Tag Archive for self-love

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.

 

How I Stopped Hurting and Started Healing

Submitted by Amy Hastie 

Sometimes I forget how far I have come and how much I have progressed through my recovery from an eating disorder. I had one of those moments last week. I had slept in and as a result, I ended up hastily sprinting down the road towards my bus stop in the hope of still making it to work on time. Thankfully, I did manage to reach my place of employment in a punctual manner that morning, but that’s not the point of this story.

Amy Hastie - How I stopped hurtingI didn’t feel the physical effects of my spontaneous bus-catching jog until later that afternoon when I was enjoying a walk at the gym and started to feel a muscular pulling sensation near my groin. Here’s the amazing part ― I immediately pressed the “STOP” button on the treadmill, stepped off and went home to rest. This seemingly simple choice to stop exercising when feeling an injury coming on might seem like a logical and mundane decision for someone to make, but for me, it was an achievement.

See, I used to get injured ― a lot. I wasn’t accident-prone, clumsy or unlucky. Under the control of Anorexia and even in the later stages of my recovery, the incessant pressure to push past pain and risk my physical health for fear of gaining weight truly controlled and consumed my life. I could never risk a day without exercising. I was never allowed to alter the type of work-out, the intensity or length of time. Every session was rigid, punishing and exhausting beyond words. That’s why getting injured used to be the most terrifying thing in the world for me – it meant resting and the potential weight consequences that could follow.

Yet, the ironic thing was that over-exercising had always created injuries and physical health issues for me. If I had just listened to my body on so many occasions in the past, if I had rested for just a day or two, I could have spared my body so much pain.

During one of my anorexic relapses, I was participating in artistic in-line skating – essentially figure skating on roller blades. It was a wonderfully fun sport, but coupled with my obsessive and disordered tendencies, it was at times, unhealthy for me. I was over-exercising in addition to the skate training so my body was rapidly weakening in all its forms. One morning whilst doing my usual rigorous walk before work, I began to feel pain in the top of my foot. Of course, Anorexia told me to keep walking and disregard it, so I did. Weeks later, I was practicing at the rink when I landed a jump and suddenly felt excruciating pain in that same place in my foot. I stopped skating that evening, but the next day I was back to my grueling walk, once again ignoring all of the discomfort.

It wasn’t until I could barely stand on the foot (let alone walk), that I finally caved in and begrudgingly sought medical advice. After receiving the results of my x-rays and bone scans, it was confirmed that I had not one, not two, but three stress fractures in my foot. I was also informed that the bones in my feet were osteopenic, which can be a precursor to osteoporosis. I was devastated – not because of the severity of the injuries, but by the reality that I would not be able to exercise for weeks

What followed my stress fracture diagnosis was six months of wearing a protective boot. I was banned from any form of weight-bearing activity which in turn had Anorexia restricting my food intake once again. I was in such a dark place at a time when self-kindness and compassion should have been in full force.

A few months after my fractures had finally healed, I launched myself back into working out. Anorexia was taunting me about “lost time” and all the hard work I would need to do in order to regain its approval. As a result of this fear-inducing pressure, I ended up badly damaging my knee on the treadmill. I decided to rest, but not entirely ― that would have been “unacceptable”. Whilst sitting down and pumping weights one morning, I slipped a disc in my lower back. This injury was the most debilitated I had ever been and involved months upon months of bed-rest, pain and incapacity.

It is truly frightening how much of a hold Anorexia had on me. My body was in such danger and distress, yet the pressure to maintain an image of perfection took precedence.

As I have worked through my recovery, I have looked back and asked myself over and over – why didn’t I stop and rest as soon as I had felt that little twinge in my foot? What if I had decided to forego the treadmill and stay in bed the morning my knee gave out?

Moving forward, it’s amazing how natural it has become for me to simply listen to my body. I now stop when something feels even slightly uncomfortable or unnatural. Now that my mind is clear and healthy, I have the power to nurture and take care of myself physically. I have reduced the intensity and frequency of my workouts. If there is something fun occurring after work, I will skip exercising completely. If I am exhausted or run-down, I will simply rest, sleep and recuperate.

I now choose to move my body in a variety of ways, based on my genuine desires and needs. Sometimes if I am pumped and energized, I will turn up my favorite music and go to the gym. If I have been cooped up inside all day, I will enjoy a gentle wander around a beautiful park with my husband. Above all else, I stay in tune with what my body is asking of me. I decide on exactly what I feel like doing instead of what I am falsely obligated to.

Self-care is absolutely essential in our lives. Our bodies are all we have, so it is vital we take the very best care of them. Since embracing this mindset and lifestyle, I have been completely injury-free. It has taken me a long time to come to this peaceful, free and powerful place both physically and mentally, but I am so happy, content and proud that I made it here.

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.

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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!