I have been meaning to write about this topic for a long time. I was recently spurred to action by a conversation with a friend where we shared tales of how we speak to ourselves. If we are dealing with a friend who has fallen off the wagon or fallen short of a weight goal, we are supportive and constructive in our responses. When we are dealing with ourselves we are judgmental and cruel.
I have spoken to a lot of people about weight loss goals over the last few years, and one common misconception a lot of people seem to have is that meeting our weight goals will magically make us go from hating our bodies to loving our bodies. Not true. Being comfortable in your own skin is a skill that needs to be practiced from the very first day you start practicing portion control or a new exercise regime.
I am by no means an expert on being completely kind and loving to oneself, but I have come a long way from being a completely self-destructive bulimic (in large part thanks to DDP Yoga), so I thought I would share what has worked for me in the hopes it can help others to do the same.
Early in my DDP Yoga journey, I stumbled up the story of the woman in this picture, Taryn Brumfitt. She is my hero. She loves her body before (when she was a fitness model) and she loves it after (with a “mom” body). She is a phenomenal role model for how we should treat ourselves.
Women can be especially prone to hating their bodies, and harboring negative thoughts about themselves. We should love everything about ourselves, and we have to actively and consciously work on undoing all the years of negativity we have had drummed into us from various sources in society.
I’m betting the majority of us who do DDP Yoga took it up because we wanted to lose weight. That’s great. It’s great to be on a healthy path and a journey of self-improvement. However, DDP Yoga is all about health, and a happy, positive view of ourselves is part of that health. It is not a good idea to wait to get to your weight goals and assume that self-acceptance will magically happen once you get there. It won’t. The journey to our weight goals and good health will be a lot smoother and more enjoyable if we feel comfortable in our own skin from the get-go.
I spent a long time hating myself and my body. During that time I thought of my body as a completely separate entity from myself, and I worked against it. By “worked against it” I mean I abused it with eating disorders, substance abuse, dangerous workout regimes, followed by a period of completely giving up, which led to an unhealthy sedentariness and overeating. Thanks to the lessons of DDP Yoga, and the supportive community I found with it, I finally started to think of my body as part of me. That led me to the realization that I needed to get to a place where I loved and appreciated my body. Having never done that before, it didn’t come naturally to me. I took a series of conscious and proactive steps toward accepting and loving myself. Here’s what I did, hope it helps:
Step 1: What don’t you hate?
Write down one thing you love about your body. Something that you really enjoy about it. And no passive aggressive frenemy bullshit like “I love how my ugly fat can be hidden with black clothes.” Something you actually enjoy about your body! Anytime you have a negative thought about your body, read that note of positivity, or say it out loud over and over until you have expelled the negative thought from your mind. Or just think about that part of your body, even when you’re not feeling bad about yourself. Go look at it in the mirror, or post a picture on Instagram. Over time, try to add more and more physical features into the mix.
Step 2: You’re Amazing
Continuing with this theme, think about how amazing your body is, and all the incredible things it has done for you. Take a few minutes to think about one amazing feat that your body did for you, and why you are grateful to your body for it! I’m amazed that my body allowed me to have a painless, natural childbirth. I’m also amazed it ran a marathon and up the Hancock building in spite of what my negative physical therapist predicted it would ever be able to do. Yes my body has stretch marks below my belly button, but it gave me a beautiful daughter, and allowed me to have a perfectly natural and painless birth of a 9 lb 7 oz baby who was born in under 20 minutes. Yes I have a pretty gross damaged vein on my right ankle, but that ankle is part of the legs that ran twenty-six point frickin’ two miles after only 1.5 hours of sleep!
It’s certainly important to love how your body looks. But it’s also really important not to lose track of all the other things your body does for you. Appearance is just one facet of our bodies’ worth. Our bodies are these amazing machines that have allowed us to every wonderful experience we have ever had, and have enabled us to achieve any success we have ever enjoyed. They have been our loyal companions, and the least we could do is take the time to appreciate the things they have done for us instead of calling them “fat” or “ugly.”
Step 3: Eye of the Beholder
When we look at ourselves, we don’t look at the whole picture; we hone in on one specific feature, usually the one we like the least, and amplify the impact is has out of all proportion. When we look at other people, we look at the whole person. We still see their flaws but we see them in context. The person may have a crooked tooth or a pimple, but their attractive features outweigh their shortcomings.
Think about nice things have other people have said about your body or your looks? What do you get compliments on most frequently?
How do you take compliments? Do you allow your own self-esteem interfere with your ability to accept the praise, or do you thrive a little too much on it, as if you were trying to replace an internal sense of self worth with external accolades? What can you do to be more at ease with the nice sentiments people offer you?
Next time you look at yourself in the mirror, try to stand back and take in the whole picture. Not just one little blemish or unattractive feature. Also, try to look at the feature that elicited compliments from others and see what it was they saw.
Step 4: Seeking Own Worst Critic, Apply Within.
What thing(s) do you hate most about your body? What makes you shudder when you see it in the mirror, makes you change the clothing options you allow yourself, makes you hide it from other people’s view?
Rather than just reinforcing your feelings of self-loathing, try to really examine what exactly you feel about this feature. Anger, sadness, embarrassment? What exactly is about this feature that evokes this response? Remind yourself that your extra fat, loose skin, wrinkles, zits are just some of cells that make up your body, which in turn is only one part of the many things that make up you. Remind yourself of all the other things that make up you. Are you a great mom, do you excel in your career, are you an amazing cook, a great friend?
To gain some perspective, if you saw someone else with this “shortcoming”, would you think they should feel that way? Would you be as revolted if you saw it in someone else? (spoiler: the answer is no!) What would you tell someone else by way of advise about an issue they had with their body in order to give them some perspective, and to help them love their body as a whole, and to stop focusing on one minor flaw? Try to see yourself that same way, and to counsel yourself the way you would counsel someone else in your situation.
Please think of more ways to love everything about your body, even the things you dislike the most. When you are evaluating your own body, please remember that you are a much harsher judge of how you look that anyone else. In this article from the (ugh) Daily Mail, women consistently judge themselves as being heavier than they actually are in a silhouette test. You do this too!
And this Dove short film speaks for itself. Please watch it; it’s really powerful:
I hope this helps. If you think of anything else that could benefit those on a similar journey please let me know and I will add it it. Loving ourselves is an evolving journey and these are only the first steps. I am still on this path, and I will share more in the future as I learn more myself.