Live HEALTHY and HAPPY. That is my new mantra. However, that has not always been the case…
Like many other women, I have felt, and still feel, the pressures that the world, media and our own comparisons heap upon our shoulders. We are made to believe we must look a certain way, wear a certain pant size or fit the perfect mold set by models that grace the pages of the magazines we find in the grocery store. But the truth is that we are all different, and there is no way that every woman can fit into a perfect mold. We are short, we are tall, we have curves, we have a straight figure, and we all have different genetics that affect our body’s compositions. Yet, despite these vast differences, we still strive to fit “the mold.” Why is that?
Everybody has a different story, and mine starts in childhood. As a kid I was overweight and teased mercilessly by the other kids at school and at church. To compound with all the comments, I grew up with a gymnast sister who looked like a walking stick. Comparing myself to her in family pictures never raised my sense of self worth. As the years passed I became more health-conscious and my body did slowly change. While I am no longer overweight, the way I view myself has not altered much over the years. I still look in the mirror, disappointed with what I see. No matter what others say or try to tell me, I have had difficulty seeing anything but the parts of my body I wish I could change. In moments of weakness (usually onset by that lovely cycle of monthly hormone changes :-), I have let my negative feelings towards my body pervade how I view myself as a person. The downward spirals are painful and unfair to those around me and to myself. It’s as if the insecurities that always exist, but can usually be pushed aside, take center stage, blinding my vision to anything else. I have been struggling with these up and down cycles for years now, but it wasn’t until I got married and my negative perception of myself began to affect someone else that I realized what a large portion of my life was consumed by my self degradation. Until that moment, I had done my best to hide my thoughts, ashamed by them, and somehow believing that keeping my thoughts silent would make them less real because it wouldn’t give anyone else the chance to validate them. Well, marriage makes it hard to hide such feelings — especially when you have a perceptive husband who is determined to know what is upsetting you. I had to finally vocalize my thoughts and admit, out loud, that I often feel fat and that I hate my body. Fat. I have always hated that word and it is hard for me to say (in fact it was hard for me to type). However, I am not willing to hide from my feelings any more. That has brought me nothing but pain over the years. It is time for a change. Instead of my body image controlling me, I will control my body image.
I realize this will be an ongoing process and I can’t expect these changes to come overnight. The first step in my process was in admitting the awful thoughts I have kept inside all these years. It began by simply telling my husband, but now I am embarking on this very public journey toward rewiring the way I perceive myself. My hope in sharing my story and in starting this blog is that it can touch the lives of others out there, who, to varying degrees, have struggled with how they feel about their bodies and consequently toward themselves.
My second step, forming a new mindset, developed slowly over the past few months as I have experimented with several different diets in an effort to discover the source of the stomach pain I had been experiencing for several years. While I am still fine-tuning the results, I have made great progress. In discovering which foods upset my stomach and removing them from my diet I noticed a remarkable change. My body’s shape hadn’t changed very much, but for the first time in a long time I felt HEALTHY, and that felt amazing. It was during this process that I realized that the most important thing we can do is take care of our bodies. If we do that, we will feel invigorated, and it is hard to feel healthy and full of energy and not be HAPPY. Our bodies are a wonderful and beautiful gift, but like your house, garden, car or computer, they need to be properly maintained. That maintenance includes feeding our bodies natural and fresh foods and exercising regularly. Everybody has a slightly different definition of healthy and they will find the right eating and exercising balance for them, but the important part is seeking and finding that balance. Starting now, I will be focusing on the signals my body sends me. Those signals are based on the type and quantity of food I consume and my level of physical activity. From those, I can gage if I need to make adjustments or continue on the same course.
My last step is to remind myself daily of my new belief, because I am done harping on myself for not having perfect thighs and abs. I can’t keep comparing myself to those around me. I am striving to accept that while my body is not perfect — that is okay. I AM BEAUTIFUL, just the way I am. I recognize that I may have small stumbles backwards, but everyday I will go forward, slowly replacing old habits with new ones. I will do my best to continually nurture and feed those new habits so they can grow strong and deep roots.
I sincerely hope that my journey, past and continuing, will help others in theirs as well. On this quest for health and happiness, I will share healthy recipes, cooking/baking substitutions, fitness information, tips and workouts, as well as any other useful tid-bits I pick up along the way. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to all that is to come!