How I Started To Love Myself
I have spent most of my life chasing after a "fit" body, "lean" body, "toned" body, this crazy ideal body that I will never get. I have spent countless hours following women on social media, seeing what they're doing to look amazing, and then copying it. I have tried multiple diets, exercise regimens, and supplements. Hell, I even went to school for this and still am corralled by society into thinking about food and exercise as a punishment; only eating healthy and exercising to not be fat, instead of eating healthy and exercising to celebrate my body.
I remember being in therapy for two years trying to figure out what I was chasing and why I felt as though I needed to change my body. I sat there every week talking to her about what I hated, what I wanted to change, why I needed it to, why I had anxiety attacks and why I fell into a depression that most people couldn't even recognize because of how well I hid it. I remember sitting alone in my apartment bedroom just begging for my friends to stop going out because I wanted to stay home. I didn't want to go out to frat parties and house parties because there were hot girls there in crop tops and that meant I had to wear one too.... and that sure as hell made me want to puke. I hated it. Yet, I faked my way through and went out with my friends and acted like everything was okay, but inside I was wanting to crawl in a hole. I feel like most people who I have talked to that have a deep struggle with how they view themselves have had a similar story as this. They want to stay home and hide but they have to go to a work dinner, kids birthday parties, family pool BBQ, etc. These small events in life that are suppose to be fun and create lasting memories are completely wiped out by the constant thinking of how our bodies look. It took me a long time to shift my thinking around this this, I still struggle, but I have found my rope to pull me put of this hole.
What did I do??
I stopped focusing on what other people were doing. Everyday I go onto social media and I am instantly bombarded with diets and workout approaches. I am educated in what truly works for people and the science behind it, yet sometimes I get sucked in! The best thing that I did was focus on what I needed. First step, I stop counting calories. Now, I understand that to lose weight or gain muscle to reach that aesthetic I desire I have to be aware of what I am consuming. This is something I always recommend when someone is first starting out their new journey. I highly recommend counting calories and macros (accurately, this is very important) to learn what a typical plate should look like, THEN STOP. Our lives are not meant to be spent counting every single crumb of granola you put on your yogurt. Learn the portions for yourself, not what someone else is doing, and move on with your life.
Instead of focusing on what I wanted to look like, I shifted my mind into focusing on how my body feels. If I am hungry, I eat. If I am thirsty, I drink water. If I feel tired throughout the day, I check in with myself. I take a look at my nutrients that day (enough vegetables? carbs? lean proteins?), how is my water intake (am I hydrated enough), did I sleep good last night (quality>quantity), am I stressed about something (work, school, relationships, finances, etc.), am I up to date with vitamins (am I taking my vitamins and have I got tested recently for any deficiencies), and lastly, have I moved my body enough this week (10,000 steps a day? lifted weights? stretched?).
Focusing on these things have truly changed the way I feel mentally and physically. I started listening to my body and what it wanted. Stopping calorie counting freed me from thinking of food as good vs bad and starting thinking of food as fuel. One meal will not make me fat just like one meal will not magically make me fit. I focus now on nutrient dense foods, foods that have high nutrient profiles like vegetables and fruit, and calorie dense foods, foods that have lower nutrient profiles but higher calories like chips, cookies, etc. I focus my meals around the nutrient dense foods, proteins, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Because I can't possibly eat enough calories to have optimal organ and cell function while eating "clean", I also add in calorie dense foods. ***I'm talking to you frequent dieters. Below 1,500 calories and working out excessively is probably why you are not losing weight. You're starving girl!!*** This method has helped me eat healthy while also enjoy my meals and my life. I feel free to eat what I want and free to make my own decisions surrounding food. This is called intuitive eating! Highly recommend looking more into this if you struggle with body image issues and negative relationships with food.
Along with intuitive eating I continued to check in with how I was feeling in other areas. Water was a huge deal for me. I do not like water, and I struggle to drink it. **Just went downstairs to get water because while typing this realized it is 10:30am and I have only had 1 cup haha** Water is very hard for me to drink. So, I went to the store and bought 2 cute reusable water bottles (17oz ea) and drink 5 a day. This equals 85oz a day and the rest of my water intake comes from when I make coffee, my greens drink, and protein shake. Drinking enough water every day has completely changed my energy levels and how my body feels.
Another huge area that effected me was stress. Oh, good ole stress! Everyone deals with it yet its considered a normal to be chronically stressed. ITS NOT! TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! Stress causes headaches, fatigue, sleep issues, low sex drive, irritability/anger, weight gain, heart attacks, hormone imbalances, etc. Stress is a normal part of life but it is not suppose to constantly stick around. Stress has serious effects on the body so it is time to check in on your stressors. What can you do to combat this? Do you need to start a savings to get out of financial problems, get a new job because you hate yours, go to marriage counseling because you and your spouse aren't on the same page anymore, get a new boyfriend because yours sucks, have a conversation with your parents because there are unresolved issues from 10 years ago, or maybe just simply get yourself moving again because you haven't worked out in 7 years? There are steps to get yourself out of these situations, you are in control of your life and you can make changes to your life regardless of how long you've been stuck, how old you are, or how incapable you may feel. Me, I started focusing on my self care. This brought clarity on what I wanted out of my life and what made me happy. I left my job and started my own business, I poured love into my relationship with Austin because I want a happy marriage, I exercise by doing what makes my body feel good not what I am "suppose" to do, I took control of my negative relationship with food, I take bubble baths and listen to calming music at night, I journal and write out my goals and aspirations in the morning, when I feel stressed, I figure out what the problem is and I take care of myself. Find what stresses you out and make the changes. You can have a life you love.
Lastly, do you workout because you love yourself or you hate yourself? Do you workout because the girl on Facebook or Instagram works out that way or because you love to workout that way? If you hate lifting weights why are you doing it 5x a week? If you hate running why are you running in the morning? If you hate doing yoga why are you signed up for a monthly membership you never use? Exercise is suppose to be a stress relief and a way to keep your bones, joints, heart, and mind healthy. You can exercise whatever way you like. If you like to walk, then walk, you don't have to dread the 30 min on the stairmaster. If you love to do full body high intensity workouts, then do them, you don't have to follow a bodybuilding split. The only thing that I will recommend is getting a mix of what is good for your body. Some weights, cardio, and stretching is recommended to cover all spectrums. However you fit this into your week is up to you. You do not have to do something just because someone else is. Check in with yourself, what do you like to do? What keeps you moving your body? Do that.
Doing the above things has changed the way I think about myself as well as how my body feels. I have less stress, more energy, good relationship around food and have positive thinking. I have shifted from a place of hate to a place of love. I love the way my body feels. I will always struggle with my demons, but a least now I can squash them with self love instead of hearing them whisper in my ear everyday.