There's a thought process that some of us have, and that is that skinny equals happy. It's like the saying 'more isn't better, better is better,' skinny doesn't equal happy, happy equals happy.
Growing up, I always remember feeling "fat." I was a normal weight, but that's not how I felt at the time. Most of my friends were 'skinnier' than me when I was young. What I didn't realize, though, was that them being 'skinny' didn't make ME 'fat.'
I went on my first real 'diet' in middle school. Towards the end of high school, my dieting and workouts got extreme. I remember friends of mine voicing concern that I had lost a lot of weight. I brushed it off and no one ever pushed it. Looking back, my behaviors were very disordered, and I HAD lost a lot of weight. The funny thing (not funny at all) was I didn't think I had lost enough weight. I wasn't happy with my body and still thought of myself as fat.
When I started college, I was terrified of the 'freshman fifteen.' I didn't gain at first, but did eventually and I had a breakdown about it. I was still small, but I remember distinctly when the picture below was taken. I was horrified at how 'fat' I had gotten.
Things snowballed from there. I had been restricting myself for so long, I couldn't do it anymore. I gained 14 pants sizes quickly, and there was plenty of bingeing involved. I yo-yoed in weight again for another few years until I started listening to my body and learning about science-based health, nutrition and behavior change (instead of continuing to follow guru's and fad diets).
I hear so many women say that they thought they were fat until they looked back at pictures and realized they were NOT overweight. Many times, they wish to be that size again.
It's SO common to equate lean with happy. I wanted to share my story to illustrate that lean does not automatically equal happy. I was very small, and I was NOT happy with my body. It was never enough. Women tell me all the time that getting smaller didn't stop the negative thoughts about their bodies, it didn't fix anything. It wasn't until I made peace with body and started the process of loving it that I was able move on from the restrict, binge, hate, punish cycle.
As promised in this article, I wanted to make a list of actionable steps you can take to start the process of loving your body. And let me be clear, it is a process. This is just a list of action steps that worked for me and is no substitute for seeking professional help.
1. Start a self gratitude journal: List something you love and appreciate about yourself every day. Think of your favorite features, what your body allows you to DO, and what you have accomplished. Don't think just in terms of aesthetics, you will get the most benefit if you go deeper than that sometimes. We often don't appreciate our health until it's gone; thinking of things your body allows you to do can really put things into perspective. Appreciate your body. It's your vessel, and you only get one.
2. Take a selfie a day: I got this idea from Healthy For 100. Take a selfie and instead of picking apart things you don't like, challenge yourself to find 3 things you DO like. Repeat daily.
3. Ditch your scale: Have you ever felt really great about your body and lifestyle, only to get on the scale thinking you've lost weight but you didn't? Did you get discouraged and tell yourself you need to go on a diet, pronto?! If so, you may want to ditch the scale!
4. Change your internal dialogue: Would you say it to your best friend, sister, or child? If not, don't say it to yourself. Start to pay attention whenever you talk negatively to yourself, acknowledge it, and stop it mid thought. Have you seen this video? It's in French but it's worth reading the subtitles!
5. Social media purge: Go through your social media accounts and get rid of anything that makes you feel bad about yourself. Fill your feed with uplifting pages!
6. Pamper yourself: You deserve beautiful clothes, hair, makeup, whatever, NOW, not 20 pounds from now! Get some clothes that fit and that you feel great in. Get that new haircut and color you've been wanting. Do your hair and makeup just because. This can give you an instant boost, and you deserve it!
7. Get moving: Being active with something you enjoy FEELS good, and studies show that it helps your body image even if you aren't doing anything significant enough to change your body. (Source)
8. Praise instead of compare: "Comparison is the thief of joy," said Theodore Roosevelt. If you see someone you would normally feel jealous of, commend them (even just to yourself). "Wow, she looks great!" It feels better then secretly hating her, trust me.
9. Be More, Not Less: Focus on what you can DO! Pick a performance or strength goal to work towards instead of something aesthetic. It's such a breath of fresh air!
10. Think about how you'd want your kids to see themselves when they grow up: Look at yourself that way.
11. Look at what REAL people look like: Stop fawning over models in magazines that are photo shopped, not even the actual models look that way in real life. Here are some great photos of REAL people!
The Fourth Trimester Bodies Project
Don't try to do ALL of these at once, pick one that resonates with you and start there!
Want more? Join the Moms Done Dieting Movement on Facebook!
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.