It's taken me TWO MONTHS to press publish on this post. I don't know why it was so hard to write, but probably because the topic is so personal and at the same time so important to me and there's so much I want to say.
Have you ever had a “fat day” where you just feel bloated or blah?
Or stepped on the scale and allowed the number to affect how you feel about yourself for the rest of the day?
Or felt guilty for eating something you believe is “bad,” or ended up uncontrollably binging on food without being able to stop just because it feels good in the moment?
Or felt the need to workout longer or harder to "burn off" extra calories you ate?
At various times in my life I've been a YES to all of the above.
And if you’re at a healthy weight but still feel like you constantly have to lose 5 pounds, are paranoid about gaining weight, or can’t go a single day without thinking about what you eat, what you weigh, or what you look like, you aren’t alone.
My relationship with my body and food isn’t always positive, even though it's my job to help women learn how to love themselves. When I’m having a low energy day, I usually get caught up in my head, feel blah, and then it kind of trickles into every other aspect of my life like my energy, self confidence, even how I approach my business, and I end up feeling really vulnerable, defeated, and susceptible to “comparisonitis” (aka comparing myself to other women in a way that always puts me down).
I’m working on it and getting a LOT better so it's rare for me to have a low body image day, but I still have ups and downs just like every single woman I’ve ever met, and you know what? I’m sick of dealing with it. I’m ready to feel confident and strong every single day. Ready to love myself unconditionally, no matter what. Ready to feel free and prove to other women that it's possible.
So I want to start talking about something that has been weighing on my mind lately: body image.
Specifically, the emotional relationship we as women have with our bodies and how our physical appearance or weight is related to our sense of self worth, value, or success as a human.
Just this past weekend at our Superbowl party, the girls and I started talking about the new “realistic body” Barbies. We agreed that although we never directly associated wanting to be skinny with our Barbies when we were little, the idea that the “ideal female form” is someone who's tall, thin, larger chested, and has perfect hair and makeup is still a message that lives below the surface in our minds EVEN THOUGH we’re all successful and confident adult women who KNOW that what we weigh or look like doesn’t affect our value or self worth.
What is this crap and how can we fight against it?
Body image is a topic I’m really passionate about, especially as a health and fitness coach working in an industry where dramatic before and after pictures drive sales and it’s easy to get swept up into the pursuit of constantly improving your physical body. (I've talked about my mixed opinion on before and after pictures here.)
And also because it's something I'm still working on myself.
I was originally going to call this post something along the lines of “How I’ve learned to have a positive body image” but as soon as I made the decision, it’s like I had an instant body image relapse just so my ego could prove “SEE? you will never feel good about your body! It’s too good to be true!” so I’m shifting my message a little and embracing the fact that we will never be 100% confident, happy, and on top of our game 100% of the time… and that’s ok. We will always have bad days and relapse into our old patterns, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean we’re broken or need to be fixed. It means we’re human.
Today I want to share a little more of my own story, and some of the ways I’ve been successfully working on finding peace with my body and developing a positive body image.
I’ve gone through a lot of personal growth over the past year, and one of the main areas of transformation has been how I feel about myself on the inside.
My whole adult life I've struggled with low self esteem and a pretty shitty relationship with myself. I thought I had to be an over-achieving straight A student in order to be successful, that I had to get the internships and the job and have the perfect life in order to measure up.
So no matter how much I accomplished I never felt like it was enough, because I immediately looked at the next goal. The ceiling became the floor. There was always more to do, to accomplish, to earn, to achieve, and through it all I never truly gave myself permission to be happy and feel good enough simply for being me, so I never felt like I was good enough.
My never-ending quest for self improvement obviously extended to my eating and my body. I always had 5 more pounds to lose. I was paranoid of gaining back the weight I lost in college, and always felt like I could be doing better with my eating. I felt guilty every time I caved for a bite of dessert because I blew my perfect eating day.
I discovered the 21 Day Fix and it helped me recognize proper portion sizes and learn how to eat a balanced diet to fuel my body, but I was still obsessed with the number on the scale. I was obsessed with having abs and a "good enough" before/after picture. There’s always internal pressure when you start to get into this mental trap and it's dangerous.
I always compared myself to other girls on Instagram, other before and after pictures, and always focused on the parts of myself I could criticize. I didn't allow myself to be happy and accept myself for who I was in the present moment, all I could focus on was what I could/should be doing better or changing....but I was by then a full time Beachbody coach with a mission of helping women like you gain confidence and learn how to love YOUR body.
I finally hit a point last spring where I realized I was being a huge hypocrite. How could I expect any of my beautiful clients to be happy and confident when I couldn't even love myself?
This past summer of 2015, I decided I had officially had enough. I was finally done with feeling like crap about my body no matter how much weight I lost or what my abs looked like. I was DONE with feeling guilty for eating something that wasn’t “approved” on my nutrition plan.
I’ve been working hard ever since to learn how to accept myself no matter what. It’s a long process but I know I’m worth the fight!
And you know what? It’s working! Yeah I still have bad days, but I’m realizing that my bad days are triggered by lack of sleep, feeling low energy, or something I can easily flip by getting out of the house for a walk, talking to a friend, working out, or switching tasks.
I've thrown out my scale and can go to weddings and eat and drink and celebrate with my friends without worrying about blowing my meal plan or sabotaging myself.
I think we all just want to feel at peace with ourselves instead of waging this constant never-ending war against the scale and the idea of “perfection” that’s imbued into our subconscious minds by society.
How to find peace with your body
Body image is almost 100% emotional.
The ironic and misleading thing is that our society places the solution to weight loss and healthy living in taking action and either DOING things (more exercise!), or removing things (less food!).
But it’s not about actions at all. Finding your version of healthy is not about what you eat or how often you work out.
Because you can lose 100 pounds and still feel like crap about your body. You can workout for 2 hours a day and still be unhealthy.
Finding peace with your body and developing a positive and healthy relationship with food is all about your MINDSET, and learning how to take ownership of your emotions.
Flipping your mindset is easier said than done, and actions still help. Here are some ways:
1. MAKE THE CHOICE that you’re done with feeling like crap about your body.
Yup, how we feel is in our control, and we’re never really trapped.
Think about it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, why? You probably need to take something off your plate or ask for help.
If you’re feeling guilty, did you actually do something morally or legally wrong? Probably not.
2. Trash the scale.
Seriously. Unless you're trying to lose weight for health reasons and need to check in with yourself every week or month to hold yourself accountable without attaching emotions to the number, you don't need the damn thing.
Put it this way: if you’re a recovering alcoholic, you probably wouldn’t walk into a bar, right? So if you’re addicted to the scale, you need to get it out of your life.
3. Be very aware of the messages you’re surrounding yourself with, both in real life and online.
Unfollow everyone on social media who has a negative effect on your energy. You might not even notice it...but if you’re scrolling throuh your Instagram or Facebook feed and feel a pang of jealousy, comparison, or start to judge or over-analyze your own choices and behaviors, RED FLAG!
If you have any toxic relationships, start spending less time with those people and find a community that shares your values.
4. Surround yourself with positivity and support.
The internet is THE BEST for this! There are lots of positive health and fitness communities out there you can connect with via social media, like Tone It Up, Blogilates, or Kayla Itsines, BUT be really careful that you don't become obsessed or start comparing yourself in a negative way.
I sometimes find that Instagram triggers my feelings of inadequacy, so I'm careful with who I follow (see #3) and have opened a private community on Facebook called Fit For Life for women who want to connect with like-minded soul sisters! Click here if you want to join us, just check the "Fit For Life" box and I'll add you to our group!
5. If you’re struggling with a negative relationship or disordered feelings about food, be careful with super structured or strict nutrition plans or rules.
Yes, this includes the 21 Day Fix, Paleo, Veganism, Whole30 the Tone It Up nutrition plan, or any other “plan” that involves restricting certain foods or may trigger you to feel guilty if you “slip up.” Work with a dietician or nutritionist or counselor if you need to, or just listen to your body and make your own rules!
(This is just my personal opinion...I'm not an RD or trained nutrition pro so take it or leave it!)
6. Add more strength training and weight lifting into your workout routine!
This has been HUGE for me. More posts coming :) Lifting heavy weights will help you boost your metabolism, allow you to eat more food (yay!), and re-shape your body.
Focus on quality of workouts over quantity. You don't need to exercise more than 30 minutes a day to get the benefits!
7. Most importantly, GET HELP.
If you’re constantly thinking about food, workouts or your body and it’s taking up the majority of your day or preventing you from fully enjoying social situations, this isn’t healthy...but you aren’t broken. You’re totally normal and you aren’t alone, you just need someone to hold space for you to process your shiz. Have an honest conversation with a friend or relative you trust, and seek out professional support if you feel like you need it, whether that’s working with a therapist, counselor, or coach.
Wanna chat? I'm always here :)
p.s. Here are some books and blogs that have really helped me along my own journey:
Amazing women who will help you gain confidence and a healthy relationship with food and yourself:
p.p.s. As a coach, I can help you get from where you are to where you want to be if you’re ready to take action, but I’m not a trained counselor and won’t be able to help you sort through deeper feelings or issues.
p.p.p.s. As an Amazon Affiliate, I do receive a teeny tiny kickback if you order books via my site!