It is a warm October Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa. Not warm, hot. I want to go shopping for new jeans. I’m browsing through my summer dresses that I usually wear on repeat in summer. I try one on and notice it sits differently. It seems shorter and tighter. I feel uncomfortable almost immediately and strip it off my body. I step onto the scale. The scale tells me that within the year, I have gained 10kg. In total over two years I have gained about 20-25kg. The pair of jeans I would have worn, are ripped at the inner thighs and I can’t wear them anymore (remember, I am going shopping). I walk over to my bed, I sit down and cry.
Usually after I cry, I would have my usual chastising talk with myself; scold myself for getting this way. I would then come up with the “perfect diet” (usually cutting out all kinds of carbs) and look up a 30-day exercise regime, guaranteed to yield results within its allotted amount of time. I would tell myself that I will buy new jeans once I get back to the size I was. Then buy more jeans once I lose more weight. I would accept any and all invitations to eat out and prove that “I don’t crave that slice of pizza. My salad without the dressing is just perfect, thank you for asking.” After the month is up and I start getting compliments about my weight lose; my determination and my healthy “glow”, I would start secretly binge eating. Drive-throughs were the best. Get the food; eat as I drive or sneak it into the house and eat in my room. The packaging discarded the day after before I got to work.
This time, my crying session only lasted for about a minute or two. It had only been a couple of months since starting Powerful Body and Mind and I spotted this pattern of behaviour just as it started. So, I put on a different dress, I got up and bought three pairs of jeans my size. I told myself not to feel bad because a) fitting jeans is notorious for making any woman feel bad, and b) I needed jeans in my size. Simple as that. I decided not to judge myself because I need new clothes. I had gained weight. I gained weight because I had stopped diet culture and had been going through my cycle of eating everything I could, when I could, however I could. I was getting used to intuitive eating and listening to my body. I told myself that with this new process, comes new changes, and the last thing I needed to do was to be harsh to myself and my body.
This is not an easy process at all. No matter where you stand with food. Some people get food and others don’t. It’s not like alcohol and drugs that can be given up, it is something you need. I needed to find a way to love myself through the process. These are my points on loving yourself:
1. You are in the body you are supposed to have.
Not all bodies are meant to look alike. No everyone has the thigh gap or the Kim K butt or perfect boobs. The best body is the one you have right now. It can change; get bigger or smaller but it is yours. Not all of us have thigh gaps, big butts or the hour glass figure. That’s OKAY!
2. Touch your body.
This may sound odd but get to know your body. A smaller or bigger body does not feel bad. It is a body. You have a body! Appreciate its bends, its curves, its rolls and how it is different. No one else has the exact same body as you! You are unique! Appreciate how different you are.
3. The scale won’t tell you how amazing you are.
Scales are there (in my opinion) to let you know in imperial or metric weight how much mass you take up on earth. It doesn’t determine health; it doesn’t determine happiness and it doesn’t determine your worth. Numbers don’t define you. YOU define you. Period.
4. Don’t let the mirror be your enemy.
The mirror is just there to show you if you applied the foundation on evenly or if you put the right black trousers with the right black shirt. It does not define you! It never has.
5. Labels are just that- labels.
Thin, fat, chubby etc are not bad words. They are descriptors. That’s all. People will use them in an insulting way because they are projecting what they don’t like about themselves on others BUT no matter where you fall on the spectrum, you are still beautiful and worthy of respect.
6. Exit any and all body bashing conversations.
You know what conversations I mean. The ones where we say harsh things about other people’s bodies or our own. We judge and bash and scrutinise. Do you feel fulfilled when you break yourself down with these conversations? No? So, stop! This also includes any and all conversations about diet culture. You won’t feel good getting into it and you certainly won’t feel good when it’s over.
7. How you look does not determine your health.
How you feel and where your health is not always determined by how you look. I had a friend who was bigger than me who could comfortably jog on the treadmill for 30mins straight and not break a sweat. I couldn’t jog on the treadmill for 5 mins if I had to save my life. There is a misconception that one must look a certain way to be deemed as healthy. This is not true. Like my friend in the example, people thought she was not healthy. She ate what we would think are healthier foods, she exercised and played sport frequently. She was a killer netball and tennis player. The catch was that she was larger therefore in some people’s eyes, she was unhealthy. She showed me that size is not a factor in health. Many of my slimmer friends showed me that they could guzzle food down quicker than me and still retain the same figure.
8. Celebrate what your body can do.
Your body has and still does so much for you. Celebrate those aspects about your body. Your body from time-to-time shows you just how far it can go and what it can do. That’s something to be proud of.
9. Start developing positive body talk.
We are so used to saying the worst about our bodies to ourselves. Here’s an exercise. It’s a difficult one. Look at yourself in the mirror (a good exercise that work with point 2) and say five things you like or appreciate about your body. Say them every day. Eventually increase that number. Smile at yourself in the mirror (as dumb as that sounds). Be kind to yourself. The more you find you love about your body, the more you will love your body. For example, “I like that my body gave me carried my beautiful baby and I could be a safe space in which he/ she grew in.” “I like my legs because they carry me everywhere.” “I love my big butt because I don’t have to try too hard when I twerk in the club.” Some examples may sound silly but even the silly examples can help.
10. Lastly, self-care!
How can you start to love yourself, if you don’t take care of yourself? It is still difficult for me and I am constantly having to work at self-care. Self-care is not only to feel good about yourself but to also take time recharge and concentrate all your time on taking care of yourself. People who love themselves take care of themselves.