I had a history of trying all sorts of diets, hoping to find the one that would save me.
That same pattern was found in my relationships with men.
The funny thing is: No matter which way I turned, I ended up at the same place in the end: with God.
Turns out, I did need to be saved. I needed to be rescued from danger. Ironically, it was I who was responsible for the harm caused unto me and in the end, I would need to be saved from myself.
I remember a friend telling me her relationship with food was the last wall that stood between her and God. After she got sober from everything else, this wall was the last one standing and the one she was most reluctant to let down. It’s because she knew God was on the other side waiting for her and once the wall was gone, she would have nowhere else to hide.
So in 2010, a week before Thanksgiving, I admitted I needed saving from myself. I prayed for God’s help in the midst of having a panic attack at the thought of going to a grocery store.
I spent the majority of my life hating my body. I compared myself to others. I abused myself by cutting, overdosing, binging, purging, starving, shaming, and using. I absorbed other people’s opinions of my body and made them my own. I cursed my body and God thinking God had made a mistake. It never occurred to me (until this week, actually) that perhaps there was no mistake made in my creation. Maybe my spirit and body were perfectly made for the other. Maybe it is safe to love my body. And maybe, just maybe, my story of self-love will evoke hope in others.
If I think about it, really think about it, my body has been my most faithful companion. After all, my body has been with me through it all. We’ve been to hell and back together. We’ve overcome strongholds and addictions. We’ve housed a soul and have given birth to a precious baby boy. We’ve grieved the loss of loved ones. We’ve danced and played and laughed and cried. We’ve even celebrated miracles and milestones. It’s about time I honor my body as my best friend.
It’s been a long journey to get to where I am and I am sure I have a ways to go, but I can honestly say with a smile on my face and peace in my heart that “I’m finally falling in love with this body I’m in.”
I want to share with you some wisdom I have gained in hopes that you will feel encouraged and supported in your own journey towards loving yourself.
1. Gauge your levels.
The foods you eat should nourish you and replenish your energy levels, NOT deplete them. Sugar and caffeine are quick ‘pick me ups’ but the lows are sure to follow. Try a juicy apple instead.
2. It’s not just about what you eat.
When do you eat? How much (or how little)? How often? Where do you eat and how do you feel before and after? (I could write a short book on this part alone) Try keeping a journal and monitoring your default patterns. Notice areas you want to improve and take action towards changing those behaviors.
3. Everybody’s body is different,
which is why some “diets” just don’t work for everyone. You could be lactose intolerant. You could have a gluten allergy. Your body might not be able to break down certain foods. You might be super sensitive to caffeine or alcohol. You and I are uniquely made and so our diets should be also.
4. Consider your heritage.
There are specific foods that you will benefit from eating based on your ancestry. Do your research. I learned that being of Irish descent, it is of great benefit to my body to consume fish since fishing villages were prominent throughout Ireland. You can also take it further back and research our diet of the paleolithic era (aka. paleo diet).
5. It’s not about NUMBERS.
The secret’s out: Scales aren’t the nicest friends. Have you ever felt great about your body only to find that as soon as you stepped on a scale that good feeling was quickly replaced with deep self-loathing? Your relationship with your body should not be contingent upon numbers especially when scales are not the most accurate indicators of your progress. People forget to consider water weight or muscle weight. They get an idea in their mind of what weight they “should” be and strive to get there. This is a really great way to hold yourself hostage and keep you from feeling joyful where you are, as you are. I say throw out the scale and be done with the fluctuation of numbers and moods! Let your emotions be your indicators. How might you feel being in your body without measuring it?
6. Open up and trust your body.
Everybody can have the relationship they want with their bodies. Once you start listening to your body and develop trust with yourself, you will be able to tell when you are actually hungry or when you are fully satisfied. Some of us eat even when our bodies are full because we learned as children it is a waste to waste food. Discard the scarcity mentality and tune in to what your body is telling you. Open the lines of communication and really listen to your inner self. You know more than anyone what is best for you.
7. Tend to your feelings.
Take care of your emotional health and enjoy your meals instead of making them your band-aids. Emotional hunger is more often than not confused for genuine appetite. I was a sucker for zoning out in front of the TV with a pint of ice cream because it was easier to do that than to sit with my feelings for 10 minutes. I felt uncomfortable feeling my feelings. What I came to find was that I eventually grew more uncomfortable with the repercussions of my decisions to gorge with ice cream than to just feel my emotions and let them pass. Feelings are not bad. In fact, they just want to be heard and felt and validated. If you eat them down, sleep them down, TV them down, or drink them down, they aren’t gone permanently. You still have to deal with them because they’ll pop up again sooner or later. Set a timer and give yourself 10 minutes to feel whatever you are feeling. Be fully present for yourself. Your emotions will pass and you will feel grateful in the long run. If after the 10 minutes, you feel like you need more time, reset the timer and give yourself another 10 minutes if you have it to spare. If not, tell your emotions you will give them another 10 minutes tomorrow and keep your word. You’d be amazed at how quickly your feelings pass once you give them the time of day.
8. Your body is your temple.
We are sacred and sentient beings. Though our spirits are eternal, our bodies are only here temporarily. It is important we honor our bodies and treasure them for as long as we have them to call them ‘home’. Respect your inner and outer selves by being conscious of what you eat, what you drink, what you think, what you say, even the people you surround yourself with.
9. Be patient with yourself.
Chances are you have spent most of your life in this battle within. You have a lot of chronic thoughts that you have accumulated through your years that are going to try to interfere with your progress. But have no fear: Progress is inevitable. You’ll see. Relax. You are right where you need to be. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes. Life is too short and you’re worth more than that. Habits usually don’t go away overnight. They also form with time. Give yourself a 30 day trial period when introducing anything new, as well as be sure to give yourself a 30 day grace period when breaking old habits.
10. Give yourself a fighting chance.
More often than not, we set ourselves up for failure by measuring ourselves by unrealistic (or unhealthy) expectations. It is so easy to kill our positive thinking by comparing. Since this is a natural inclination and we are bound to notice other people and other things, choose instead to focus on appreciation rather than turn to jealousy or envy. Remember, if you spot it, you GOT it. Look for ways to encourage yourself rather than tear yourself down. We are all uniquely and perfectly made. Appreciate your scars, birthmarks and qualities. The world needs you to be YOU.
11. Deflect your reflection.
How much time do we spend in front of the mirror criticizing ourselves? Step aside from the mirror on days you can’t find anything positive to celebrate about your body. A mirror only reflects what’s in front of it. So if you think negative thoughts about yourself most of the time, chances are, that will be what you notice when you are standing in front of a mirror. Refrain from looking in the mirror until you have the urge to see yourself as the beautiful creature that you are. Once you’re there, look into your eyes and tell yourself all the wonderful things you deserve to hear.
12. Give yourself positive feedback.
For every choice you make that is in alignment with your desire, pat yourself on the back. Find creative ways to “treat yourself” that are also healthy and do not lead you down a shame spiral. Tell yourself positive affirmations.
13. Try new things.
Get outside of your comfort zone. Protect yourself from getting bored, especially with your food. Buy some fruit you have never had. Borrow a recipe from a friend. Prepare a new (and slightly complicated) dish. Go for an early morning walk to invigorate yourself. Attend a yoga class. Jump out of a plane. Dance in the rain.
14. Make amends.
Once you make peace in your heart, you’ll feel lighter and free to be who you have always wanted to be. If your feelings are no longer eating at you, you’ll find less reason to eat your feelings. The most important amends to make is the one to YOU. Consider how many judgments and criticisms you have made against your body. Maybe you have even abused yourself or put yourself in harmful situations. How many negative comments are you carrying around in your head, in your heart? Go beyond saying “I’m sorry” and make a vow to love yourself from this day forward for as long as you live. You deserve to love the skin that you’re in.
15. Start now.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can start loving yourself right where you’re at. It doesn’t matter what you ate for lunch, you can choose a healthier dinner. Too many times we tell ourselves, “I will love myself when ______” and fill in the blanks with “I’m thinner”, “I’m smarter”, “I’m richer”, “I’m married”. Don’t hold out on giving yourself love until you reach some marker because you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Start right now because right now is the best time ever.
Buddha said it best: “You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”