In today’s post I’m going to share the final part of my body image healing story. In the first post, I wrote about my childhood body insecurities and in the second post, I wrote about how in late high school and university I reached the peak of my body image struggle. I was orthorexic (health-obsessed), really hated my body and was battling low self-worth because of it. To finish off this mini-series, I want to share with you how I overcame this lifelong struggle and finally reached a place of absolute peace and contentment with my body.
true healing comes from within
After about a year of going through the absolute most with clean eating, exercise obsession, and being in the worst place I’d ever been with my body and self-esteem, I knew that something had to change. It was a similar knowing that I’d had after suffering in silence for about one and a half years through depression and anxiety. I knew that if I didn’t make a change things would end terribly for me. The struggle with food and body image is undoubtedly a life-destroyer. If I didn’t let go of the pursuit of reaching perfect thinness and leanness, I would have lost my life (not necessarily literally but in the sense that everything good in my life would have been overshadowed by this mirage). So, the first step for me was reaching that critical realisation that I had more to live for than what I had been going through.
practical steps i took to heal
Following on from that realisation, I decided to quit the diet and exercise plans that I had been following. I knew that continuing on that path would only keep bringing up those feelings and the mindset that my body was not enough and needed to be fixed. But I still believed in the importance of taking care of my body, so I decided to change my approach to health and fitness. I decided to allow myself to have more fun with working and choose what I would actually enjoy that day instead of forcing myself to do workouts that were so hard and joyless all the time. I also decided to listen to my body and eat as much food as I needed to be satisfied and feel happy. Another thing that really helped me was getting professional help - I found a food therapist through my GP at the time. This relationship really helped to see how my perfectionism was driving my need to eat perfectly all the time. Gradually she helped me learn how to nourish myself whilst still enjoying food.
the key mindset shift: I have a body but, I am not my body
The most important thing that changed my experience was the mindset shift I'm about to share with you. Someday I realised that the reason I felt so terrible about myself was that I had conflated my body with myself (or who I am). I have a body, but I am not my body. I am a spirit in a human body. And just to clarify, I’m a Christian so that’s where I’m coming from here. In hindsight, I can see that I had over-identified with my body to the point that that’s what I believed I was. Yet, our bodies are just our houses while we’re here on earth and by no means an indication of who we are or a measure of our worth. Honestly, this was the realisation that changed everything for me. From this point on, I knew that no matter how I felt about my body, I could still feel good about myself. My feelings about myself and my body could be separate. If you’re able to start thinking in this way, painful thoughts and feelings about your body will have less power over you.
In the next post, I’ll talk about something really important: the difference between body acceptance and body love. This is something really important to understand because the world (social media and pretty much everything else online) creates the impression that making peace with your body means loving your body means you’ll be absolutely in love with yourself - which isn’t true and can actually be a harmful message. Make sure to sign up to my newsletter below so you’re notified about new blog posts.