RheasOfHope

one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

When you write for ERC February 17, 2018

For those who may not know, I write for Eating Recovery Center’s blog occasionally. This post was originally published on ERC’s blog in November, and I’m reposting it here because I think it’s worthy enough to be included on my own blog.

 

7 Ways to Accept Your Body in a Society That May Not

I look away from the book I am reading aloud to my class as I feel a tiny, toddler hand creep into my lap. I lock eyes with the hand’s owner as she moves it to my stomach.

“You must have a big baby in your belly Miss King,” she states with confidence. My heart skids to a halt, and my students — even the ones who had, up to this point, not been paying attention — all stop to look at me, mouths agape.

 

This, my friends, is recovery.

 

“Your mommy is having a baby, isn’t she, Brooke?” I inquire even though I already know the answer.

She nods proudly, “Nobember firteenv.”

“That’s exciting! I have a little sister too. I have to tell you something though. I don’t have a baby in my belly,” I tell her, while I wonder if the lecture I feel in my soul is appropriate for my toddlers. “Sometimes people have different shaped bellies, and that’s ok. Just like you and I have different hair color, or like how Patrick and Amara don’t have the same eye color, sometimes bellies are different too…and that is the amazing thing about our bodies. We are all different and we are all loved—not because of how we look, but because of who we are.”

“So: no baby?” she questions, sadly.

“No baby; just belly” I answer and return to my book.

 

Prior to my recovery from twenty-one years of eating disorders, that interaction with a two-year old would have set off a cascade of self-loathing and an incalculable amount of time spent engaging in behaviors.

 

My eating disorder would have used the sweetness of a toddler as warped rationale for its continued control over my life.

 

But how did I get here? How did I get to the point where I could brush off her comment without spiraling back into my eating disorder?

 

I did not suddenly wake up one morning — fully recovered — thinking, “You know what? I really love and admire everything about my body today.”

 

Recovery has been a gradual, ongoing process — as I practice accepting my body and appreciating its aesthetics and function.

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking of things I do that help me love and accept my body — in this very moment — in a world that is constantly conspiring to do the opposite.

 

I know I’m not alone in having to learn how to accept and appreciate my body. Here are some suggestions for you to consider that may help you learn to love and accept your body, too:

 

1. Celebrate your body.
We can learn how to celebrate our bodies for all that they are and all that they do. It may sound and feel trite, awkward, or downright uncomfortable at first — I know it did for me — but celebrating our bodies is the first step towards accepting our bodies. Our bodies are more than their ability to gain and lose weight, more than their ability to contort into the current fleeting beauty-ideal, and more than their ability to conform to society’s impossibly narrow standards. Our bodies swim, nap, canoe, run, watch marathon-length Netflix sessions, play video games, and more — they should be celebrated for what they do — not berated for how they appear.

 

2. Think positively, as much as possible.
Consciously counter every negative comment you think about your body with a positive comment. When you have lived with an eating disorder, negative comments about your body are in generous supply. In fact, it is likely easier for us to generate negative body comments than positive ones — which is why countering these statements is so crucial. For every disparaging thought you have about your body, take a moment to reflect on your body’s myriad positive aspects. One way in which to counter negative body thoughts is to write a letter of gratitude to your body — sure it sounds weird, but it will be worth it. Writing a gratitude letter challenges you to highlight the breathtaking attributes that make you, you. When we focus on what our body does for us — how it aids us in living our lives—we are able to more effectively block out the negativity.

 

3. Be mindful with clothing.
Wear an article of clothing that makes you feel great, regardless of how you feel others may perceive you. In a world of “what not to wear” and “fashion police,” it is hard to feel comfortable in certain articles of clothing — especially with that added fear that someone may comment on your clothing. No matter how much you may like a piece of clothing, the ever-present fear of someone negatively commenting on your body will likely keep you from expressing your true self — I know I feel that way at times.

 

4. Focus on character — not appearances.
Compliment yourself and others on their character, not their body or appearance. All too often we’re greeted with, “You look so good. Did you lose weight?” Does that mean that, in order to look “good,” a person has to lose weight? Does it mean that they looked “bad” the last time you saw them? Does it mean that you’re only “good” if you lose weight? NO! Our bodies have absolutely no bearing on our worth as individuals — none. When we focus so intently on our perceived flaws, we will never be able to see the phenomenal aspects of our bodies or our character. By actively pointing the remarkable traits that are possessed by both ourselves and others, we are able to decrease the emphasize on body and appearance.

 

5. Respect yourself.
Respect your body’s needs: if it wants to move, move; if your body wants to rest, rest; if it wants to eat, eat; if it wants a massage, get a massage. It’s your body and you know its needs better than anyone else. Having needs is not a weakness — though society will actively work to convince you otherwise. Denying ourselves of our needs is not the strength we are lead to believe that it is. In addition, an eating disorder will actively work to persuade us that either 1) we have no needs or 2) we must ignore our needs. I’m here to say that all bodies have needs. A majority of recovery is recognizing what our body’s current needs are, and then effectively meeting them as a means to support and care for our bodies.

 

6. Become an activist.
We can spread body positivity by participating in body activism projects. I’ve joined myriad body positive groups on Facebook while simultaneously blocking “friends” who consistently post body-negative updates. In the grocery store, I turn around books and magazines that objectify bodies by promoting beauty ideals or the latest fad diets. If people can’t see them, they can’t buy them or fall victim to their propaganda. The diet industry makes over $60 billion annually by convincing us that something is so fundamentally flawed and wrong about us that we can only “fix’’ it by losing weight. But there is no “wrong” body. All bodies are good bodies, and we need not “fix” our bodies in order to be loved.

 

7. Believe that you are worthy.
I leave you with this: appreciate your body. It is all yours and you get only one. Your body is a masterpiece of creation, and there is no other body out there like yours —none. When the world seeks to mold you to fit their idea of worthiness–their narrow and impossible view of perfection — you sacrifice all the amazing attributes that make you unique and loved. We do not gain worthiness by conforming to the ways of others — giving up our true selves. Each time we strive to achieve the trivial and fleeting definition of worthiness, we give up a piece of what makes us extraordinary. You will gain worthiness each time you stand up for who you really are, each time you’re your authentic self in the face of adversity, and each time you hold true to your values.

 

Live your life on your terms in your body, and appreciate all the wonderful things it does for you.

 

 

Rachel is a teacher (preschool by day and adolescent patients at Eating Recovery Center, Cincinnati, Ohio by night), photographer, auntie, and aspiring writer. She writes to share that full recovery from eating disorders is — not only possible — but the single most rewarding decision an individual can make.

 

 

1 Corinthians 10:31

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

 

 

Advertisements
 

When you’re inundated with body shame March 31, 2017

no wrong way

Two images stare back at me from my computer. The one on the left portrays a sad, frumpy larger version of the person—so sorrowful you can almost hear Sarah McLachlan in the background. The one on the right displays a happy, half-naked thinner version–who most certainly has an amazing life and personal jet by now. These images typically have many exasperating hashtags, list the number of pounds lost/goal weight, and describe how much they hate the person on the left. I don’t even know this person, and yet I’ve fallen victim to their expertly- curated Facebook life and their thin-ideal proselytism. These images awaken the demon of insecurity that lives deep within us, and stirs the spirit of body-shame.

These before and after transformation photos are meant to sharply juxtapose the fat, unhealthy version of that person with the thin, happy version. These photos prey on our insecurities, and desire to fit into the cultural thin-ideal. This pervasive thin-ideal convinces us that—when we attain the perfect body—we will gain health, wealth, love, and happiness. It impresses upon us the idea that the thinner body is a “good body” and the larger body is a “bad body”—and, through the transitive property of equality in mathematics, the person living in the “bad body” must also be “bad.” When presented with these transformation photos that perpetuate the thin-ideal, the culture of body-shaming and normalization of self-hatred is perpetuated ad nauseam. This perpetuation has a cost, however, and that cost is self-destruction, self-condemnation, and devaluation of those of us who do not fit the ideal.

Society criminalizes and fears fat at the same time—leading fat to become the last socially-acceptable form of discrimination. The prevalence of weight-based discrimination has increased 66% from 1995 to 2006 (NEDA). This is likely why 42% of girls in first through third grade want to be thinner (NEDA), and 81% of ten-year-olds have a fear of being fat (NEDA). This is also likely why the dieting industry rakes in $64 BILLION annually—outearning the wedding industry and the baby product industry. Society conditions us to second-guess any of the confidence we’ve developed about our bodies and question how someone—with our less-than-perfect body—can be accepted looking the hideous the way we do. How much we weigh, eat, exercise, etc. is nobody’s business but our own. Our bodies belong to us—not to social media, not your friends or family, not your doctor, no one. The phrase “Compare and despair” comes to mind—thank you Jenni Schaefer.

Here are the facts: THERE IS NO “PERFECT” BODY and YOUR BODY ISN’T SOMETHING TO BE “FIXED.” Contrary to what society shoves down our throat every minute of every day, there is no perfect body. Have you seen the lineup of female Olympic athletes from the various events throughout the years? Each of them represent the peak performance level of their sport, and yet every single one of them has a different body size and shape than the woman standing next to them. Not to be outdone, men from various nations recreated a similar photo. Health, like our bodies, comes in all shapes and sizes. Thin does not always represent a healthful body, just as fat does not always represent an unhealthful body. Health cannot be measured on a scale or through the flawed mathematics of body mass index.  While weight can certainly be an aspect of health, it is not a sole indicator. Health is also measured through mental and emotional wellbeing, effective relationships with others, meaningfully contributing to society, and myriad other aspects. There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic women

There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic Men

Remember, your weight does not make you any better or worse than anyone else. When we focus so intently on our perceived flaws, we will never be able to see the remarkable, astounding aspects of our bodies. There is more to life than food or weight—don’t let it become the central fixture around which your life revolves. The answer to our body and self-acceptance isn’t found in a fad diet, a new exercise trend, a pill, a cream, a tea, a detox regime, a cleanse, constricting shapewear, expensive exercise equipment, shakes, or anything else the diet industry/thin ideal perpetuators use a propaganda to convince you that you’re worthless while further lining their pockets with cash. As the amazing body-positivity activist Sarah Vance says, “Loving yourself isn’t going to come from changing your body.”

So how can we grow to love and accept our bodies—as they are in this very moment—in a world that is constantly conspiring to do the opposite? I’m no expert on body-positivity. In fact, I’m still working on it myself. What I can do, however, is recommend the celebration of a day of body love as a place at which to start. On this day, for every negative comment you say about your body, consciously counter is with a positive. Write a letter of gratitude to your body—sure it will be weird, and it will be worth it. Wear an article of clothing in which you feel great. Compliment yourself and others on their character, not their body or appearance. Respect your body’s needs: if it wants to move, move; if it wants to rest, rest; if it wants to eat, eat; if it wants a massage, get a damn massage. It’s your body and you know its needs better than anyone else. Having needs is not a weakness—though society will actively work to convince you otherwise—and denying ourselves of our needs is not the strength we are lead to believe that it is. I also recommend participating in some body activism projects. I’ve joined some body positive groups on Facebook, and blocked a TON of friends who consistently post body negative updates. I also turn around magazines that objectify bodies by promoting the thin-ideal—if people can’t see them, they can’t buy them or fall victim to their propaganda. If you’re feeling exceptionally brave, you can post body positive post-its on those magazines or on diet products. Be bold.

I leave you with this: appreciate your body, it is yours and you get only one. Your body is a masterpiece of creation and there is no other body out there like yours…none. Live your life on your terms in your body, and appreciate all the wonderful things it does for you.

 

 

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4