The (body image) Struggle Is Real

It’s time to get real. I’m struggling hard with accepting where my body is at right now.

I’ve spent the past 5 or 6 years of my life really focused on cultivating self-love, rejecting the mandates handed to women by diet culture, and exorcising my mother’s critical, fat-shaming voice from my head. And by carefully curating my social media and consciously altering the way I speak to myself about my body, I’ve made tremendous leaps in this area.

But the past year with my BRCA+ diagnosis, the surgeries, the physical and emotional roller coaster of it all has really set me back about a million paces. I feel the constant gnawing and anxious tension of self-loathing in the pit of my stomach in a way I haven’t in so many years. I catch myself judging my worth based on my physical appearance more than on any of the much more important and relevant parts of myself. I hear my mother’s voice sneaking back into my consciousness, picking me apart, critiquing every inch of me, and I see her in my mind bowing down to the alter of diet culture, prostrate before her pile of Nutrisystem boxed meals.

Here’s the truth. I’m heavier than I’ve been at any other time in my life (aside for pregnancy and the first 9 months postpartum). I’m weaker than I’ve been in a long time…possibly ever in my adult life. And I’m in worse cardio shape I have been since I first started getting into fitness in college.  I feel so uncomfortable when the swelly-belly strikes and my scar pulls tight like a belt several notches too small around my mid-section and I hate the puffed up pregnant look of it all. I miss my old midsection and my old boobs. I also miss my old hormones that made it a little bit easier for me to stay strong and helped me avoid packing on quite so many pounds.

Upon recognizing all of this my instinct is to come at myself with a whole lotta blame and finger pointing for not being disciplined enough or for being lazy and self-indulgent. For giving in to emotional eating and slacking on food prep. My instinct is to be a cruel and insufferable bitch to myself. But that is not who I want to be.

I am choosing to challenge that instinct with a more kind and compassionate tone. To tell myself a different version of the same story.

  • My body has been through decades of change in the past 6 months between two operations and surgical menopause.
  • It’s only been 5 weeks since I started HRT and things are definitely not fully straightened out in that arena yet. These hormones control so much when it comes to mood, metabolism, and body composition and this part of the equation is entirely out of my control right now.
  • The combined 8 weeks I had to take off from exercise while recovering from surgeries was bound to set me back. And after each recovery it was like starting from scratch and re-learning what works and what doesn’t for my body.
  • There were many days I felt too drained to work out (and sometimes still are). And many days that I felt so low that treating myself to some candy or ice cream was the easiest (only?) thing I could do to find joy in a given moment.

And all of that is ok (I try to tell myself). It’s ok to be where I’m at right now.

My body has been remarkably cooperative and kind to me through this journey. I don’t have cancer. I made it through two surgeries without any major complications. I’m still able to do my job and care for my child.

My body deserves my gratitude and kindness, not such shame and vitriol. So this is what I’m trying to give it (with gentleness and room for flexibility of course). I am making an effort to honor my body and treat it well by:

  • Going to bed at a time that allows me to wake up early & not be rushed in the morning (because a rushed/stressful morning sets me up to be in a negative mental space for the rest of the day)
  • Start every day with a big glass of water…before I hit the coffee
  • Be mindful and present when I’m out walking with the dog, enjoy the quiet
  • Do something extra to move my body every day, whether it’s a few mins of stretching, some push ups on my office floor, a Peleton workout, gym session, whatever
  • Own my choices. I DO NOT need to feel guilty for choosing to go for a hike rather than going to the gym.
  • Eat protein in the morning. I’ll appreciate this later when my blood sugar doesn’t wonk out for the rest of the day.
  • Cook at home and meal prep…as much as my time/energy allows. Try to pack lunch for work every day so I’m not raiding my snack drawer or eating junky lunches from Starbucks. But don’t feel guilty for ordering take out a couple times per week if it helps my sanity.
  • Thank my body for all it does for me and recognize all it has gone through. Contrast those automatic, pervasive judgmental thoughts with deep breaths and gratitude.

I’ve been here before. I know how powerful it can be to make these small changes in how I approach myself. And sometimes we need to walk the same path a few times before it becomes the natural route we take.

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