“If I could just lose the weight… THEN I’d like myself.”
“If I just worked out more… THEN I’d feel good about my body.”
“If I could just eat fewer carbs… THEN I’d feel confident.”
“If I could get back to THAT body… I’d be happy.”
Hi. I love you. Please stop trying to substitute a different body for a healed heart.
I was flat ironing my hair in late 2014, deep in the throes of another detox/cleanse in the name of “breaking my sugar addiction.” I was physically wrecked from the cycles of my brain kicking me out, hiding in the basement and eating every carbohydrate in sight … then subsisting on kale and celery juice for several days to make up for it. I was feeling a little leaner because I was on a Standard Process Cleanse for the umpteenth time. I was miserable.
Then a thought slammed into me :
“What if I never lost another pound?
What if I was stuck in this body forever? Fuck. Oh god. I hate this body.
But what if I was in this body and never binged again?
Oh. I’d take that. 1,000 times over, I’d take *this* body and freedom from this sick cycle.
I‘d been operating for years on the assumption that if I could just get back to a thinner body, the insane abuse on my insides would stop. That day, I had a tiny, instantaneous glimmer of hope that maybe I could stop the abuse first, accept myself and just see what happened.
It only sort of worked.
I realized really quickly (in a somewhat cruel twist) that I had no idea what it was like to accept myself because – even in my thinner body – I had been abusing myself for whatever I could get my hands on. It was a complete unknown to look inward and think “You’re pretty amazing. Thanks for being here.”
So I faked it for a while.
I practiced loving-kindness meditation and stayed at the first circle (self) for a long time. I said the words over and over and over, even though I didn’t feel them most of the time. I spoke out about body positivity and ending self hatred, even though I still lifted my shirt when I was in the bathroom to pinch a roll and glare at my belly in the mirror. But there were moments. TINY spaces where it clicked. And my brain said “AH HA. THAT’S what that feels like. I get it now.”
I’m going to say this again in the hopes that it saves you some heartsickness and ache.
Quit trying to substitute a different body for a healed heart.
To be honest, being strong and wearing jeans you love feels pretty fucking awesome. But it won’t – in the long term – actually adjust your sense of self. You will never lose enough weight or gain enough muscle or look different enough to change how you truly, deeply feel about yourself and how you show up in the world.
Instead: try this. Close your eyes and imagine what it would feel like to love yourself the way you love your kids or someone else’s kids or if you don’t like kids, the way you love your pet. FEEL the deep affection and acceptance, and just apply it to yourself for one heartbeat. One breath. Give your brain a moment of something to hope and fight for.
I’ve been practicing this for about 5 years now. Five long years of I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU DID YOU HEAR ME I LOVE YOU AND I THINK I MEAN IT. And the other day, I spontaneously – in response to an idiotic mistake I’d made on a day when my pants felt way too small – said “Oh, gosh, I love you. It’s OK.”
It happens. You love yourself enough and one day you love yourself enough. I promise.
Keep doing the work. (And don’t forget to do your squats. Those are important too.)