Hi! This week I wanted to talk about something that is so crucial to both your physical and mental well being: self love. Self love is regard for one’s own well being and happiness. As someone who had little to no regard for my own well being and happiness for many years, I cannot stress enough how crucial self love is to becoming a healthy happy human being. I have found self love to be a topic that is either overlooked or misunderstood (no, self love and narcissism are not the same thing) so why not write about it. Many of these tips or suggestions will be eating disorder and recovery related, because I have found that specifically to be a time when people struggle with either creating or rediscovering love for one’s self, but I hope that other things here can also help a broader audience. I call them sorta simple because they are all extremely basic in theory, but often take many years and a lot of practice to perfect (I sure as hell still haven’t yet).
1.) Self love does not mean you have to love your body at all times. When I first started practicing self love, I believed that I wasn’t allowed to have bad days and felt massive amounts of guilt when I wasn’t body positive. I thought I had to embrace my cellulite and love my stretch marks ALL the time. Obviously this is the goal, but it is not realistic. Everyone has days where they just feel like shit. For me, when I’m on my period I get so bloated that I could pass as a woman who is at least in her 2nd trimester. Since the number of pimples on my face directly correlates with the amount of stress I’m under, I sometimes look like I should be on the before shot for a proactive add. I still love myself, both internally and externally on these days, but I (like most people) am a work in progress. I have learned that even my self-love and body positivity has its limits. Thankfully, bad days are opportunities for growth. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
2.) Going along with the whole bad days theme, please please keep in mind that the majority of what you see on social media is people portraying their best. The posing, lighting, flexing, editing, etc. No one is broadcasting pictures of their stomach rolls or unedited scars and blemishes (except for a growing number of body positive Instagram accounts which has been freaking amazing and inspiring to see). No one looks like they do in their Instagram pictures all the time. Comparison is typically not healthy, but especially comparison to an unattainable social media goal or a 10 times retouched model. This will cause you nothing but harm. Unfollow those fitspos, instafamous models or whoever else you see on your feed that makes you feel less than beautiful. Appreciate you- the real you.
3.) Stop body checking! Something very common in eating disorders and even something I’ve noticed in my friends who don’t have a history of disordered eating is the practice of body checking. Body checking is the obsessive habit of frequently weighing one’s self, looking in the mirror, pinching or drawing attention to what you consider to be “problem areas” or even asking friends for reassurance if you look fat. This may seem like a normal part of growing up in a society so fixated on appearance, but body checking is different in that is very frequent and heavily impacts your quality of life. For me, body checking came in regards to my stomach. After losing over 60 lbs from my eating disorder, I was terrified of gaining it back. So before I ate anything, I’d go to the bathroom and make sure I still had a flat stomach. During treatment, I even went to the bathroom after every meal to insure that I had not automatically gained all that weight back. Body checking was a safety net. It was a way to deal with the anxiety and guilt that came from the possibility of gaining weight.
The good news is that body checking can be overcome! There are many different ways to approach this but here’s what worked for me. First, spend one day simply noting how often you body check. I didn’t really realize that this was consuming so much of my time and my thoughts until my treatment team pointed out to me that no, it is not normal to have to check how your stomach looks in order to put anything into your mouth. After you’re aware of how often you actually check your body each day, you have to challenge that. Cut down. Go from 10 times a day, to 5, to 3, to 1. This will be hard, but before going to body check, ask yourself “is this behavior really beneficial to me?” or “realistically, can anything be drastically different from the last time I body checked?” The answer is always no. The whole idea of body checking probably sounds insane to people who have never experienced these type of body image issues, but for those of you who have, just know that there are so many more productive ways to spend your time and once you free yourself from this behavior it is truly a weight lifted off your shoulders.
4.) Embrace the bloat! Something very common during the beginning of recovery is edema, or massive water retention. It hurts, makes you look pregnant, makes you gain 10 pounds in a week (at least that’s what the scale told me) and makes you not want to keep going with recovery. I genuinely considered leaving treatment after 4 days because I mentally could not deal with how I looked or felt. Thankfully I didn’t, and I realized that the edema goes away, but during that time, it’s hard to keep that in mind. Don’t let this get you stuck. Edema means you are healing. Your body is trying to reverse the damage that’s been done. Step away from the scale, continue on your meal plan, put on a baggy shirt, and rest. Persevering through this is worth it.
Even now, at a healthy weight with a balanced diet, I still bloat. It’s so easy to get discouraged and want to restrict what you’re eating or not go out or not wear your favorite outfit because you feel bloated. But it’s important to remember that everyone bloats- literally everyone. Usually, it means your digesting- a bodily process that every normal person experiences. And remember that it always goes away. I will go to bed with a food baby that appears ready to be delivered and wake up with absolutely no remnants of it. Remind yourself to embrace the bloat.
(A 12 hour difference.. if you ever want pics of my food babies hmu)
5.) Finally, I just wanted to touch on exercise. It’s commonly thought that being body positive means being anti exercise but that is not true. Self love should come into play during exercise. The amount of times I’ve heard something along the lines of “I need to workout double tomorrow because I had a piece of cake today” or “I’ve been naughty and haven’t gone to the gym in a week,” is alarming. Exercise and food should never be linked with morality. Unless you maybe robbed a gym, the gym should never be associated with guilt. Self love means working out because you love your body. Appreciate your body and all it can do for you. Find what exercises you like. Set intentions for your workouts rather than requirements. Listen to your body. If you’re physically exhausted and you think you need a break, take one. It’s so easy in our go go go society to think that you must get everything out of every workout every single day. But please keep in mind that your body is a gift. It’s smart. It knows what’s best for you. Treat it as such. “Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate.”
Sorry this post was kind of all over the place. These were just the self love strategies/situations that I have found most relevant in my own life but if you have any more you’d like me to touch on, please let me know! Enjoy your snow day (if you live in the Northeast) and remember Love yourself first, because that’s who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with.