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Tag Archive for self-love

How I Found Value in Comfort, Not a Dress Size

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By Amy Hastie

Anorexia gave me a magic number over a decade ago and it stuck. I remember the exact moment when I received this seemingly positive gift. Whilst at university, I had an important job interview to attend. My friend at the time kindly offered to lend me some of her most professional-looking clothes. I used her dorm room to try on everything she had laid out on the bed for me.

I slipped on the first skirt — it wouldn’t zip up. I tried on the first shirt — the buttons just couldn’t make it through the hole. Skirt after skirt, shirt after shirt ― none of them fit me. None of them. I stood there alone in my friend’s room in utter disbelief and shame. I picked up each item of clothing and checked the label. They all had one thing in common ― a number. The same number on all the clothes stared me in the face as if to say “you’re too big. You’re not good enough”. For the first time in my life, I had this confronting awareness that I was in a larger body than someone else. Suddenly, my sense of self-worth was based on the size of my clothing.

That day at university was the beginning of a long and exhausting journey down a dark tunnel. For so many years after that and only up until recently, my life revolved around the pursuit of that magic number. It was all that mattered ― even if it meant food deprivation, obsessive and punishing exercise, social isolation or scaring my family and friends with my poor state of health.

For Anorexia, if I was fitting into the magic number, I was succeeding. Anorexia instilled in me a sense of pride to the point of arrogance for how well I could adhere to its demands. The magic number was mine and no one else’s. I would even go as far as to leave clothes lying around with the label sticking out so friends, family and my husband could marvel at how “good” I was to fit into that size.

Shopping for clothes was a pressure-filled test of worthiness. If I was not able to fit into the magic number, I would often refuse to try on a larger size and deny myself the purchase entirely. On other shopping trips, I would begrudgingly buy the larger size but then cut the tags off so no one would know my shameful secret. Only Anorexia and I knew that any clothes without tags were the ones I had failed in.

Each time my world was taken under the control of Anorexia, I would excitedly go to my wardrobe where I kept all of the magical clothes. Whenever I slipped them on, these particular clothes gave me a rush – a sense that I was an amazing success by adhering to Anorexia’s wishes.

Anorexia was in and out of my life so many times, but one thing stayed consistent – my fear of going beyond my magic number for good. It was only after an unexpected, frightening and significant relapse in the lead-up to my wedding that I realized enough was enough. I was finally ready to push anorexia away in the pursuit of happiness, health, and true contentment. I decided to embrace, not a number, but a feeling. That feeling was comfort.

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Before I moved over to America from Australia, I did something I had wanted to do for so many years but had been too afraid. I removed all of the clothes that had fit me when I was at my most ill and donated them to charity. As long as those clothes stayed in my wardrobe, Anorexia would have continued to haunt me. I had finally reached a point where I didn’t want to fit into those clothes anymore. Having them in my house was just far too damaging and it was time to get rid of them for good. I saw past the illusion of their value and released myself from the cage they had been keeping me in.

I cannot express the immense relief and freedom I felt when I packed all of those clothes up, threw them into big garbage bags and drove them away from my home. They were no longer a
part of me. They were no longer something to incessantly strive for. They were no longer magical.

Now I am enjoying gorgeous clothes that are comfortable. I am learning that it is ok to have clothes of all sizes – whatever feels best in a particular style. My jeans, dress or shirt size have no bearing on what kind of wife I am, what kind of daughter or friend. They have no relevance to my ability to skate or to be a helpful and supportive colleague at work. There are so many attributes and complex layers to what makes me who I am and the number on my clothing tag is certainly not one of them.

How Minnesota Healed Me

By Amy

I had never been very good with change. A new routine, an unfamiliar environment, a brand new job ― anything different, really. Despite my awareness of this, I decided last year to pack up my life in Australia and move all the way here to Minnesota seeking adventure, freedom and self-fulfilment.

For a lot of people, this kind of choice would be considered bold and brave — something to be admired, but for me, it was also a potential risk to my mental and physical health.

In times of change and uncertainty, Anorexia would come to me as a friend, providing an evil shoulder to lean on. Years ago, when I moved out of home to attend university, I felt completely out of my depth, overwhelmed and terrified. I was away from my hometown, my family, my friends, my bedroom. Everything that had provided comfort and stability was suddenly gone and I was left sitting alone and frightened in my dorm room.

I wasn’t at university long before Anorexia introduced itself to me for the very first time and provided ― what I thought was some much-needed comfort and company. It initially spoke to me with reassurance, introducing goals to strive for, giving me the illusion of regaining some of the control that I had lost since moving away from my safe-haven. Suddenly I had routine, structure and purpose.

Of course, what I had also gained was a severely poor state of health. I was constantly exhausted, unable to concentrate in class and the pressure to continually push myself to the limit rapidly took its toll. Anorexia’s assessment of my initial success did not last. Suddenly I was not good enough. Despite all efforts, I could never quite reach the standard its evil voice had set for me. I soon learned that Anorexia was no longer a friend, but a harmful enemy.

Years on, with family support and medical care, I slowly began to fight back. I realized what my health was worth ― what I was worth. As I grew mentally and physically stronger, Anorexia’s voice weakened and became a faded memory in the back of my mind. Its voice, more often than not, was replaced with one of kindness, encouragement and compassion.

With my continuously challenging progress of recovery, last year’s decision to internationally relocate was always going to be a potential risk. It could have been the ultimate opportunity for Anorexia to crawl its way back into my mind, to once again take advantage of me being out of my comfort zone. However, to my astonishment, something entirely different has happened since being here.

Instead of eating the same calculated meals every day, I have been eagerly trying a wide variety of amazing, unique American foods. For the first time in years, I am excited about which meals I will be able to enjoy next. Nothing is ever off-limits, nor measured, tracked or compared. It is all savoured.

Rather than enforcing a relentlessly rigid schedule, my new job requires rotating shifts which means with every week comes a freshly renewed lifestyle. Sometimes I have to work late so I sleep in and enjoy an afternoon walk. Other weeks, I get the chance to get up early and move my body in the cool morning air. It is wonderfully impossible for weekly comparisons to be cruelly drawn.

The desire to experience cultural events, to connect with people or enjoy a thrilling sporting match means I frequently choose to attend a Wild game or have dinner with new friends over forcing myself to work out or stay at home with a “safe” meal. Living life and seeking meaningful relationships now take precedence.

The foreign, but exciting experience with ice and snow this winter has been encouraging me to seek alternative ways to relax. I have been allowing my body to stay indoors and be still through reading books ― a pastime I had lost in childhood. I laze, I read and I watch movies without any nagging obligation to do otherwise.

What I have come to realize since being here in Minnesota is that change is not something to be feared. Embracing change, no matter how big or small it may be, has the potential to encourage a mindset of self-care, freedom and power over punishment. It can lead you on a path to truly loving who you are, inside and out.

I have been exposed to so many changes here in Minnesota and yet my body is nourished and my mind is clear. For the first time in years, I really believe that I am beautiful, worthy and free. This sincere belief within myself is truly the most amazing and important change of all and one that I would encourage anyone to aspire to.

Amy Hastie Photo - MN healed

 

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!

 

Your Body Knows Best

Submission: Jessica Kaliher

As I get deeper into my nutrition studies in undergrad, I am stunned by all that food does for us. All of the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are either right here on Earth for us to consume or our bodies make them naturally.

Take a moment to just think about that. Our bodies do so much maintenance that we aren’t even aware of.

It is completely natural to eat because that is how all organisms live and thrive.

The simpler it gets in my head (food=fuel), the more confused I am about how we got to a point in our society where certain foods are deemed as bad and should be restricted.

Whose idea was it that we know more about weight loss, “healthy” bodies, and proper nutrition than our own bodies do? Our body knows when it is not thriving, when it is hungry, when it is full, and it will tell us which one it is feeling. Why do you think signs of deficiency show up when we are lacking in a certain vitamin? If you don’t consume enough vitamin A for long periods of time, for example, you could develop dry, bumpy skin. Or when you are hungry, your stomach grumbles and you feel a bit foggy. Our bodies speak to us, we just have to listen!

The tragedy is being blinded by our own impulses and feelings, or recognizing them and deciding that looking a certain way or feeling in control is more important.

There is no reason that you should solely be seeking weight loss. Seek a healthy body, regardless of size because size does not always equal health. your-body-knows-bestIf you focus on becoming healthy by eating a variety of delicious, fresh foods, moving your body, and doing things that make you happy, it will all add up and your body will return to its natural state eventually.

If a “diet” has a bunch of rules, and you find it hard to maintain all of them, then it’s probably not right for you. If you feel bad for breaking one of the “rules,” you should probably stop. If you are unable to focus in school or work or even just make it through the day- that is not normal. Normal eating should be intuitive and make you feel good, let’s not complicate the process.

At our core, our bodies know best and the more we love them and get in touch with them, the easier they are to read. If you put time into treating your body right, it will thank you.

I know there is a lot of conflicting and controversial information out there, but try not to get bogged down by it all. Instead, go back to the basics, trust yourself, and listen internally because your body knows best.

 

I am not a “Bikini Body”

Submitted by: Angela Haugen

My family and I joined a gym recently.

It is the first time since having my daughter that we have belonged to any fitness facility and it is as much for the child care as it is for the equipment. Sometimes you just need the break, and in Minnesota, you often need that break free of weather constraints.

I was excited to be back at a gym. I’ve always thrived in a situation where I’m paying and therefore accountable to attend, at some level or another (my thriftiness being the highest, probably!). But the truth is that they can be pitfalls for me as well.

My first week, I decided to get re-acclimated to the equipment and my own abilities. What do I like, what do I hate – what has changed and what is still the same? I felt alive running the track and lifting again. And the sauna: I survive Minnesota winters because of the word ‘sauna’. I was thrilled to be back, until…

“Keep going. Keep pushing. We need to work our way into that bikini body. You’ll never get there without effort!”

Now, a week in I decided to try my first cycling class. Historically this has been my favorite fitness outlet. A good sweat, in the dark, at my own pace and speed, with music thumping and everyone in their own zone. Be still my introverted heart!

All was going fine until the new instructor had me grab weights before heading in – she guided me on what to get, but I thought better of her suggestion knowing how new to working out I was again and that I have a history of bad neck and back pain. I opted for lower weights and went about my business – after all, what I love about spinning is the freedom to do and move at the pace and speed that is best for you THAT day. She gave me a disapproving look.

Class started. I adjusted my tension. Music pumping. Feet pedaling. Ahhhhhh…

And then she says these words, as some sort of warped way of inspiring our toughest effort:

“We need to work our way into that bikini body.”

Halt. Stop. What the what?!?!

I’m fairly certain THAT was an awkward moment for the 4 men in the class.

And for me.

I reject it.

And, I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that we aren’t able to be beyond this yet. So I’m going to rant:

Bikini body goals are like 1000% 1992. Welcome to 2016, where the focus on health and total body wellness is where it’s at. Let’s chat.

I get it. Some people do need encouragement to push beyond their comfort zones to achieve further health benefits. Absolutely. But, instead of motivating by some obscure standard like “bikini body” (what is that by the way?!), let’s go for something a little more universally understood: healthy body.

Here’s the thing about that, it’s definable, measurable, and has depths that allow us to explore it individually beyond the superficial lie of physical appearance. Healthy includes being free of disease, being of sound mind, with every vital organ functioning properly. It does not include a specific weight, or look, or random cultural assessment of what “looks good”.

As someone who has been down the horrid cycle of an eating disorder this woman’s words hit the heart of all my weaknesses – only the thing is, I’m not vulnerable there anymore. I have a voice in that space. I hear it for what it is: a lie.

It’s a lie that I or any other woman need to be held to or motivated by or encouraged toward something so obnoxiously unrealistic.

I am not a bikini body.

I am a mom setting an example for my daughter that strength comes from hard work – sometimes its sweat and determination, and sometimes it’s just knowing when to rest. That brains are longer lasting and much more valuable than looks. That good character is what makes her appealing and what will change this world. That being herself in a world of imitators is the most profoundly brave thing she could do – and it definitely doesn’t have a thing to do with some number on the back of her pants.

I am raising a little boy that needs to know that women are more than their bodies. That they deserve respect and honor. That the standards that women are assessed by and encouraged to have in this culture are false images. And, that he plays a part in changing that dialogue.

I am a wife that loves my husband enough to make sure I’m around for the best years of our marriage. That I am physically able to do the things we dream of after the kids are gone – but also that I am free of the mental baggage that obsessing about a number on the scale induces so that I can enjoy our time together for what it is: fun and precious and all too short.

I’m a woman who takes care of a family and needs to be reminded that sometimes that best way to do that is to sacrifice fully for them and sometimes it’s to take care of myself. I need to be reminded that my worth in my family comes from the love I give to them – not my physical appearance. That I work out so that I have the energy to keep up with them for many years to come and not so that I can achieve some arbitrary weight limit, skin tone, or clothing size. That I am a whole person deserving of love because I am a whole person deserving of love.

I am a woman trying to focus on being healthy in my body and in my mind – and both are largely impacted by what I put into them.

I would never eat toxic food, and I choose to not absorb her toxic words.

I am NOT a “Bikini body”. I will NOT work out to become one.

I am a “healthy mind, body, and soul” body. I will work out in motivation to that.