You are more than a body, and you knew that once. It takes some serious work to remember, understand and experience this truth that you are more – more than beautiful, more than parts in need of fixing, more than an object to be looked at and evaluated. Can you remember when you knew you were more?
– Lindsay & Lexie Kite – More than a body
This is a time of the year where a lot of worries about the body start to surface and/or become louder.
The warmer weather, more time spent outdoor, planning for some time away under the sun or simply the fact that we’re putting the winter jacket back in the wardrobe and our body feels more exposed to ours and other people’s judgment.
All these things, and many more, can trigger harsh and highly critical thoughts about our body and pave the way for ‘bad body’ days, if not weeks.
The mind can seriously be in “future-tripping mode”, anticipating all the scenarios where you might feel uncomfortable and trying to think about ways to minimise your exposure to them.
Something that has come often in the recent conversations with clients is this:
- The contrast between understanding that one’s value is not determined by the looks on one side and, on the other side, still wanting to shrink their body so badly or wishing their looks were different, to be able to ‘look well’ in front of other’s people’s eyes.
- The prospect of an upcoming family celebration, a wedding (where maybe you are the bride) or a holiday over to a sunny destination, is sometimes tainted by the worries of not being ‘ready’ to show the body to the world. The fear that they’re going to bring this self-consciousness with them as part of the experience, when taking pictures or enjoying a sunny day by the swimming pool.
- The desire to stay in, to hide at home, while everyone else seems (and I want to stress the “seems” here) to be so comfortable getting rid of the winter’s cobwebs and be out and about.
As someone who’s battled for years with ferocious self-criticism about her body, and who lived 30 years of her life in a sunny country where summer clothes are a reality at least 6 months a year, I 100% empathise with you if you’re feeling this way. It’s really hard.
A journey through body acceptance
Two years ago, I shared an article about the desire to shrink my body and lose weight, about the hope and dreams that used to fuel that desire.
It’s an honest recount of how I felt for many many years and is accompanied by someone else’s testimonial of the same battle.
The battle with one’s body and the desire to call a truce that comes after realising what happens after we manage to lose some weight.
If you missed it, you can read it here.
This time last year, instead, I shared about my experience of looking for a swimsuit before going visit my family in Sardinia. It came at a time where we were coming out from another lockdown and starting to socialise again.
If you missed it, you can read it here.
This year, I wanted to add some considerations that reflect how I feel about what I wrote, at 1 and 2 years distance from writing it, and I’ll offer some questions for you to reflect on your own unique experience of your body.
The worries and fears are not really about the weight & the size
The following are some reflections I made, and I supported other women make, since writing the articles I mentioned above.
You might want to take them onboard (if they help) or let go of (if they don’t).
- Nobody wants weight-loss or a different body in a vacuum. It’s because of what we assume it’ll get us.
- The worries and fears are not really about the weight, the size, the wrinkles, the skin (… you name it), about achieving a number or a certain size.
- They are about the assumption that health, worthiness, acceptance, success, acknowledgment, approval, love, will be guaranteed once you achieve that body.
- We, as women, didn’t come up with feeling judgmental and bad about our body on our own, or because we don’t love ourselves enough. It’s cultural. So, it’s pretty normal the fact that we tend to feel this way, even though I know it sucks.
- The beliefs we currently hold about what the body should look like are ingrained in us because of all the messaging about what women bodies should look like. They’re there because nobody points at the variety of bodies that can exist in nature, which are all equally good. Nobody has taught us in any educational & healthcare setting that the pursuit of health and wellbeing can happen without changing our body and doesn’t have to do with weight-loss all the time (if they did, believe me, you are very lucky!).
- Understanding the cultural influence and continous weight-centric messaging we are exposed to, paves the way for us to move from being completely hijacked by these negative thoughts about our body (and the desire to change it that comes with them) to create more space to be body neutral and accept the body we live in.
- Most of us will continue to struggle in some way, or have to keep the work on body image going on for life. Not because we aren’t doing “the work” properly, but because we’re human, because unlearning old beliefs is hard, and practicing new habits and new beliefs takes time. However, it’s not impossible. And it makes life better. It will help if you see this work not as a place you reach but a practice you come back to again and again, as many times as you need, even if you fall off the path.
A few questions for your journal
Could you benefit from reflecting on what weight and body size really represent for you, on the hopes you hold about the life you are going to get with them? And the influence our culture exercises on those?
I’ve found the following questions to be really helpful in starting this type of work.
Pick one (or two) you want to write about and let the words just flow as they come. Be curious.
- What do you think your ‘losing weight’ will get you? What do you believe that a flat belly will give you permission to do/be that you don’t have permission to do/be now?
- If you experienced weight-loss in the past, did you manage to feel what you expected to feel as a result of it? Did this feeling last?
- What messages regarding your body and your looks have you taken onboard along the years (from your family, school, friends, social media, other relationships)?
- What do you believe counts the most when it comes to your body?
- What comes up for you if you consider that this pursuit of weight-loss and changing your body to get all these things actually prevents you from really getting them?
- What if you could put those assumptions aside and go for what you want directly, instead of trying to get them via the bus stop of shrinking your body?
- Can you forgive yourself for the past? For the times you weren’t fully present, for the missed opportunities while you were busy thinking you were a body to fix?
As women, where could we be , collectively, if we invested all that time and energy that we spend on fixing ourselves (when we realise there’s nothing to fix) into believing in ourselves, in each other, and lifting each other up?
We could probably be in a very different place if we let go of the ideal of beauty and success we have internalised along the years. What do you think?
Can we remember when we knew you were more…more than just a body?
I hope you’re able to take some of these reflections and questions into your week.
I hold you in my thoughts with compassion and kindness.
Breaking the Binge-Restrict Cycle
On Thu 16th June at 6pm GMT I’m hosting an online event on Zoom.
This session offers you the opportunity to take a moment “just for yourself”, pause and re-think about binges and overeating from a new perspective.
It is designed to help put your head in a good space, so you can focus on what’s needed to overcome your current struggles with food.
FOR MORE INFO AND TO SIGN UP CLICK HERE.