I recently volunteered to host a screening for a movie about women’s body image.
It started innocently enough; I heard about the movie; it sounded great! But it wasn’t being shown in general theaters. The only way to see it was if someone volunteered to host a screening. I hopped on to the web to see if it was showing anywhere locally, and it was, but it was a bit of a drive – which was a bummer. I didn’t want to do it.
So I got all mopey for about 2 minutes, until I decided that I could host a screening! I knew enough women around town who were interested in their health – why couldn’t I do it?!?
The movie Embrace is great! It covers a huge breadth of topics that all influence women’s body image – and the media, societal, and other messages that we receive about how we should look. It’s a great conversation starter & really kicks off the conversation & thought process that many women should be having about their bodies.
The other day, I ran across a picture from about 15 years ago. I was in the middle of my food restriction/calorie counting phase.
As I looked at the picture, I was reminded about how I felt about my body. It was the weekend that Gary & I got engaged. We had gone away for the weekend, and I specifically remember driving, looking down at my thighs, thinking how wide they looked. Fat.
For the entirety of when I was in food restriction and calorie counting phase, my stomach was the brunt of all of my disdain – it looked okay when I was standing, but when I sat down, I had rolls: areas where my stomach was creased.
Even when I was at my leanest – when I competed in a women’s figure bodybuilding competition, and saw veins in my abs, and had a 6 pack, I was so lean – I still had these creases when I sat down. I still wasn’t lean enough. My body wasn’t good enough.
For a week I ate unsalted nuts and double-boiled chicken to get rid of all the sodium in my body, and slowly tapered my water. And that wasn’t enough. I still wasn’t enough.
I look at that picture, and I feel sadness. I wish I could hug my former self, and tell her how amazing she is – how she is so much more than her weight and her body.
I know that I’m not alone among women who look at pictures of their former selves, and wonder, “Why was I so critical of myself? My body was AMAZING!”
This is a sentiment that I hear from my clients over and over again.
So, let’s take this sentiment a step further. We are going to age. If we look at all the pictures that we’ve taken of our younger selves with kindness and compassion, chances are that when we get older, we will look back on the pictures that we take today with kindness and compassion.
Can we start to see ourselves through the eyes of our future-self? Can we get rid of all the BS that seems to take up our brain power and focus on what’s important (what’s truly important)?
And I’m not saying that your health isn’t important. Quite the contrary. Your health is the utmost importance. You only get one body in this lifetime. It needs to get you safely into old age.
So, you need to treat your body well:
- Eat nutritious food
- Move it daily
- Give it proper recovery
One huge part of treating your body well, starts with treating it with respect, and learning to love it.
And I think that’s where people misunderstand the body acceptance movement. They think that being happy with your body equates that you eat donuts every day and don’t exercise. That we need to be shamed into improving ourselves.
Research continually demonstrates that the more we treat ourselves with compassion and understanding, that we will be better to ourselves. And when we love our bodies, and truly respect them, we do what our bodies need: exercise, nutrition, and recovery.
And so I think it all starts seeing ourselves through the lens of a compassionate friend: an older version of ourselves. Someone who knows what it is like to walk in our shoes. Someone who has all the history; someone who understands.
So, if we can start to view ourselves through the lens of our future self, and have love and compassion towards our bodies, maybe we can start to spend a lot less time fixated on how our bodies look, and more on what we are capable of.
Because we are capable: we are strong; we are smart; we are amazing women. We are not in competition with other women; we are only in competition with myself. And I no longer have time to think about the size of my thighs.
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