Do you cringe or berate yourself when you look in the mirror or catch a glance of yourself in a store window?
Sadly, you’re not alone.
Too many women, including myself, loathe and despise what they see when they stumble upon their full body image, while previously happily moving through their day.
Now that I’m over 50 and getting a bit wiser, I realize just how awful this ingrained habit is.
Think about it: the place you live 24 hours a day and year after year is your body! You’re the only one who lives there. If you hate your body, or even parts of your body, you are basically hating you!
That’s just not right, and it certainly CANNOT be healthy!
How can you blossom into a healthier version of yourself if you hate you? It seems like oxymoronic thinking. I hate my body, but I want it to be better.
Since my late 30’s, I’ve been working at losing weight at one time or another, just like so many other women. Hating my body and wanting it to be different hasn’t helped the process.
So, what’s the alternative?
Accept your body today, as it is.
What? Sounds crazy. Why would you do that? You don’t want to accept your current body with rolls, cellulite, or other unwanted features, right?
I’m not saying you have to accept your current body’s state forever; it makes sense to eat healthier foods and move your body more to become healthier. Absolutely, we should try to do that.
What I am saying is that you can learn to feel calmer, happier and less stressed by starting to learn to accept your body as it is. I’m discovering specific ways that are helping me to begin to accept and love my body, and therefore, feel better.
I would love to share all the tricks that are helping me, but for this post, I’d like to focus on just one helpful strategy.
Living in the Present
Most of us don’t fully live and enjoy the present moment. Physically, our bodies exist, but a lot of the time we’re mentally and emotionally somewhere else.
Where? The past or the future.
Some people live in the past, dwelling on what happened, why it happened and draining their emotions (sadness, anger, resentment, bitterness, etc.) and hours of energy on things that no longer exist. While our earlier experiences affect who we are, they’re in the past.
Don’t get me wrong. Some people have been through a lot in their life and may need to address past events and situations. If you’ve had experiences that require you to work through them emotionally (neglect, abuse, etc.), doing so with a counselor is going to serve you better than dwelling on things that keep you stuck or blaming others for your life.
Most of my past stays there, but for me, it’s the future I seemed to be obsessed with. If I dedicate most of my thinking time to what’s happening later in the day, or next week, or next month, I’m smothered with unneeded emotions: worry, anxiety, doubt, fear, etc.
Can you guess one of the things that dominates my future thinking?
Food and Weight: When will I eat?, What will I eat?, What should I eat?, I should eat less, I should eat more greens and vegetables, I should stop eating crappy food etc.
Past thinking slips in too: I ate too much, Why did I eat that? Why do I always overeat? Why didn’t I choose the salad? etc.
Future thinking is my normal, and it never occurred to me that it was negatively impacting me.
This whole idea of being fully present and not mentally jumping into the future is new to me, so I am, like all of us, a work in progress. Luckily, I made an amazing discovery while practicing living in the present: I feel calmer and less stressed!
Which way of living sounds better to you?
Past Living…sadness, anger, resentment, bitterness
Future Living…worry, anxiety, doubt, fear
Present Living…calm, peace, joy, stress-free
Clearly, the Present looks more appealing. I’ve applied living in the present to several aspects of my life to see how it would feel. Here are a few ways I’ve tried.
Falling asleep: I focus on the present by appreciating my warm bed and home. I focus on what my body needs to sleep, and I breathe deeply and slowly. If my mind wanders to the past or future, I refocus or I repeat affirmations like, “I am healthy and strong”, or “I will have a deep, restful sleep.” Plug in the words you need to feel presently calm and to avoid thinking about the past or future.
Eating: Instead of hurriedly putting food together and then, while eating, wondering what I will eat next, I now try to eat in the present. I plan and prepare a meal more thoughtfully. I sit down to eat and concentrate on being grateful for the food, chewing it at a leisurely rate (instead of the usual shoveling it into my mouth) and enjoying the tastes and textures,
So, how can you live in the present with your body? How can you learn to accept your body where it is, for the moment, and stop beating yourself up about it? Let’s first compare some possible past, future and present thinking about our bodies.
Past: “I’m disgusting. I ate way too much pizza last night. I think I had 6 pieces. I’m such a pig. No wonder I’m so huge.”
Future: “When will I finally get serious about losing this weight? Look at yourself. I’m going to start my diet tomorrow for sure. Otherwise, I’m going to balloon up even more. Yikes!”
Present: “I’m healthy and have a good life. I see that my body could be at a healthier weight, but that’s ok for today, for this present moment. Although I don’t look the way I want right, now, I’m learning to love myself just the way I am”.
I have done this, and guess what? I feel better.
It doesn’t mean I accept my weight forever, and it doesn’t mean I’ll never live in the past or future again when I look at my body. It does mean I’m working at loving myself, which includes my overweight body, just as I am, because negative self-bashing is not good for the soul.
Self-bashing, whether through past or future thinking hasn’t helped me lose and keep off the weight so far. It’s time to try something different.
Ultimately, what I’ve learned is that I can control my stress, and so can you.
You ARE in control of whether you think about the past or future. Unless there’s something awful happening in the present, in an exact moment (and there rarely is), you can enjoy many peaceful, stress-free moments.
By changing our thinking, we can begin to accept our bodies in the present moment. By doing so, we can feel better, which can give us energy and motivation to make lifestyle changes that, with practice, can stick and ultimately lead to a healthier weight for our bodies.
If you haven’t considered the idea of accepting your body before, try living in the present and speaking kindly to yourself about where your body is right now. Give it some time and see how it feels.
Your Journey. Own it.
Thank you to my daughter for drawing the images for this post. She pointed out that she made a mistake, which works beautifully because it’s a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect at our first try at something.