I haven’t dieted or tried to lose weight in over 6 years. That shows I’ve accepted by body, right?
As someone who’s spent 13 years battling food, desperately hating my body, and frantically trapped in the cycle of diet pills, restriction and binging, I consider myself to now be “normal” around food.
I spent years working to get to the place of sanity around eating and making peace with my body. I was really proud of myself. With all that behind me, I felt like I was “done”.
Since I had settled into my natural weight, I didn’t think about hating my stomach 24/7. I felt like one of those “normal” eaters. Plus, I had (finally) gotten to the place where I didn’t need 5 sizes in my closet and all my clothes fit season after season.
But exactly 2 years ago, that sense of security was completely shattered.
The moment when everything came crashing down
It was a beautiful day out and spring was just a few weeks away. I got my jean shorts out of my closet to try on. I’d been wearing them every summer for the last few years.
When I tried them on, I realized they were….tight. Very tight. As in, I-wouldn’t-wear-them-out-of-the-house-because-I-was-uncomfortable-tight.
I checked the shorts. Were these the ones I’d been wearing the last few years? They couldn’t be. I couldn’t have possibly gained weight, as I hadn’t changed a thing about my eating or exercise routine in years.
I took them off and put them back on. Still could barely get them over my legs. I was in a panic, analyzing my body from every angle in the mirror, wondering if this was all in my head or if it was real (I don’t weigh myself; I go by how I feel in my clothes).
Staring at my reflection, I horrified that my worst fear had come true: after years of finally reaching a stable body size, I had gained weight.
So, in a crazed state, I went on to try just about every single item in my closet to see if all my dresses, pants, jeans, shorts, and skirts fit. I was living my worst nightmare: all the progress I had made with my body-image and with my recovery seemed to be gone in an instant.
So, I laid on my bed sobbing to my significant other.
I thought I already accepted my body…
But this small instance made me into a tangled mess of emotions. On one hand I was furious that after years of being stable, my body had betrayed me. Yet, I was ashamed that I was still so attached to my size. And I was embarrassed because I teach other women in my coaching practice how to love themselves…and I felt like a hypocrite.
I was discouraged and disheartened; something was going on with my body and I didn’t know what.
This realization of weight gain was a big blow to me (well, to anyone who has struggled with body image issues), especially because I had maintained my weight for a number of years. I had worked hard to break free from my years of dieting and binging and spent a long time learning how to accept myself.
What struck me the most was that I thought I HAD accepted my body.
I’d spent years doing the work I needed to do to get to where I was, and I thought I had “arrived”. I thought I’d reached the place where I had finally loved and accepted myself.
But it felt like my world was falling apart; I couldn’t look in the mirror without desperately wishing I could just get back to the size I was a few months ago.
A love WITH bounds
When I finally calmed down and spent some time journaling, I realized my body acceptance was conditional. I actually hadn’t truly, deeply, and completely accepted my body. I only loved myself if I could fit into those jean shorts, because in my head, that was an “acceptable” size.
While I reflected on some of my emotions, I also began to explore into what was going on health wise. Because I’ve spent so much time working on my relationship with food, I’m very in tune with my body.
After some exploration and obsessive google-ing, I had a guess as to what was going on. Besides my jeans not fitting like they used to, I was having some other health-related red flags that I had been ignoring. I was exhausted all the time, stressed to the max, and relying on coffee to wake me up.
And not just like “oh I’m tired, I need coffee”, but a straight up “I MUST have a cup of coffee the instant I wake up or else I’m not functioning” kind of tired.
I had been working crazy hours, spending nights in anxiety, and worrying 24/7 about life/business things in my head. This feeling of being stressed and overwhelmed had been going on for months.
After some internet research and a visit to a naturopath, I was told I may have something going on with my adrenal glands.
And slowly but surely, I began to feel better. During this time, many old thoughts came back up. Thoughts that I swore I had given up a long time ago.
One of my best friends was doing a “no-carb” diet for her wedding and losing tons of weight. Sadly, I seriously considered it. My significant other was doing a cleanse and getting great results. I was tempted to jump in and do it with him. I obsessed over “healing fast” so my weight would rebalance itself.
And yet…2 years later, my weight has not returned to exactly what it was. And I’m working on accepting that.
But my BODY is healed. I have my energy back, I can exercise again, and I don’t need coffee the instant I wake up. And yet, I still struggle sometimes with the weight I’ve gained. No, it’s not a lot of weight. But it was enough to impact how my clothes fit, when I thought I was finally DONE buying different sizes every season.
I thought I had accepted my body completely – but I was wrong
It turned out I only accepted my body based on certain conditions. So now I take my body-acceptance journey deeper than I’ve gone before.
When old thoughts come up, I know a diet isn’t the solution. And when I compare my current body to my old self, I reassure myself that I am still me, no matter what my weight is. When I find myself yearning to “get back to where I was”, I lovingly tell myself that our bodies are always shifting and changing.
I remind myself that my body is healthy again. And isn’t that what’s most important?
I’ve already been down the road where I’ve obsessed over every morsel I put into my body. I spent years dieting, restricting and being addicted to diet pills-just so I could lose weight. I already know that I’m done with that part of my life.
My relationship to food is now normal. There’s no diet to go on, weight loss program to follow, or quick fix that I need to do. My work now is to go deeper in learning how to accept myself even more.
I believe that accepting our bodies is a life-long journey. Before this health struggle, I really thought that I was “done”. I didn’t need to work on my body image “stuff” anymore.
But I was wrong. I do have work to do. And I’ll always have work to do.
I may accept myself, but then my body changes again. Maybe I get pregnant and don’t lose the “baby weight”. Or my hormones shift. My metabolism slows down.
Our bodies are always changing; they are never static.
And I want to be okay with that. We live in a society where we’re told again and again that thinner is better.