Body Image – The Practice of Accepting What Is

There is a great article floating around social media telling moms to get over their body issues, put their bathing suit on, and get out and play this summer with their kids. It’s a wonderful message, with all the reminders of what is really important in life – our kids, making memories and being present. However, the things that are not as important, such as our untoned bodies, cellulite and tummy rolls seem to be what rules not only our self-concept, but in choosing what activities we do, along with our ability to let go and just be.

Me at my biggest (can't believe I'm making this public!)
Me at my biggest

I’m someone who has struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I have been every size from a 2-16, every bra size from an A-DDD; yes, name it and I’ve been there.

I’m not an emotional eater; I don’t gravitate towards cookies, chips or chocolate when I’m upset. I’m not a yo-yo dieter; I don’t gain and lose 15 pounds every year. I gradually gained weight growing up, and from a combination of my genes, eating out all the time with my High School boyfriend, and trying to overcompensate my DDD breast size (thank you to my Eastern-European roots!), by my Senior year of High School, I was over 180 lbs; that’s a lot for a girl who is barely 5’2”!

Me at my most fit
Me at my most fit

Thanks to exercise, my boyfriend going off to college (which meant I didn't eat out 3 nights a week and get french fries after school) and the realization that going up a jeans size (or two!) every year is not normal, I gradually lost weight. I even had a breast reduction (best thing I ever did!) and eventually joined Weight Watchers, where I diligently lost 1 pound a week for 9 months straight. Many years later, I reached and maintained my goal weight, and though I weighed about 70 pounds less, I still never felt good about my body. I lost and gained weight through my pregnancies and actually was in the best shape of my life when my daughters were about 4 and 6 years old. I had abs that even my fitness instructors were impressed with! But, I still never felt comfortable in my own skin.

About 3 years ago, I began to cultivate my mindfulness practice, which at the core, is about acceptance. Acceptance of what is, of what can’t be and acceptance of whatever is arising in the moment. I learned, through my practice, to let go of the stories in my head, be in the present moment, and see things as “what is” rather than “what if…” But yet, while on a meditation retreat when someone asked me, “What would you have to let go of in order to be living your authentic life?” the first answer that came to my mind was my body image. After all these years, all the hard work, the literal sweat and tears that I put into losing and maintaining my body weight, it was still holding me back. And then I began to wonder what would really change if I were to feel comfortable in my own skin?

It’s still a struggle. I like to blame a lot of it on the worst metabolism ever (I literally can look at food and my jeans will be tight the next day!) and I refuse to accept that my body chemistry is changing because I am now over 35 years old. But again, I am thankful for my practice.

I come back to my breath and choose to focus on gratitude for my body. I remind myself that I am my own worst enemy and to get out of my head, and into this body that has birthed two daughters, has maintained its health and the body I continue to gather strength from. This is my practice.

I have let go of a strict way of looking at food, and instead practice Mindful Eating. I eat when I’m hungry. I stop when I’m full. I check in with my body to see what it is that it’s really craving. I take the first bite and assess whether or not the choice I’ve made is still what I actually want. I slow down. I savor my food. I actually taste it. I appreciate what the food is doing for me and my body. And when I want to eat dark chocolate with sea salt (my favorite!!) I eat it, and enjoy every last bite.

I know that I will only get what I work for, rather than what I wish for, so I keep proactive with exercise, yoga and meditation. And at the end of the day, I still come to the realization that nothing and no one is perfect and I’m never going to have the body that I want. That is acceptance.

I’m never going to have the tight and toned legs of an athlete. I’m never going to one day wake up and be 4 inches taller. And the truth is that is all okay! And on the days that it doesn’t feel okay, because I’ve let my self-defeatist thoughts run away with me, I remember to be grateful for all that I do have.

And the truth is I am abundant! I have my health. I have a wonderful family with two amazing daughters. I have supportive friendships that nourish my soul. I have a career that is my passion. I have my breath. Most importantly, I have my mindfulness practice that keeps me grounded in gratitude, acceptance and in always remembering what’s important.

 

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