By Lindsay mustard
No one and I mean no one, ever said that being a woman is easy in our world today. I wish that the lump in my throat would disappear when I say that there are days when I am ashamed of my body and would rather hide from the world than show up and be seen. But I’d be lying if I said otherwise. It’s very rare nowadays to find a single woman who is without a sliver of a doubt, confident in herself and her body one-hundred percent of the time. Studies are showing that ninety-seven percent of women will have an “I hate my body” moment at least once a day, and will think an additional 12 negative thoughts about their body on a daily basis.1
As someone who has seen both ends of the weight spectrum, I can truthfully say that I was miserable at both ends. For years I told myself, “if I could just lose this belly and thigh fat, then I’ll be happy. Maybe if I didn’t have such a big butt, I would have a boyfriend. Once I lose the weight, then I’ll be confident and put myself out there.”
WEIGHT LOSS WASN’T THE SOLUTION, SELF-HEALING WAS
Let me repeat that again without the caps – weight loss was never my solution, self-healing was. I had abused my body for years – I restricted, binged, overused laxatives and resorted to purging methods when needed. I felt like a hamster trapped in a wheel that spun so fast I couldn’t escape, and as a result, the patterns become more and more ingrained and eventually became my new norm.
It wasn’t until I made the leap to meet with a relational psychotherapist, that I was able to break the cycle. After our first session, I felt like I could breathe again. It felt as if someone had taken all of the pressure from our society and the unrealistic expectations that I set for myself and my body off of my shoulders.
For the first time in a while, I felt like recovery was a possibility. And that moment, right there, changed the way that I viewed myself as a whole. Not just as a body or by my jean size, but as a complete and perfectly imperfect human being. For once, it felt like I was finally home in my body, and that is a feeling that no amount of food will ever give me.
HOW I RECOVERED
I wish I could say that it was easy and didn’t take much effort, but that would be far from the truth. Recovering was like trying to get a really tough knot out of your hair. At first, you try to use some oil or conditioner to loosen it up, then you start to separate a few strands. You make some progress and then you get frustrated and start yanking at the knot until you’re down to the last few clumps, and then finally the comb brushes through seamlessly.
There were days that felt easier than others like I was calmly working the comb through those deep knots and making great leeway. And there were days when I flooded myself with every negative thought and lie about my body I could possibly dream up. Those were the days that I felt like quitting, and for the purpose of this analogy, yanked and yanked on the comb until I had made progress. It was always in my darkest moments that I had a breakthrough. The times when I wanted to quit and accept that this was all that I was going to be and that I was stuck in this ugly body for the rest of my life. Those moments were the pivotal points during my journey of healing myself and my body image.
To anyone out there struggling with body image or confidence, my heart goes out to you. I hear you when you say that you feel ashamed of your body and dislike parts of yourself. I’ve been there, and I still have those moments every once in a while. Yes, I said it. I still struggle with body image. Every once in a while I’ll have an old negative belief pop up out of nowhere and be forced to face it. Instead of reacting to it like I just to, I step back and take a moment to reflect on why that’s coming up. Often times it’s a trigger from my past or it’s caused by something that I see on social media. Regardless of where it is from, I know it’s not the truth. I am living proof that recovery is possible – one thought, action and habit at a time. If they can be built, they can be re-engineered with thoughtful intention and purpose.
With all of the noise from social media and the news, I chose to take a social media break from following accounts and businesses who only added fuel to my body image fire. Taking a step back to disassociate myself from brands that weren’t supportive of health at every size and skewed my perception of what my body should look like, was a key part of healing my relationship with myself. I no longer had to worry about fitting into their clothes or feel disgusted with myself for having to go up a size, or four because their clothes were designed for a specific body type. I chose to follow inspirational accounts on social media (most of which shared body positive quotes), shopped at stores that made me feel comfortable and confident and spent a great deal of time reflecting and journaling.
By filtering what I was seeing on social media, I was able to separate perception from reality. Everything we see on Instagram and Pinterest is handcrafted to look stunning and absolutely perfect. Our feeds are flooded with gorgeous photos and creative captions, we’re always smiling and others perceive this as being our reality. The truth is, it’s not. It’s far from it. Choosing to step back from social media was a challenge because everyone is on it. I felt like I was disconnected and “out of the loop” when I chose to step back. But honestly, it was liberating.
When you can be selective and handpick the role models, brands and businesses you want to follow and engage with, you create your community and tribe. You’re creating a tribe, sister! That’s freaking amazing and powerful. Don’t underestimate the power that social media has on your thoughts, your body image and the way that you perceive yourself. Jumping on Instagram and looking at models with these picture-perfect lives, is a sure fire way to feel insecure, jealous and down about yourself and/or life. Be selective with how and where you spend your time online. Choosing to unfollow accounts and people who don’t support your vision, is the first step in creating an online environment that will help you grow and heal your relationship with yourself.
HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE
Let me start by saying, your self-worth is not determined by jean size. The love that your friends, family and/or partner have for you, is not conditional to the size of your thighs or body. Please remember that. Our size does not, at all, change our worthiness for being happy and loved. This was the biggest “ah-ha” moment of mine as I trekked forward on my journey to recovery. In order for me to make progress, I had to detach from my belief that I am only worthy of love at a certain size.
As a nutritionist and personal trainer, I see this so commonly in women who come to me looking to lose weight. When I sit down with them, they lead with, “hi my name is _____ and I need to lose 20 pounds.”
Wait, what? I barely know you and I want to learn everything about you and your goals, but leading with the line that you believe that you need to change yourself before even fully introducing yourself, is so wrong!
We do this time and time again. “Hi my name is _______ and I’m a _______.” We label everything and it drives me nuts! We label ourselves, our friends, our diets, and what we believe to be healthy. Who decided that a size 00 is healthier than a size 14? Who holds the power to tell us what is healthy for our bodies?
We do. That’s who.
I have been the anemic, depressed, exhausted and insomniac size 00. I have also been the depressed, exhausted, emotional eating size 10. I gained 70 pounds in one year. In one year! Talk about being a totally different person, both physically and emotionally. At both sizes I felt ashamed of my body and what I looked like. I was depressed, anxious and I was lucky if I got a few hours worth of sleep at night. How is either of those healthy? They’re not. That’s the point.
I’m somewhere in the middle between the two right now, and I couldn’t be happier. After being iron and B12 deficient for years, losing both my period and fistfuls of hair at a time, I am now thriving. Don’t ask me my weight or size, because I honestly couldn’t tell you. And truthfully, I don’t care.
I believe everyone has different a definition of healthy. Some people are naturally very thin and are criticized for being unhealthy. Others are curvy and are labelled as being “bigger boned.” Another term I hate….. Regardless, just like we each have our own diets that make us thrive – be it vegan, paleo, high-carb…etc, we each have a level of health that is perfectly suited for our bodies. One size does not fit all. Besides, how boring of a society would be if we all looked, dressed and acted the same? Talk about a snoozefest.
Being healthy is about feeling confident in your skin and capable of anything you put your mind to. Want to climb Kilimanjaro? Great, you don’t have to be 20 pounds lighter before you’re ready to start. Want to start dating? Amazing – but you still don’t need to change a single thing about your beautiful self. Optimal health is about eating nutritious food, moving our bodies, thinking positive thoughts and surrounding yourself with the most epic community imaginable. That is health. Not your jean size. Not your weight. And not the size of your thighs. You, my friend, are the one in the driver seat – you are the one who gets to choose what is healthy for you. Not your friends. Not social media. And not your “I’m always on a diet” mother.
SOMETHING TO REMEMBER
You have been and always will be the one in control. I know that it’s easier to believe that things are happening to us, rather than for us, but believe me when I say that everything is happening as it needs to. You hold the power to ignore what social media tells you that you
should be or strive to become. You hold the power to quit dieting and free yourself from food prison. You hold the power to change every negative thought you think about yourself and turn it into a positive one. It’s always been you. You just haven’t realized how truly amazing you are until just now. You have gone through so much hardship, emotional events and dark times – but you’re here now. You have today, and that’s all I can promise you. You have to choose the person that you want to be. Choose to be the woman who lifts others up, who compliments their hair and outfit. Be the woman who holds the door open for others and makes their day by smiling. Be the person who even when things get tough, you keep pushing yourself to see the light. You always have been, and you always will be enough. And don’t let anyone tell you differently.
Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer and is currently studying Osteopathy at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy in Hamilton, Ontario. Lindsay helps women who are struggling with emotional eating and self-confidence to craft the body and life of their dreams with ease and total food freedom. “Together, I help them to navigate the waters of health and wellness by working with them on a one on one basis. We design their personalized plan that fits their needs and lifestyle that incorporates food, exercise and yoga.”
1 Dreisbach, Shaun. “Shocking Body-Image News: 97% of Women Will Be Cruel to Their Bodies Today.” Glamour, Glamour Magazine, 2 Feb. 2011,