Creating a better, more positive relationship with your body can feel like a daunting, unattainable task. If you are looking for hope and evidence that it’s anything but impossible, then watch this video to the end! You’re about to hear my story of how I have come to genuinely and authentically love and appreciate my body – beyond its appearance!
Hi everyone, I’m Laura Brown from Heart & Oak Therapy, supporting better, brighter lives. We’re therapists who do regular videos on mental wellness, and give you practical ideas and tips to make your life happier and more fulfilling – so hit the subscribe button to keep in the loop!
I wanted to create this video for all of you who are looking for genuine success stories about people changing their relationships with their bodies for the better. Of course, as a therapist I work with lots of people around issues like these, and part of what makes me helpful in this area is my own lived experience in dealing with challenges with my body image. I thought, “Why share examples from my practice when I can share my very own story with all of you?”
Now, this video is definitely related to our last one, “3 Ways to Love Your Body for More Than How it Looks”, so if you haven’t watched that one yet, I highly recommend doing so after this.
The first thing I need to state is that, in spite of the work I do and the person I am today, I am a work in progress. As much as I would like to sit here and pretend that I have overcome every single body image obstacle and struggle, that would be a bold-faced lie. And it’s important to me that I be genuine and honest with you, as opposed to painting a picture-perfect story of change and growth.
The truth is, I have had a long and in-depth struggle with my body and food. I can honestly say that I did not experience a consistent feeling of love and appreciation for my body between the ages of 11-29. There were moments in that time when I made a very concerted effort through therapy, hypnotherapy, guided meditation, CBT, self-help, and positive affirmations, but it all felt pretty hollow. There might have been times where I felt a slightly stronger connection to my body, empathize with it, and pretend to love it, but it never felt quite “right”.
I don’t think I’m alone in this type of experience. In fact, I know that I’m not. The clients I have worked for thus far have shared similar stories – attempts to force that feeling of love without a real genuine, consistent outcome. And that can be a frustrating and hopeless place to be.
So, where am I now?
Today I am at a place with my body where I actually listen to and prioritize its needs. I genuinely feel grateful for everything that my body does for me, and I am motivated to take care of it in spite of conflicting desires, like thinness. I also feel pretty positive about my body’s appearance, and enjoy dressing it up and showing off my curves.
I still have desires and longings to be slimmer and fitter. I want my muscles that I have worked so hard for to show up. I want my face to stay youthful and wrinkle free. At the same time, these desires do not outweigh my genuine interest in supporting my body in being its happiest, most energetic, and healthy self. This is a HUGE contrast to how things used to be.
For so long, the desire to look like a runway model was at the top of my misguided priority list. I wanted to be skinny at all costs, and I blamed my body for refusing to give me what I so desperately wanted.
The shift to where I am now took time. I was not an overnight success by any stretch of the imagination. It began by recognizing where I was at, and how frustrated and exhausted I was by this way of being. It coincided with my desire to change my restrictive eating practices to be more intuitive and body-directed. This required me to trust that my body could make wise choices, and that I could learn to listen and prioritize its needs with some trial and error.
You may be wondering – how did I get here?
The short and simple answer is that I did exactly what I outlined in the video “3 Ways to love your body for more than how it looks”.
When I began asking myself why it was so important for me to look a certain way, I began to recognize how I believed that if my body were to fit in with the acceptable “norm” of beauty, then it was more likely that I would be accepted and included by my peers. I had a longing to be in a committed relationship, and I believed that by looking a certain way, I would be more attractive to a potential mate. Logically, this all makes sense.
In realizing this, I quickly recognized that I was selling myself, and others, short. This was an old, shallow story that didn’t fit with the reality of my life. There was a whole pile of evidence that I was able to pull from demonstrating how my peers and potential romantic partners did accept me, regardless of my body size and shape.
When I considered whose story it was that my body wasn’t good enough as it was, it was easy to conclude that I was not the author of this fucked up idea.
As I retraced how my body had been singled out for not fitting in, I recalled several humiliating moments when peers or loved ones decided to call attention to my body, referring to me as “fat”. My Granny “lovingly” pinching my arm fat and calling me chubby. The writing on the bathroom wall in Grade seven that said “laura is fat”. The boy who called across a school hallway and yelled “You’re too fat to be wearing that”. Heart-warming moments of my life, I tell ya.
Those types of comments helped in forming this story, but the speakers aren’t the originator of it. They aren’t unique in judging a body based on its size and appearance. They were merely spreading common, old, culturally accepted ideas that we all live in relationship to. When I was able to recognize who the author of this story was, I was able to have some distance from it – moving away from the idea that I was the author of the story, to being a resistor against it. I realized I was angry, exhausted, and fed up with this story. That it was total bull shit that I no longer wanted to buy into.
The biggest way I have been able to successfully love and appreciate my body is by shifting my relationship with it.
I have created a lot of space for my body to have a voice that I listen to. Through a lot of practice and exploration, I have come to pay attention to its needs and wants, and do my best to respect these. Below I’ve linked to a post from the Heart and Oak Blog that has a lot of questions you can ask yourself that can support you in exploring and shifting your relationship to your body.
Again, I have to reiterate that in no way am I close to having this down perfectly – nor do I ever expect to. What counts to me, is that I even consider what it is my body might want or need, above my desire to fit our cultural ideals. Getting to this place also meant truly dealing with the underlying reasons for why it made sense for me to be disconnected from my body. There is also a link to that blog post below.
My ultimate hope in sharing my own personal story is to illustrate that it is 100% possible to go from feeling at odds with your body, to loving and appreciating it for what it is. There isn’t anything special or unique about me and my experience. With awareness, curiosity, and openness, change became possible for me. The fact that you are here, taking the time to watch this video suggests to me that you’ve got something brewing. That you are at the very least curious about your relationship to your body, and potentially yearning for something to be different. This is a brave, and courageous starting point!
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Take care until next time, and keep doing the things that help you live a better, brighter life.