I’ve always been pretty thin – but I was very aware of my body and weight growing up. When I reached my late teens and early 20s, I struggled on and off with bulimia. It had nothing to do with my weight but more to do with emotional turmoil, uncomfortable feelings and all the things that also fed my addiction, which was starting around that time. I used my eating disorder to numb whatever I didn’t want to feel. I was so thin – but there times I would get obsessed with losing more weight. I realized that it had more to do with how I was feeling inside than how I was looking on the outside. Once I established a foundation in sobriety, my bulimia went away. For me, it was eradicated when I got active in my substance abuse recovery and started to deal with the underlying emotions I’ve been trying to numb over the years through therapy. So this is how I see it: no inner turmoil, no desire to harm myself.
2 years into sobriety, I started to feel uncomfortable in my body when my body started to hold onto more weight. So my wellness journey started with a BBG account on IG. Back then, I had no idea what health was. I thought health meant abs and that was all I wanted. BBG was great for that – but I didn’t know how to eat. I’ve always been a pretty healthy eater but restricting my diet and tracking macros emphasized my cravings and messed with my hunger cues. I got it in my head that I would be truly happy once I looked a certain way. There was such an emphasis on “after” photos and tracking your progress in the BBG community that I became obsessed. I found that by tracking macros and having all of my meals planned out, I wasn’t thinking about food all the time anymore – but tracking macros didn’t account for things like hormone fluctuations, stress, sleep, etc. I realized that it’s not far to tell our bodies that we only need a certain amount of calories every day so that’s what we’re gonna get. I had no energy and I was constantly thinking about food and exercise. I was basically learning to not trust my body – and nothing good can come from that. It took me hitting rock bottom to start making life changes and practicing acceptance.
I started seeing a functional nutritionist, who help improve my gut health, tweaked my diet so I can eat more nutritiously and limited some common irritants from my diet like eggs, legumes, refined sugar, gluten and dairy. I started taking supplements and scaling back from exercise.
This is when everything began to change. I started to learn how interconnected our bodies are – and that it’s so much more complicated than energy in, energy out. I started to look at it more holistically and learned how to use food as fuel and nourishment and how to relieve stress from my mind and body. I slowly started to accept my body for what it did for me and not just what it looked like. When we do things from a place of self-loathing, we aren’t going to suddenly love ourselves when our efforts produce a certain result. We’re just going to continue to loath ourselves and find new things to hate. It was only when I started to heal and nurture my body that I started to see it for what it was, all it was going through and what it could do. When our intentions come from a good place, lifestyle changes become more sustainable and we’re more likely to see favorable results. I realized that what we see in the mirror is usually a reflection of how we feel inside.
The real work is on the inside – and when we focus on that and take actions to nurture and support ourselves, physical changes usually start to follow. That’s been my approach for the last year and a half. Now I eat whatever I want whenever I want besides gluten, dairy and refined sugar. By learning to trust my body, I started to love my body and vice versa. It can be hard to go from self-hate to self-love – but starting in a neutral place can make it feel more manageable. Here’s how I did it:
- Started a gratitude journal
- Said gratitudes in the morning in the mirror
- Incorporated TM meditation in my daily routine
- Started practicing gentle movements like daily walks and pilates
- Listened to my body and energy levels
- Found fulfillment in other areas of my life
- Started a food journal (writing what you eat and how it made you feel)
My body looks different than it did at my thinnest. I’m still thin because of my genetics, but I’m softer and that’s OK. I stopped thinking about how it looks and more about how it feels. Since I like myself for things that have nothing to do with my body and how I look, I like how I look. I’ve had to learn that my body is not out to get me. My body knows what I need and it’ll tell me exactly what it needs when it needs it. This is how I shifted my rigid mindset to a more intuitive one:
- Used food as fuel, enjoyment and nourishment rather than an emotional crutch or something to fear
- Learned how to appreciate food the more I cooked for myself and my loved ones (like this veganized spaghetti squash carbonara that reminds me of my childhood or these blueberry orange muffins that my husband loves!)
- Learned to recognize and appreciate my hunger cues and stop suppressing my hunger
- Became more disciplined with who I follow and what I see on social media
- Stopped sitting with unhappiness and negativity and turned things like food into something I enjoy (like nourishing my body by eating good foods, making healthier versions of foods I’m craving and moving in ways that feel good!)
- Realized that the idea of what our bodies should look like might not be what our bodies actually want to look like
It’s important to note that when it comes to learning how to love and trust your body, there’s nothing wrong with trial and error. When it comes to binge eating and portion control, I’ve learned that eating with no distractions, eating slowly and consciously chewing my food works best for me. When you do this rather than mindlessly and distractedly eating your meals, you’re helping your body better register what it’s eating and giving yourself a chance to feel full. Another example is that I used to not eat carbs after the morning – but I learned that when I eat carbs at dinner, I’m more full and satisfied and I don’t have any cravings for late-night snacks. Remember to find what works best for you!
How have you learned to love and trust your body? I’d love to hear your favorite self-love and body positivity tips.