I will be perfectly frank about this… I’ve had body image issues for a LONG time. My first ever diet was imposed on me when I was one or two and my first self-imposed diet happened when I was in 6th grade. I was chubby and even after losing some of the baby fat, I’ve always held weight around my midsection.
In high school I hit puberty in the midst of changing roles in cheerleading and packed on 15 pounds of muscle and curve in a year. For a while, it was devastating. In college I was often bigger than all of my friends, meaning I could not borrow or exchange clothes easily with anyone.
Then I hit post-college life. I was running regularly and learning to accept my size and shape. Some days were better than others. And then I had my big “transformation” where I challenged my body, changed sizes, and began a brand new journey of fitness and self love.
Here’s the thing. Becoming a size 4 didn’t immediately make me happy. Seriously. Even at a smaller size I still carry any extra fat in my midsection, some people in my life assumed I was unhealthy because of the dramatic change, and every time I heard “wow, you look great!” I couldn’t help but wince a little at the thought that my friends had thought I was fat and ugly before.
When I realized that changing size wasn’t going to immediately imbue me with true body love, I started on my journey to learn to love myself, flaws and all. I’ll be the first to admit that I still have some work to do and that really self love and body love is a continuous journey, but after struggling to know just what “progress” looked like, I want to share with you some ways you can see your own progress and have some goals to aspire to.
You May Not Always Love Your Body, But You Don’t Hate It
If you’ve really struggled with loving your body, chances are you’ve had days like I have, where you look in the mirror and HATE what you see. It’s not just about the physical flaws, but the accompanying thoughts of failure and why can’t I just stay away from the sweets or stay motivated to workout. It’s the sense that you exist in this being that will not bend to your will and the frustration leads to intense emotions.
Progress is being able to look in the mirror and just see a body. Some days I LOVE my body. I see its muscles, strength, and beauty. Other days I see it and think not much of anything. And on the worst days I see warning signs that tell me I’ve let myself get a little too far off the healthy path and I start making a game plan to get back on track. No more hate!
I don’t always love the pouch or rolls of fat that show up when I do ab work or the cellulite on the back of my thighs, especially when it shows up when I’m feeling icky, bloated, and know I’ve been not treating my body well. But just because I don’t always love my body, I’ve gotten away from hating it, and it is amazing how good it feels to not project negative energy towards this fabulous, miraculous body of mine.
Workouts and Healthy Eating Are Not PunishmentS
Working out used to be something I did to “earn” the sweets I wanted, or the punishment I had to go through to try and lose weight. Eating salads and quinoa was a restriction I had to make on myself to try and undo the damage of the last binge on junk food. Healthy behaviors were something I did only because I was not happy with my body and they were the “solution” to fixing that.
Now, I enjoy my workouts because I know how good they will make me feel… minutes, hours, and days after working out I have more energy, more strength, and an improved mood. Workouts keep my anxiety and stress low, and healthy foods fuel me to keep me feeling great. Sure I still have sweets and I don’t always feel like working out, but I always get back on track because I know I feel better when I’m treating my body well.
If tomorrow someone handed me a pill that would give me the body that looks like I’ve always wanted and I could eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight, I would still work out, eat salads, and drink my shakes. Because it’s about a HEALTHY body for me now, one that will serve me now and for decades to come. Not just trying to have a slim/perfect body.
Your Fitness and Nutrition Plan Matches Your Goals
Here’s the truth… with enough dedication, focus, and often times restriction and time commitment, you can shape your body to be just about whatever you want it to be. There are some limitations based on genetics, of course, but it is incredible what can be accomplished with diet and exercise.
This means, that I could have that six pack I’ve always wanted… but when I weigh the things that make me happy, keep me sane, and fit my current lifestyle, going after that goal doesn’t make any sense. I want to be healthy, feel good, and stay the level of lean that my body feels good at.
The things I would have to change in my diet, the extra time I would have to spend in a gym or working out at home is just more than I want to sacrifice right now to get that illusive six-pack. It also means that living the way I currently do is not inherently setting me up for failure. If I was trying to lean out like a figure or bikini competitor, I would never achieve my goal without making changes and would be back at feeling frustrated with my body for not doing what I wanted it to.
You Know That Ultimately Other People’s Opinions Don’t Matter
Sure, it feels pretty darn good to have someone in your life who’s really attracted to you that shows your body love. And it can be nice to go out and be hit on, to feel like you’re noticed from across the room. But when it comes down to it, you have to love you.
I am not a girl who always had a boyfriend or always turned heads walking into a room. And I used to think that if I found a man who made me feel sexy that was all I would need. Eventually I found one, and sometimes it helped, but there were still plenty of times when I would be getting dressed or looking in the mirror and those same thoughts of frustration with my body would creep in. He wasn’t there or his comments wouldn’t help. It didn’t fix anything.
Now I know that I have to love me, first. And as I grow more confident in my own body and my own worth, I attract better people into my life. When we rely on others to validate our bodies, we make ourselves susceptible to manipulation and emotional abuse. You’re making progress towards loving your body if you know that someone else won’t suddenly make you stop having negative thoughts about it. YOU have to do it.
I hope that this is helpful in giving you a way to help assess your progress. Remember, loving our bodies can be a long and arduous process as we compete with all of the things we see and hear on a daily basis. But stick with it, focus on your health and how you FEEL, and know that consistency with this can be the biggest factor in how much progress you make. Shift your thoughts and be kind to yourself as much as possible. You are human, you are flawed, and you are beautiful. And keep working hard to not let others tell you otherwise.
lover of fitness, sweets, veggies, adventure, travel, and feeling confident.
If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done. - Thomas Jefferson