Nothin’ Wrong With You, Baby
The beauty industry would have us believe that we’re inherently flawed. We have poor genes, faulty willpower and –gasp! — our mothers’ thighs. The constant parade of unrealistic, Photoshopped bodies makes us look in the mirror and mentally flog ourselves for not having a similar physique.
Is it any wonder that according to the National Eating Disorder Association, 10 million women and girls are struggling with anorexia or bulimia? Millions more suffer from compulsive and binge eating disorders.
I used to be one of these women. When I was in high school, I struggled massively with a negative self image. I felt enormous, towering over most of my classmates at six feet tall. None of the cute, trendy clothes fit my curvy frame, and I just wanted to fade out of existence.
Since I couldn’t change my height, I dieted. In those days, most of the diet books espoused the low fat, high carb program, so there were days when I subsisted on bagels and skinny lattes. When I was 18, I went on a black coffee and cigarette diet for two months. I lost weight, but I felt miserable, cranky and snappish (for obvious reasons).
Aside from starving my body, I was also starving my heart and soul. My entire life was consumed with the flab on my belly and the wiggle in my thighs.
Frustrated with the yo-yo effects of restricting my food intake severely, I heard about bulimia from a PBS television special. I was so desperate to be skinny that I actually thought it sounded like a smart idea! It became my secret tool to use when “I just didn’t have enough willpower.”
In my first year of college, I fell into a deep depression which I blamed on my weight. I’d gained about 15 pounds despite rowing on the university’s crew team and doing punishing, boot-camp style workouts six days a week.
In desperation, I watched my slim, size-eight roommate dress in sleek, beautiful clothes. I thought if I could just look like that, I could be happy. And my unhappiness was killing me from the inside out.
The more I focused on my weight, the chubbier I got.
I thought that because I was chubby, I was inherently flawed with no self-control or willpower whatsoever, and I thought I couldn’t have close personal relationships because once people got to know me, they would see what a wreck I was.
I finally availed myself of the free counseling provided to students and, sitting on a beige couch in a tiny cramped office, confessed my biggest problem, “I can’t love myself; I’m just too fat; but I can’t seem to lose weight and keep it off no matter what I do.”
Incidentally, I may have been slightly chubby, but I was far from obese and even measured in the normal ranges for height, weight and body fat percentage.
My counselor looked at me quizzically and replied, “Do you realize that there are thousands of people who would be thrilled to just get down to the weight that you’re at? Can’t you just love yourself for who you are, right now?”
Nothin’ doin’. I tried a few more counseling sessions but never really made much progress. I continued to punish my body for two and a half more years before I made a startling breakthrough.
My poor, abused body had a lot of lingering pain from the grueling crew workouts. I found a bodyworker who specialized in structural integration — peeling off the layers of pain and tension and systematically realigning your posture.
One day during our sessions, he told me, “You’re never going to be a ballerina. You’re just not delicate. You’re strong. You’re built to be strong. Stop trying to be what you’re not.”
I’d heard it a million times before, but this time it hit home — There was nothing wrong with me, just the model I was trying to fit into. It was the wrong model.
When I let go of punishing my body and started focusing on my strength, my whole world shifted.
The weight slipped off. I brightened up, and my personality emerged. I was no longer focused on how terrible my body looked. All my attention was on how good it felt to be strong. With my newfound energy, I started creating art — drawing, painting, making jewelry. I discovered how good a forest can smell after it rains, how beautiful a sunset can be when you have nothing to do but watch the clouds shift colors.
My eating disorder disappeared. I no longer felt the need to binge and purge my food. Eating became a source of joy and nourishment instead of something to worry about — counting calories and carbs and fat grams. I now choose my food by how it makes me feel in my mind and body instead of what the diet books say.
I work with women every day in my bodywork practice who come in ashamed of their lumps and bumps and body, but I’m telling you, there is nothing wrong with you. I have seen bodies of every type, and they are all beautiful. Stop punishing yourself into submission. Find activities that make you feel happy, light and free. It’s your unique strengths that make you special. Find yours; focus on them, and watch your whole world change.
Sukie Baxter is an anti-aging and rejuvenation specialist, helping you love your body, live your life, and rock your bliss! You can get loads of great tips for creating a happier, healthier, more energetic you on her site.
Photo credit: photographerpandora