This post contains talk about medical things, body love, and body image. If that bothers you please don’t read. Negative comments will be deleted.
Let’s chat for a minute. I’ve been on a short hiatus for a week just reorienting myself and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about where I am in my life. I’m aware that a lot of you come here for my book and travel talk, but I’ve wanted to talk more about my health journey because it’s very important to me. If that’s not your thing, that’s fine feel free to skip this post. More book posts will be back in the next few days.
Early Body Image
Let’s talk about body image. I think most people at one point in their lives look into the mirror and dislike what they see. For some of us, it’s every day for some it’s very rarely on bad days. Our standards of ourselves are usually very negative both physically and what we do in our lives. It’s human nature to criticize yourself harder than others criticize you.
I can remember the first time I was really aware of my appearance. I was in preschool and I looked at a mirror on the wall and the first word that came into my head was “fat.” How sad is that? I was maybe four at the oldest and the first memory of my body I have is negative. The worst part is… I wasn’t a fat kid. A lot of my body fat came on during and after puberty mostly being explained by my PCOS diagnosis. (PCOS can make it hard to control body weight.)
I think my relationship with my body (like other’s experiences with their own) stems from a need to be perfect. I beat myself up so. much. over things that in retrospect don’t matter. Don’t get me wrong–health matters. But what I’m concerned about isn’t my health–it’s my weight and appearance.
I have a lot of medical complications. Some of which can never be cured and apart from taking my medications there’s little I can do to control them. And apart from doing my best to exercise and eat right, there’s little I can do about my weight because a lot of the reasons are out of my control. Genetics, medical conditions, and outside factors have a lot more influence on my weight then I do. And to be honest with you, some of my medical conditions hold a much higher priority than my weight, because if I don’t treat them I wouldn’t be able to even get out of bed to go to work, exercise, or write these blog posts.
I have been at war with my body for as long as I can remember. I’ve always hated my stomach. I hate my crooked teeth. I don’t like how my smile makes my eyes close. I don’t like my back rolls or the way I have fat between my thighs. But… the rest of my legs are pure muscle, and I love how the way my eyes turn amber when the sun hits them. I love my cupid’s bow and my bouncy curls. My eyelashes, my cheekbones, and my long slender fingers as they flip through book pages can all stay. It’s dawned on me recently that I like more of my body then I hate… so why am I fighting it?
I’ve mentioned quite a few times my surgery last year. After surgery I was really sick; my body did not react well to the meds or being cut open. One of the hardest things for me to deal with was the loss of my strength. I’ve been through a lot medically; in fact, my body has been through quite a bit since the day I was born. But one thing that was always part of my awareness growing up was I had a dancer body. Even in my six-year hiatus of formal lessons I still practiced and maintained my training. Even in the worst moments of hating my body I still respected it for its flexibility, strength, and stamina of someone who danced at least 2 hours a week since I was 3. (And at my most active during college that had been nearly 8 hours a week with 2 hours of yoga as well as my own stretching workouts in my dorm.)
Even before my surgery, I began to lose my strength. Frequent bed rest from chronic illness will do that. There were some dance rehearsals where I can remember having bad asthma attacks or bad pain and my choreographers would effectively put me in a time out to chill. I felt really broken and I’d come a long way from doing dance recitals with food poisoning at 11 years old and feeling like nothing could stop me.
And then I had surgery in June 2018. I’ve never reacted well to medical procedures so what was meant to be a week on bed rest and then a month no heavy lifting turned into 2 weeks bed rest and me going stir crazy because my muscles were cramping and all I wanted to do was dance. By the time I was cleared for physical activity again my strength was shot, my flexibility was gone, and I felt completely defeated.
I started with small steps after my surgery. I’ve never dealt with a complete overhaul of change well so I added things in slowly. In college, I was awful at eating more than two small meals a day and awful at taking my meds. I also had been letting minor medical conditions slip for 4 years. So when I moved to Wisconsin I established a medical team again and got my eczema medication, birth control, and anxiety medication reevaluated. I also found a new therapist.
The next step was food. Which was a pretty easy step considering I live with a food blogger. Josie has a knack of making sure even when I really don’t want to eat there’s something for me to eat in the house and she will make it. After that… new clothes. I realized in the Torrid dressing room about 3 weeks ago that I have not bought clothes that I like and that fit me in the longest time. Finding clothes you feel confident in… game changer.
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Today was the first time a workout has felt good since my surgery nearly a year ago. I’ve had a long battle with my body medically, but I always had my dancer strength, flexibility, and stamina. The loss of that flexibility and strength after my surgery crushed me. I’ve still got a long way to go until I’m back to my dancer standards, but I’m learning to love my body no matter what shape it’s in.
The last step was exercise. I’ve been afraid of it for a while because every time I tried to work out I wasn’t up to my own standards. I wasn’t where I was before my surgery. Yesterday I went to the gym and addressed the fact that I wasn’t going to. Not right away. I listened to my body and did some light weight lifting and cardio and it left me breathless.
But… that was the first workout I’ve done in nearly a year that I felt good about because I went in with no other intention than to get rid of the end of winter restlessness. No expectations for my body… just a conversation on where we were at. I’m going to start with once a weekend and work up to multiple times a week. Adding habits slowly like I’ve already been doing subconsciously.
I’m making it a goal to call a truce with my body and myself. Being kind to myself includes my body. I don’t want to fight anymore because I’m so much more productive and happy and strong when I don’t fight myself. I’m building my empire and that includes loving every inch of my curvy squishy self. Step by step I’m going to love myself right down to every flaw because fighting an ally is not how you win a war.
Have you dealt with body image issues? Let me know down in the comments.
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