Oh, Dahlings. While I do not want to overwhelm you, I must warn you this is a lengthy article. And I believe it is best to share this article in two parts. So today, I am sharing part one of “Start a Love Affair with your Body.” And I will share part two in a few weeks.
I have never had a terrible or negative relationship with my body. Of course, I did not love all of it—I wanted larger breasts at one point. But I adored my body; I loved to dress it with appreciation. And I enjoyed the sensuality with which I applied body lotion. I loved how I cleansed it in the shower and danced naked in the mirrors. And I greatly admired the strength in my hips, buttocks, and legs. So while my body has never been perfect, I have had a fabulous love affair with my body for a long time.
I have never fad dieted, yoyo dieted, thought of my body as disgusting, or hated it, and I still do not. But I recognized that my relationship with my body has changed—it is different. And my body has also changed.
I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life, and while I do not hate my body. I sometimes wish it looked different or like it did before in some ways. It took me a while, but when I first noticed the change in the relationship, I felt guilty for the way I was thinking about my body. I felt guilty for the negative thoughts and comments I made in the mirror toward my once adored body. One always thinks one is alone in a situation. And I was no different, but as I started researching, I was indeed not alone. Research shows that 84 percent of American women experience body dissatisfaction in their lifetime.
I drove myself insane, trying to figure out when this began and how I could resolve it quickly. As human beings, we dislike discomfort and often look for quick fixes to get us back to our comfort zone. I soon realized learning to love and appreciate my body is not an easy task. And it is not something I can quickly fix. I needed to remain uncomfortable and deal with everything I was feeling.
I started to immerse myself in the body positivity movement on the internet. The movement screams to every woman, “just love your body.” But unfortunately, there are flaws in that concept [hello toxic positivity]; it is not as simple as they make it seem. If you are dissatisfied with your body, those things will likely trigger you. Some days, you will not love your body, whether it is how it looks, feels, or behaves. Developing a more positive relationship with your body and going from “I hate my body” to “I wish my body looked like this or that” takes time and effort.
Some days I look at my body in the mirror, and I smile with gratitude for my legs because they take me from point A to B. While on other days, I tell those same legs how fat or big I think they are.
To start a love affair with your body, rebuild a relationship, and redefine or develop a loving and respectful relationship with your body takes grace, kindness, compassion, and consistent steps.
I am on a health and fitness journey of my own. I am learning many things on this journey, but sometimes I struggle to apply them. And maybe your relationship with your body is better than the one I have with mine. Or perhaps it is far worse. Either way, we are in this together. And if you can take away only one thing from this article, I would have done something right by sharing my story.
Today I will introduce you to five of ten small and solid ways to begin this beautiful journey of starting a love affair with your body.
And in a few weeks, I will complete this article with the final five. So buckle up; there is work to be done.
Drowned out the naysayers and set firm boundaries
I have learned that hurtful experiences can bleed into all areas of our lives, including weight. And harmful and painful words, criticisms, and judgment can cause a lot of damage to the relationship we have with ourselves. Sometimes, we internationalize feelings which can lead to eating more or less or become the driving force to developing a negative relationship with food. While in other cases, we externalize our feeling. When we externalize our emotions, we display bouts of anger and lash out at those who have hurt us. But in both cases, our experience can cause us to react with feelings of self-loathing, embarrassment, and shame.
As I worked through the noise, I remember three distinctive situations that have contributed to my changed relationship with my body.
- The first incident occurred after I took a picture with a few friends. When I saw the image, I looked decent but commented I should have done something with my hands. Two of my friends looked at each other and made facial expressions that caused me to question them, but they both said it was nothing. The entire interaction felt insincere, but I did not give it much thought at the time and let it go.
- The second one happened when one of my friends was visiting me. And as we discussed our goals for the remainder of the year, I mentioned one of mine was to create an exercise routine for 40 minutes a day five times a week. She responded, “I did not want to say anything, but you have gotten so fat.” I forced a smile to hide the shock I had experienced. Later that night, as I stood in front of the mirror, I smiled as I blinked the tears away, questioning how I allowed myself to get where I was.
- The third occurred while I had a completely different discussion with another friend on the phone. I do not remember the entire conversation. But I remembered this statement: “you just keep getting fatter and fatter every day, do you not see that?” Even as I write this, I can not remember my response. But I remember the drive home. I was crying, and I felt so ashamed.
As I reflect on those situations, I realize three things.
- All three of my friends responded or reacted from their insecurities. While their weight was not the source of insecurity at that moment, they each had other insecurities.
- The best thing I did was to brush it off. In the first situation, I brushed it off without a thought. But in the other two, my first instinct was to reward both of my friends with insults. But I did not. I did not give them the power to control my image. Yes, it was painful, but I did not provide them with the satisfaction of making me feel worse than I already did.
- My friends and possibly others think I am fat. And the insensitivity and blatant unkindness anger me because of my experience and when I see others experiencing this. But what I did was allow it to be the fuel that motivates me to make healthy changes.
I had to get honest with myself and come face to face with the reasons for my weight gain in the first place. I am not an unhealthy eater and do not overeat or indulge in fast food. But I do undereat [not intentionally], I have not slept for more than three hours a night in over five years, I am constantly too tired to workout, and I can be lazy at times, allowing stress to control my life.
It was essential to find the root of the problem and understand it—visits with my P. C. P. was also helpful. I was able to know how under-eating or forgetting to eat was harming my body. Admitting my part in this, accepting where I am, and knowing it is not healthy [for me] to remain here took me to a new level. I have to fix it for me, not for anyone else, and not to be accepted.
While working on developing a positive relationship with your body, you may encounter insensitivity and unkindness. Hushing the naysayers is only a part of it, but you must also set boundaries to deal with the negative comments and unsolicited advice. We often shy away from the word boundaries because setting boundaries may appear aggressive or confrontational. But allow boundaries to serve as a sort of protection. Protecting you from compromising your values, needs, wants, and goals. Like everything, boundaries change and shift over time, and you can set different ones for different people. Here is an article on what it means to set boundaries. And here are five tips I used to begin setting boundaries.
- Be firm and do not apologize.
- Do not expect to be an expert in setting boundaries. It takes time.
- Know that you are worthy of kindness, compassion, and empathy.
- Define your limits
- Decide what you are comfortable with at the moment with specific individuals.
Some people may not be okay with your boundaries, and that is okay. They do not need to be. The only person that needs to be okay with your boundaries is you.
Change is hard but acknowledging that you want change is half the battle. So the time is now, even if you are embarrassed or ashamed of where your body is right now. Say it quietly or aloud to yourself “I have a negative relationship with my body, and I want to begin a love affair with my body, a positive and healthy one, filled with love and appreciation because I deserve it.
Your body does so much for you—I still feel guilty for every negative thought I have about my body. My body has been so good to me in so many ways. The time to start a love affair with your body is now. Do not just say it. Mean it and commit to it.
Some days I look in the mirror, and my body does not look as fabulous as it is. But I know how good my body has been to me [and still is], and I want to live a whole life as I journey towards health.
Most research says you should know your “WHY” when you set a goal or commit to something. So I took some time to figure out my why. Why did I want my body to look different or the same as it did in some ways before? At first, only the vain reasons surfaced. I want to look better in my clothes and look better, period.
I read somewhere a while ago that women often believe that if they look different [better], other people will like, love, accept, and value them more. Sadly that is a myth. People are unkind or can be, so even if you look gorgeous and fabulous, you will not be loved, respected, or appreciated any more than you do now. Instead, others will find something wrong with you.
You have to accept yourself as you are now and see that your worth and value are not gift-wrapped and tied with a bow by looking a certain way.
My beautiful Queen, you are valuable regardless of age, size, or color. You are enough and worthy if you weigh 115lbs or 215lbs. You deserve [we all do] to be loved, respected, and valued regardless of how you look.
I know it may sound like a Cliché, but happiness, peace, and self-love come from within you. So let go of the idea that you are not lovable or wanted if you do not look a certain way.
Picture this Sicily 1945 [Golden Girls] but seriously, imagine you are at your dream weight and as fabulous as ever. Yet, can you still not feel sad, lonely, rejected, and unworthy? Understand and accept that looking a certain way will not make you happy and will never meet society’s beauty standards [someone will find something wrong with you].
An Instagram Post
There is an Instagram post by a young lady named Michelle; she was denied the opportunity to work with her favorite lingerie brand. She is a mom, and her Instagram handle is @michobabyy. I found the Instagram post interesting and wanted to share it; a brand refused to work with her because her body was deemed flawed. At the same time, the company’s target market includes mothers who possibly have stretch marks, scars from a C-section, and other perfect imperfections.
I love her message. I agree with what she said, which is why there is a need to normalize all body shapes and sizes. However, if we start a love affair with our bodies and fall madly in love, the internet will not determine our value; we will.
Join me, figure out your WHY, and commit to accepting and loving your body.
I want to live a long life, and I need to be healthy to live a whole and long life. I also have a gorgeous 21 months old grandson, and I want to be healthy, so I can live to see him grow into a man. He is super active, and I want to keep up with him so I can enjoy time with him now. And I want to look fabulous naked and in my clothes.
Ditch the Judgement
As women, we can be crude and unkind to each other. I am not proud that I have judged other women’s bodies; I have even called some women fat, which had nothing to do with her. Of course, I was angry and hurt, but that does not excuse my behavior.
Do not criticize another woman’s body [do not criticize anyone’s body]. And do not measure another woman’s value based on her body size. Whatever you say and think of another woman [or anyone as a matter of fact] affects you first. You deserve to be loved and accepted 100 percent exactly the way you look, and so does everybody else. So let us normalize not judging the bodies of others.
To Love your Body is to Know your Body
I am sure you have heard “your body talks to you.” There is great truth in that statement: your body has its language, and once you learn your body’s language [not body language], you will hear what it is trying to tell you. In essence, our bodies are the physical expression of our emotions. You can better understand your body’s language when you slow down and get still. As a result, you develop a deep kindness and compassion towards your body. We get to the part where we no longer equate our self-worth with our bodies.
I had completely lost touch with my body. I did not realize it. All these years, I felt something was off. But I did not know what it was and did not take the time to figure out what was wrong. I was busy being busy. We rarely realize when we disconnect from ourselves until it has gone too far. And that is why it is so important to check in with yourself. I can not express how valuable it is to check in.
I am working on being in touch with my body more; it is not easy sometimes and frustrating. But I take the time most days to listen to what makes my body feel good. For example, I try not to forget to eat, and when my body says rest, I stop and I rest because I know it will help me to feel better.
The disconnection I experienced happened over several years and for many reasons. I had several surgeries due to stage IV endometriosis, a cancer scare, more surgeries, struggles with infertility, and the removal of my appendix, right ovary, and tube.
My body has been through a lot. I did not feel whole because the doctor removed bits and pieces of my body with every surgery. I felt empty and often thought I had fallen short as a woman. To cope with the changes, I kept going neglecting myself. I did not realize it until I started the journey of rediscovering myself. I was desensitized, disconnected, and distract from anything that had to do with me. There was no love for myself. I did not feel strong, sensual, sexy, or sexual. My needs and wants were nonexistent. I was utterly lost, all while thinking I was okay.
I found ways of coping with all that my body has gone through. During those experiences, many of which were extremely painful. I did not take the time to grieve the parts of me I had lost, the parts that felt broken and unlovable. And I did not take the time to feel emotions that were part of my experiences. The sad part is that I did not understand this during those experiences. I do not, and I am intentional.
I now understand how you can lose bits and pieces of yourselves. And you do this while telling yourself you are okay and showing the world you got this. You [or me] do not have it all together. None of us do, regardless of what face we offer the world. But, we are all figuring it out, and we will continue to until the day we are no more. The goal, I believe, is to journey through life with kindness and awareness. Be kind to others because you do not know their struggles, and be kind to yourself because you can not afford not to be.
A few months ago, I was listening to “Empowering Women” on Audible [or you can read “Embrace Your Power” on Kindle]; both books are the same but have different titles, and Louise Hay wrote them. She asked, “how many of us can say we love our rectum?” I have never thought about how that little area we do not often think about does such a big job for us. Body gratitude is about appreciating your body and not judging it against how others look.
“Begin by being tender and loving to you. Let your body and your heart experience what love feels like. Then, treat yourself the way you want a lover to treat you.”
This part has been a game changer for me. I feel less tired and calmer, and I feel confident in my ability to take care of myself and capable enough to work on getting healthier.
The point is to accept, be grateful, and appreciate your body; it is a tall order even on your best days. It is easy to blame our bodies for their appearance and what they can and can not do. But remember, your body takes you through your days without complaining; it is there for you and capable of much. It does things for you without you thinking or asking.
I will end here but remember to visit for part two. Until then, here is a mini exercise for you. Write a list of ten that you like and appreciate about your body. Only write what feels good; if something negative comes up, cross it off and write something positive. This exercise is about you, list what you want, and there is no right or wrong way to do it.