Tag Archive for self-esteem

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.

amy longstaff

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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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.

 

Dove Movement For Self-Esteem

dove[1]By Katie Glerum

Many teenage girls in the U.S are faced with media that hurts their self-esteem and this may lead to anxiety about their appearance. The company Dove is taking a stance against this, and is in full swing with its new self-esteem project. Using helpful resources and tools, Dove is giving young girls an opportunity to realize their full potential, and look at their bodies and subsequent self-esteem in a new light. Dove’s website quotes,

“At Dove, we believe no girl should be held back from reaching her full potential. However,anxiety over appearance keeps girls from being their best selves, affecting their health, friendships, and even performance at school. For more than 10 years, we’ve been helping young people with self-esteem education, reaching 17 million of them so far. Join us, and help reach even more.”

With three goals of improving school performance, gaining confidence, and teaching girls to aim towards higher goals, Dove provides resources for teachers, parents, and youth mentors. All three of these groups can participate in creating better self-esteem in teenage girls around the country. It is believed that once these girls have higher self-esteem, they can be their best selves. When they have less appearance anxiety they are truly their best self, leading them to do bigger and better things in the future.

Follow Dove in their journey towards helping young women create higher self-esteem and develop positive body images to achieve amazing things.

 

Defying Cultural Standards of Beauty

By Volunteer

I am 5’9.

I am skinny.

I have a dark skin.

I used to hate all these features of my body, and every once in a while, I still struggle with them. You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that what all females want…to be tall and really skinny, like models?” I hear it all the time. “You’re sooo lucky…I wish I had your body type.” Thing is, I never felt lucky.

In America, women tend to want to have tall slender bodies, because the media represents these features as the “norm.” This is not the case in my culture. In the African culture, my body features are considered “unattractive,” “manly” and even “ugly.” In my culture, men want women who are 5 feet tall, with light skin and curvaceous bodies. I have always felt self-conscious about my body because I am the EXACT opposite of what men in my culture consider to be beautiful.

Instead of being 5 feet tall, I feel like a giant at almost 6 feet tall. Instead of having big breasts, child bearing hips and a voluptuous rear end, I feel ugly because my breasts are barely an A cup and my torso is thin. I have felt ugly for a large portion of my life because of my body type. I do not represent the ideal of feminine beauty in my culture, which is something I know American women struggle with daily as well.

Instead of having light skin, I am dark, which is not appreciated by African or American standards of beauty. I’ve always felt like the dark skin is automatically seen as unattractive to men. As a matter of fact, many media communicators have been accused of “whitewashing” the skin of African American people by making their pictures lighter, and there is an abundance of visual evidence to prove this.

thVC1GKBEBI have judged myself against the African standard of beauty for most of my life. However, as I approach adulthood, I am beginning to see that my features are unique. I am my own person on the inside and I love who I am. It is only fitting that I learn to accept the person I am on the outside. I am beginning to see beauty standards at face value. I do not need to fit into African or American beauty standards, nor do I want to. Unfortunately, beauty standards are driven into our heads from a young age, so it took me a long six years to realize that I am beautiful just the way I am.

I’ve had my ups and downs, but I made it to a place where I am happy with myself inside and out. I always used to look down on myself, despite what people told me. Every time I’d leave my house I would hear people telling me that I was stunning, beautiful, model like, and that I look like a goddess. I couldn’t hear them because of my own negative thoughts. Comments like these made me wonder why I was having all of these negative thoughts in the first place – and then it clicked. I was wishing so hard to be something that was preferred by my culture. I decided then that I would not let any cultural norm dictate what was beautiful and what was not.

It does not matter at all what people think of you – all that matters is what you think of yourself and I know now that I am beautiful inside and out despite the preference of any culture. To anyone out there struggling with your body image, just know that you are beautiful no matter what anyone says. Speak to yourself in ways that affirm your beauty.

I am a stunning 5’9!

I have a strong slender body!

I have smooth and silky dark skin!

And I love myself!