday night, or putting on clothes this morning that didn’t hide my curves, or eating a before breakfast snack because my body was hungry, or looking down and seeing my stomach and my thighs and my body, I remember that I am enough. I might not completely believe it yet, but I tell myself it anyway. I’m not lying. I may feel like I am sometimes; I may not agree with the statement; I may try to refute and disprove it, but it is true none-the-less.
I am enough. You are enough. And I’ve had enough of “refusing life.”
*Let me preface this by saying that this post is going to be a brutally honest, zero bullshit, hands-up-in-surrender type of post.*
My body and I don’t are not getting along too well right now. I might go so far as to say that I hate my body, or at least the way it looks.
I struggle with having curves. I struggle with having a butt and thighs that touch and a stomach that isn’t flat. I struggle with not being toned and defined. I struggle with not having stamina and endurance. I struggle seeing the way my body squishes. I struggle with the changes that have happened since I started recovery.
I don’t always want to be seen. Actually, I almost NEVER want to be seen. I don’t like undressing. I don’t like having to see myself in the shower and be reminded of my changes. I don’t like wearing fitting clothing. I don’t even really like my boyfriend seeing my “new” body.
I compare myself to other girls and wish I looked like they do. I see someone and a voice says to me that if I just looked like she did then I would have the right curves and I would be pretty. THEN, I would be satisfied with myself.
That’s a fucking lie.
The truth is, I will never be satisfied with myself by changing. Satisfaction and self-confidence have nothing to do with what shape I am, if I have a thigh gap, whether my abs are visible, or if I weigh a certain number.
It is so easy to turn to “fixing” the problem when really you are only altering the manifestations of a deeper, underlying issue.
The problem is not how I look; it is how I perceive myself and where I store my worth.
Of course, if my self-worth is stored in my thighs, my stomach, or how thin I am compared to another UNIQUE human being, I will never measure up; I will never feel worth anything.
I wish I could figure out when what my body looks like became more important than who I am as a person. Because I am not my body. Beauty is not skin deep. Beauty is found in the soul, the personality, the heart of someone. The body is only the vessel.
I wish I could pinpoint exactly what happened to make my body my enemy… but I know I never will and, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how I change this perception, this unfounded belief that I am only as good as the way I look. I need to try to own who I am until I really can own it.
I have skin over my ribs. I have skin with a scar that shows my battle to recovery. I see it and I remember how far I have come. I am ashamed of that scar, but I carry on because I have to. Because I want to.
I have a belly that squishes and folds when I sit. It hides my abs and sticks out a bit. But it is healthy. It isn’t gnawing away at me and begging me for food even when it knows I won’t listen.
I have hips that have shape. I have hips that sway as I walk. I have hips that make me self-conscious of wearing tight clothes for fear of being called fat. I have hips that no longer show bones when I walk. But I also have hips that may eventually help me have children. I have hips because I am supposed it.
I have thighs that touch. I have thighs of which I am self conscious and afraid of the same teasing I had when I was younger. I have thighs that remind me of the nights I would cry and wish I could cut them away from my body because then all of it would stop. I have thighs that hold scars of the pain I have felt–self imposed scars to try to get out all the hurt. But they are still there. And they still work. Why should the space in between them dictate my worth?
I have an ass for which I had been teased endlessly as a kid. I was so excited when I lost it during my eating disorder. I dreaded getting it back during recovery. But I need to forgive the teasing and make peace with myself. I have a butt. I have curves and shape. I also have a soul and a mind. I don’t hate those, why hate the other?
The battle to love my body is so far from over. It probably won’t be over anytime soon. But I am trying… and that’s the best I can do.
I have hope that I can learn to love me for who I am as a person and not what I look like. I have hope that I can strip my perception of worth away from the size and shape of my person. I have hope that I can come to accept what I look like, maybe even like it, one day.
It’s been a long haul. We’ve been through a lot together. But it’s over now. I’d say “it’s not you, it’s me,” but that isn’t true. It’s all you. You served a purpose for a while, you gave me a sense of control and safety-albeit incorrectly- but I don’t need you anymore. I don’t want you anymore.
I want life and love and laughter. I want adventures. I want smiles and spontaneity. I want health and happiness.
I want cake and chocolate. I want fast food on busy days and comfort meals on rainy, cold nights. I want to eat candy and popcorn at movies. I want to listen to cravings and eat to my desires. I want foreign foods and the chance to try new foods. I want to go out to a restaurant and have the full course meal.
I want to look in the mirror and accept what I see. I want to see myself for who I am as a person and not how my clothes fit or what I weigh. I want to meet new people and not think about how I look to them. I want to go on trips and learn new things and be able to feel the wind on my face on the top of a mountain. I want to run for fun and enjoy movement because it makes me feel good inside.
I want to be me, authentically. I want to discover who I am and fill the spot in my soul you take up with gold. I want to breathe in freedom and exhale rigidity. I want flexibility and variety.
Ed, I want life. And you do not bring me life. You do not bring me any of the things I want above. You hinder me. You hold me down. You tell me I am less than I am. You abuse me and manipulate me and take me away from my dreams.
We don’t work. We never will again. It’s over. We’re done.