If you’re human, especially if you’re a female human, you’ve at least once in your life felt a pit in your stomach at the sight of your body. No matter how thin, muscular, bodacious, delicious, toned, round, hourglass, or exquisite our physique may be, we always seem to find a way to nit pick it. Genetically programmed, or conditioned by society – I’ll leave the reasoning up to the scientists – fact is: At some point in our lives we have experienced body issues.
Some of us it really haunts. Perfectionism leads to specific calorie counting and coordinating those macros as an almost part-time job. Disordered eating is on the rise. Ideally, I will argue, that it is due to the trends of society and social media (see this great related thesis summary here). Regardless of the reasoning, it’s rife. And I can only see it getting worse before it gets better.
Negative body image raised its ugly head when I was away and I experienced a profoundly significant shit feeling, one I haven’t had in a long time. I really sat with this feeling and let it overwhelm me. It kinda came outta no where!
It truly is breathtaking just how feelings of inadequacy are becoming such a norm these days. I hear things such as ‘all girls have body issues’, like it’s normal and there isn’t anything you can do about it. Just like the sun rises and falls, girls will hate their bodies – it’s just the way it is. Seriously!?!?!
How this has happened to our society really baffles me. It makes me sad. And it motivates me to help change this notion!
What surprised me while I was away was an impulsive reaction I had when Kosta made a comment about my quads not fitting into my denim shorts. His playful demeanour was shattered by my angry response because I was feeling inadequate. What he was really trying to say was that my quads were swole from the gym, which he finds so intriguing. What I perceived it as was: You are huge. Your legs are huge. You are inadequate. All because of my state of mind.
I deeply believe everybody’s body is beautiful, whatever shape or form. I will always be more impressed with what a body can do, than what it looks like. I’ve spent a lot of time learning to love my body, in light of all of its changes, so why a million miles from home did I feel so inadequate?
And here’s my realisation: I am feeling disconnected with my body’s purpose – the way it can move.
I realised how much of a profound affect CrossFit (generally Olympic lifting and strength training) has had on my view of my body. And without being able to move my body the way I love to, it has resulted in my reverting back to focusing on what my body looks like (something I feel I can control), because right now it can’t do too much (ha!).
Funny thing is, when I was away, I walked past this older lady on the last day. She stopped me from her room to tell me I look strong and have beautiful abs. She’d seen me at the pool and I should be proud of my body.
It really shunted me back to reality. This was a nice little wakeup call from the universe to remind me that I am beautiful, just the way I am. It only took a friendly reminder from a perfect stranger. I felt a heap of disappointed in myself, but I felt the need to share with you, because here I am being such an advocate for body-love, and I had these insanely incongruent feelings of negative self-worth – it happens to all of us! There will always be someone admiring you. Why can’t that person just be you?
We are all human. We have so many distractions; ebbing us to attend to them. It’s learning to ignore the frivolous thoughts, comparisons and feelings of scarcity. We are enough.
Ways to overcome body dissatisfaction? Here’s 5 steps…
+ Self-care. Number one. If you treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend, you’re halfway there. Though also, taking time out for yourself – meditation, getting your nails done, laughing ’til you cry, having a massage. Believing you are worthy of this delicious stuff.
+ Always choosing things out of love. Eat to fuel yourself and nourish your cells, workout to enjoy the movements and strengthen your body, study to engage in new knowledge. If we workout to get skinny, eat less in fear of becoming fat and study in fear of attaining a bad grade, we are always working from a negative space. Chase gains, always.
+ Move your body in a way that is meaningful for you. A way that you can see progress in strength gains (e.g. CrossFit) or flexibility/posture holds (e.g. yoga) or speedier times (e.g. marathons) or movement efficiencies (gymnastics). Goal-oriented and enjoyable movement will allow more flow, more endorphins, and be entirely more satisfying.
+ Don’t count shit. Macros, calories, weight. Life is short, an hour a day logging macros? I’d like to ask you what your goal is? If you want to compete as a bikini model, yeah this is probably a necessary component. You’re not? Why are you being so strict in your food intakes? How long can you keep this up? Is it really sustainable? Does it actually ensue happiness? (This is all coming from a reformed MyFitnessPal junkie, so I get it – I know why we do it, but unless you can convince yourself with an excellent why, I’d be more inclined to drop this habit).
+ Fake it ’til you make it. What is your favourite body part? Your back, your legs, your arms? Whatever it is try and foster the love for that area with every other area. Tell yourself you love your body. Fight the urge to be a negative nancy about the little dimple in your butt cheek that, I am telling you right now, no one gives two shits about – just you – I am more than 100% sure that the crew of people that surround you love you for a million other reasons than the fact that you do not have a dimple-less butt. Think about these reasons and purely focus on your awesomeness level in something else.
Loving your bod isn’t going to happen overnight. And, trust me, you’ll have days you feel shit. So friggin’ what! Don’t beat yourself up for having a bad day. We can’t feel on top of the world all of the time. But being okay with that is half the battle.
Body issues are complex creatures. Rarely are they purely driven from us not actually enjoying the state of our bodies. They are coming from an interplay of factors. Learning what your triggers are and learning to combat the triggers – rather than just signing an oath to love your body – can be a sure fire way boost that self-love, self-care and, your know what, your health and wellness will flourish!
My final realisation and endnote is that life is a journey of self-discovery and never-ending growth. Venturing out of the country, trying new foods, engaging in new friendships, indulging in continuous study, challenging yourself in new ways; all of these activities unite to allow us growth as an individual.
If we are too concerned about what we look like, what others think of us, or what is next on our to-do list – we miss it all. We miss the teachings, the discoveries, the insights. Try and look at the bigger picture in life and realise that the way your body looks is not going to impinge on your ability to enjoy a happy and fulfilled life. Perfect bodies don’t exist, and even if they did, they would not be a pre-requisite for living the high life, for being happy.
So, to finish, I’d like to say to you – take a step back and find gratitude for everything that exists in your life (even the shit bits, find a way to reframe them) and, just like you are a traveller everyday through life, engage in the world around you. ‘See’ the trees, ‘feel’ the wind, ‘hear’ the birds, ‘smell’ the grass – evoke your senses and love the simplicities of life. Be with nature and experience everything as it is.
One step at a time, we’ll all learn to love our bodies. Society doesn’t get to dictate the way we feel about ourselves. It’s up to us!
Do you have a story to share? When was the last time you felt inadequate and how did you overcome that? The more we share our stories, the more we learn from one another!