Tag Archive for beauty

How I Broke the Cycle: Living Life Without Restriction

By Amy Hastie

Physically, I may have looked “healthier” during those times, but in reality, I was still living a life full of rigid rules around what I could and couldn’t eat. It was exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and destroying me from the inside out.

I can vividly recall the first time I decided to restrict my food intake.

At 17, someone sat me down and told me that I should exercise more often and reconsider my food choices. I initially felt deflated, self-conscious and hurt, but those emotions soon turned into an overwhelming desire to change. I distinctly remember writing a letter to my best friend at school the very next day, excitedly boasting to her about this revelation regarding my lifestyle and how I was going to cut back on everything that I ate as part of a magical transformation. It was going to be amazing!

Looking back, it seems utterly frightening to me that I had been so determined and self-assured that I was doing the right thing, despite all of the potentially dangerous risks to my health. This particular teenage diet didn’t last longer than a week, but it instilled in me a lingering awareness of inadequacy in relation to the foods I chose to eat and how much I weighed. It’s like my eyes had been exposed to a horrific image that was etched in my mind and could never be erased.

A couple of years later…

When other things in my life seemed out of control, I made a few more attempts at diets. Again, nothing stuck until the year leading up to my 21st birthday when I fell, head first, down the dark and destructive hole of Anorexia. What followed was more than a decade of severe bouts of restriction, chronic dieting, and incredibly harmful physical behaviors.

There were months, sometimes years, within the past decade when I wasn’t being entirely controlled by Anorexia, but still being intensely dictated by diet culture. Physically, I may have looked “healthier” during those times, but in reality, I was still living a life full of rigid rules around what I could and couldn’t eat. It was exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and destroying me from the inside out.

I feel ashamed to admit this now, but up until recent times, I ate the same thing for dinner every week-night for about 10 years. Every single week-night. No deviations. No adjustments. No tweaks. The same. It was monotonous, a far from nourishing meal choice and a devastatingly obvious coping mechanism. Family and friends would often ask why my husband and I didn’t eat dinner together at home. I always used to brush it off by saying we had very different tastes. That wasn’t true at all as we actually shared many similar loves in food. However, the thought of deviating from my “safe” meal on a week-night scared me more than just about anything else in the world.

Then something finally changed for the better.

I had hit breaking point in the lead-up to our wedding. When it was all over, something began to shift in me, but in a good way this time. On my honeymoon, my husband and I ate a variety of exquisite food every day and every night. Part of me waited for a drastic change, something to go horribly wrong with my mind or body. Nothing did. In fact, with each delectable consumption, the better I seemed to feel mentally and physically. The only effect was the thrill of tuning into my hunger and honoring it fully.

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During the honeymoon, I realized I was beginning to create an infinite distance from restriction. I was at a coffee shop, and I ordered a delicious beverage. The friendly young guy taking my order gave me a nod as he was writing it down and said, “Yeah! It’s Friday! Why not, right??”. I think I nodded in agreement with the well-meaning gentlemen at the time, but as I walked away, I found myself marveling at my progress. I had, without thought or hesitation, just ordered the drink I wanted, having no reason to choose it above its scrumptious taste. I hadn’t selected it because it was the week-end or even considered it to be a treat in the first place. I just had it because I felt like it. It may sound simple, but this kind of mental progress is huge for anyone who has endured what I have.

Decisions like what to order had not always been that natural. Menus were overwhelming, regardless of whether it was a day of “clean eating” or one where treats were “allowed”. While my friends and family would look at a menu in excitement (or simple indifference), Anorexia would sit with me and meticulously calculate the meal that would do the least “damage”. It was a consistently agonizing process, and one I certainly do not miss. After that day in the coffee shop, I started to perceive menus as lists filled with infinite possibilities of satisfaction, not rule books.

I told myself that when we returned from our trip, I would continue this new-found lifestyle … and I did. It was like that indignant feeling I had when I first decided to diet at 17, except this time, I took a stance on always eating exactly what I wanted. I vowed to never restrict again because this new way of eating (of living!) was far too liberating to give up on. I began reintroducing beloved old favorites or tasting entirely new ingredients. Foods I had once banned for making me feel “out of control” were no longer scary because they weren’t “off limits” anymore. I had legalized them indefinitely. It was all so wonderful and invigorating.

As I continue this intuitive eating journey, the next challenge is learning to cook...

Despite being 33 years old, I am well and truly back to basics, teaching myself how to prepare all kinds of new and gratifying meals. It’s certainly not easy, (I have already inadvertently created some minor kitchen fails!), but it is the power of choice over restriction that pushes me to persist with my culinary ventures.

The most life-changing aspect of my recovery has been the new-found belief that I am not only worthy of all foods today, but tomorrow and every day of my life. After so long, I have learned to listen to what my body instinctively wants, just like I used to as a little kid. Now, there are no “treats”, no “cheat days” no “naughty foods”. Anything and everything is quite literally on the table, and I am loving every single minute of it.

 

The Dreaded Scale

By Katy M.

Why do we ask ourselves so many questions on what we should weigh and what size we should be?

So many people step on the scale daily to see if they’ve lost or gained any weight, asking questions like: What does the scale say? Am I the right weight for my height?

If you think about it logically, the scale doesn’t tell us anything of real value.

It's a number. 

A figure that means nothing when it comes to our own worth.

My favourite quote is:

The number on this scale will not tell you what a great person you are, how much your friends and family love you, that you are kind, smart, funny and amazing in ways numbers cannot define. That you have the power to choose your happiness, your own self-worth.

This quote is more accurate than any scale you’ll step on. When I believed in the dreaded scale, I was still unhappy at my lowest number. I was hungry and miserable. Eventually I understood that if you are happy and comfortable in your skin, you do not need to be a certain size because there is NO such thing as “the correct size”.

If you read celebrity magazines, you’ll see they are constantly criticising someone’s figure. This is not how life should be. Life is so much more than what you weigh; it is you as a person!

We are all beautiful with or without that number on a scale. It’s time we all start believing it.

 

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Reflecting Body Positivity with BodyPosiPanda

By Caroline K.

I wasn’t put in the world just to be

looked at or to fit a societal standard of

beauty.

The body positive movement encourages people to accept and respect their bodies, as well as others’ bodies. It is also recognizing that our self-worth is not dependent on how we look, and that everyone is worthy of love.

One day when I was researching body positivity, I came across Megan Jayne Crabbe on Instagram. Megan has recovered from anorexia, and now has the mission to spread body positivity. Her confidence, strength, and wisdom was inspiring to me.

posipandaI reached out to Megan and asked her some questions about her journey to body positivity, advice she has for those struggling with body positivity, and how body positivity has changed her life. I want to share her answers with you!

With how pervasive unrealistic body ideals are in our culture, how did you begin by shutting those out?

Megan: “I think the first step in learning how to combat unrealistic body ideals is recognizing how damaging they are, and questioning where they come from in the first place. Once we realize that these ideals are things that we’ve been taught in order to proliferate industries that profit from our insecurities, we can see how hollow they are. They are quite literally made up. Should we continue to sacrifice our mental health and well-being trying to attain a fabricated image? Keep questioning, question everything that you’ve been taught about beauty, worth, and happiness.”

How have you kept your body positive mindset in moments where you have felt shame about your body?

Megan: “It’s essential that in learning body acceptance we don’t just stop at learning to feel confident with how we look. We also have to learn that we are so much more than how we look. So even if I’m having a day where I don’t feel totally in love with my body, I can remind myself that how my body looks is such a small part of who I am, and I wasn’t put in the world just to be looked at or to fit a societal standard of beauty. We are more than our bodies.”

How has body positivity changed your life?

Megan: “Body positivity gave me a life back that I didn’t believe I was worthy of living. I spent so many years believing that my real life would start happening once I’d lost weight, but since there was always more weight to lose and new ways to hate my body, it never did start. Now I’m not waiting for my body to change in order to experience life, I’m just experiencing it. I realize now that my body was never the problem, only my mindset.

Pursuing a body positive mindset can be difficult at times. With the societal messages we have been sent every day of our lives about bodies, it is understandable to find the transition to body positivity challenging. For those who are wanting to be body positive, but still struggle with negative body image, Megan has a great post on her website titled “What To Do If You Just Can’t Love Your Body” and you can read it here.

Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda) is one of many body positive figures on Instagram. Instagram can be a toxic place for those struggling with body image. If you want to begin the journey to body positivity, I highly recommend following Megan and other body positive Instagrammers. In addition, unfollow people who make you feel that your body isn’t good enough. You can begin by searching #bodypositive and #BoPo. The journey to body positivity isn’t always easy, and you will have bad days. Beginning to realize that you are worthy of love no matter how you look is a great way to start your journey.

megan bodyposipanda

Thank you Megan for your inspiring words, advocacy, and willingness to share with us!

Books that helped Megan shift her mindset and learn about body positivity:

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

Losing It by Laura Fraser

Body of Truth by Harriet Brown

Fat! So? by Marilyn Wann

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon

What’s Less Isn’t Always More

Eating disorders affect over 30 million Americans…200,000 of these are in the state of MN.

The Emily Program Foundation shares a number of statistics, like the one above, demonstrating the profound impact that eating disorders have on people. The Foundation has also shared the most common behavior that will lead to an eating disorder is dieting. 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day. There is nothing wrong with wanting to eat nutritionally or consume a healthy proportion. However, it turns dangerous, fatal at times, when this goal becomes a fixation to lose weight, feeding into a $40 billion dollar industry that tells people they are not enough. Articles like 50 Things Your Doctor Wishes You Knew About Losing Weight from Reader’s Digest neglects the fact that everyone is different, and weight is not always directly correlated with health.

This article perpetuates a negative view of being “overweight”, clearly emphasizing the number on a scale, rather than focusing on how a person can be healthy regardless of weight. Remember, dieting is the most common behavior to lead to an eating disorder, and one of the main focuses within the article is dieting. One slide actually claims dieting is more important than exercise, which ignores the necessity of a holistic approach to sustaining one’s health; especially when exercise will give you those feel-good endorphins, while dieting might lead to feeling crummy about yourself and your relationship with food.

The article shouldn’t have to focus on weight loss and maintenance to offer ways to be healthier. In fact, it mentions a number of beneficial habits to maintaining a healthy mind and body. For instance:

  • Eating routinely and not skipping meals for one big meal
  • Getting your thyroid checked (it’s important to get regular checkups as a precaution for more serious health problems regardless of weight)
  • Getting enough sleep and exercise
  • Remembering it’s about progress not perfection.

Only once did the article allude to unhealthy dieting leading to eating disorders, saying that deprivation leads to binging.

While the intention was most likely to promote good health, the article’s focus on weight in controlling one’s lifestyle to lose it isn’t necessarily helpful or healthy either, particularly for those who struggle with personal insecurities. For those of you reading, think about what it means to be healthy. Keep in mind that weight isn’t always indicative of healthy habits, and it especially does not reflect the beauty of an individual. What is more important than weight or dieting, is how you feel! So be sure to get lots of sleep, exercise, eat well, and surround yourself with supportive friends and articles.

Legs

I’ve been asked on several occasions, “What is your favorite part about your body?” At this point, I know my answer without hesitation.

I’m a dancer. A kinesthetic learner. Someone who needs to move and explore without being confined, butt planted, posture hunched, or eyes fixated towards one space. I’m a dancer in that I bound and leap, bounce and lean, pulsing from the balls of my feet to the crown of my head. I twirl and spin, sometimes with great precision, most times in a twisted tangle to the music that feeds my soul through the roots I call legs.

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My legs.

My legs that carry me across sleek wooden floors, rough gray pavement, and rocky earthen paths.

My legs which make up for most of my 5 foot 7 inch frame.

My legs where the longest bones in my body give me the privilege of mobility.

I am truly fortunate.

I’ve been asked, “What is your favorite part about your body?” Without hesitation, I name my strongest foundation. My legs support me in exploration and self-expression, even when I believe I’m unable to continue. My legs challenge me to move, itching to stand if I’ve been planted for too long and eager to sway to any beat that reaches my ears.

I am truly thankful.

-E.P.