The truth is, I haven’t always loved myself. If I’m being honest, it was quite the opposite. It’s vulnerable saying those words out loud.
I’ve been working on this blog topic since March 2017. Little by little I’d add, edit, delete, save. It never seemed “right” or “complete.” Last week, I began writing. I wrote and wrote about my past, my present, and all the correlations discovered.
Every time I went back to edit, I had more to say. Memories surfaced, thoughts flowed, and observations connected.
I ended up with near 4000 words. It was no longer just a post, it was the making of my next book!
When I began to uncover what my father used to label “our dirty laundry” my eyes opened to the connections in my current life. Vulnerable topics I’d been avoiding out of perceived shame or fear of what others may think became the exact things I needed to share: a part of my past, my determination, drive, who I am now, the reason for my choices in life – my learning in everything.
I believe that by sharing our stories, our unique and different circumstances can help others. Our stories can be what someone needs to hear at that moment to offer hope, courage, and let them know they’re not alone.
Allow me to share a part of my story.
Decades of stress, lack of sleep, skipping meals, over-caffeinating, and overtraining in the gym caught up with me six years ago. The one question I never asked myself, nor quite honestly, cared to consider was, at what risk were these habits to my health later in life?
I found myself faced with adrenal fatigue, elevated cortisol, blood sugar imbalance, insulin resistance, and low thyroid. I found this diagnosis through a myriad of menopause symptoms that began in my early 40’s: hot flashes, night sweats, broken sleep, hair loss, weight gain, and fatigue.
Looking back now, it had begun earlier, but I ignored it, much like a healthy relationship with myself.
Developing an unhealthy relationship with food as a teenager, Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia became a way of life in my teens. It provided a false sense of control in a world that quickly felt out of control as my mother’s health diminished to multiple sclerosis. It took years of work on myself to become healthy again; not just physically, but mentally.
But even now, decades later, I have moments when I catch myself reviving old beliefs and thought patterns from the body dysmorphia that never really left. Awareness of my emotional correlations and negative thought patterns in body shaming and body image began to reveal themselves these past years.
For most of my life, I convinced myself my figure was much larger than it was when I looked in the mirror. When I experienced my unexplained hormonal weight gain, I realized I still couldn’t see the truth, and I was staring worthiness and body shaming in the face. It seemed as long as I maintained my body at my desired weight/pant size through years past, the internal screaming quieted. Was it perfectionism or pride? Shame or disgust that created my new perception of self?
I promised myself long ago that I’d never go back down the rabbit hole of my unhealthy teenage habits. A promise to myself to never go back to starving, purging, or exercising for hours on end. I kept that promise. But I could feel the panic setting in with a desperate urge to quick fix my weight gain. It was frightening, unwelcome and wasn’t going to happen. I needed a better solution.
I vowed to make peace with my body and find a better way to take the best care of myself; living beyond obsessive thoughts and enjoying life at a healthy weight. My self-worth couldn’t have been all summed up in body image, could it?
As hard as it was to face that truth, it was great observing on my part. Becoming aware of the pattern, I could choose differently for myself.
It was up to me to become the change I desired. Nobody was going to create that change for me or give me a magic cure to make it all go away. I’d fallen into a pattern of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and lack of self-worth in the past and I became comfortable beating myself up.
I placed my worth on my pant size, the number on the scale, how I looked in the mirror. My mind conditioned itself to the negative banter. It was the preferred language I fed myself and sadly, it became my truth. It needed to stop.
I had a decision to make: to continue down the dark path or grow. Choice by choice, decision by decision, I dove deeper into my anxieties, limiting beliefs and body shaming. I started practicing re-aligning my thoughts. I became aware of reframing negative thoughts to a more loving, compassionate thought process about my body, myself, everything around me.
Positive thinking about my body felt foreign. The words felt fake and recognizing the thousands of times my mind drifted toward negativity became overwhelming. I’ve had many failures and successes throughout this process, especially when it came to my thoughts! My inner critic voice was a constant loop in my mind.
Other questions arose:
- When did I begin to believe all the untruths and negative chatter?
- At what point in my life did I allow it to take over the majority of the thoughts running through my mind?
- How many years have I subconsciously and consciously calculated the food going into my mouth or the amount of time I spent exercising.
- Why was it so easy to ignore the real truth about my body: it was strong, beautiful and capable?
I began replacing desperate thoughts of needing to be thin and reaching an unrealistic body shape with fitness and strength goals. Developing my strength and conditioning in the gym, I also expanded my nutrition philosophy toward eating real food and enough of it. Knowledge is power.
My focus changed; my outlook on life changed. I realized a strength within myself that propelled me forward and helped me recognize I was capable.
Through this process, I began discovering and BELIEVING my worth for the first time in my life. I found love and appreciation for my body for its beauty, power, strength, shape, and ability. Real truth.
Replacing words like “fat” with “fit” and “hate” with “love,” I began to see myself differently. It became easier to accept the positive self-talk toward myself. New images, new thoughts, new self-talk to re-condition my brain. Witnessing change encouraged me to press forward year after year because my body was something I could be proud of, instead of ashamed.
I fell in love with personal development and setting new goals for myself: reading, studying, and absorbing whatever I could to better myself – my outlook on life. I realized the power of the mind.
I’ve dedicated the past six years to learn how to correct my health. Learning how hormones, food, rest and exercise impact my healing, my mindset and the ability to bring balance back to my body. Health has been my goal, not weight.
New respect for the human body developed for its ability to heal. I implemented healthy habits that nourished and cared for my body. The right amount of exercise, more sleep, foods that heal, and a calmer, peaceful mindset, all provided clarity and an ability to look beyond my weight and pant size.
I gained respect for myself and my ability to trust my intuition when it came to caring for myself. I learned to listen to the signals my body was sending. The answers it would provide when I tuned in and trusted it.
I’m not damaged, broken or even desperate because of my hormonal weight gain as I would’ve believed in the past. I’m human.
Many women (and even men) live in this kind of silent suffering. It’s important to know they’re not alone. Our bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and they are all beautiful!! My body could be it’s strong, curvy, long torso self and it was beautiful and okay to be different. We have the power to feel beautiful in our skin because we choose too.
Changing a negative mindset doesn’t resolve itself in a day, week, month, a year, or ten years. It’s an awareness and a willingness to change. Conscious practice of observing and searching for new evidence that loving myself is okay. I began by calling myself beautiful, even when I didn’t believe it. I “faked it untilI made it”, and you know what? A transformation began to occur.
I’ve experienced good days and challenging days along the way, but I can now reassess instead of dropping in defeat. I search the drama I’m telling myself for any truth. Is it true? Productive? Or might there be a better truth? When I look in the mirror, I focus on the things I like about myself and stop myself from criticizing what I don’t. It helps me see a more authentic reflection.
Transforming thoughts into real, substantial, confident, kind, compassionate self-talk and NOT believing the bullshit that flows in and out is a daily exercise for the brain.
We decide what fills our mind. Will it be empowering or defeating?
I prefer the confident, fit, comfortable, authentic version of myself but I’m a work in progress. I’m not willing to accept aging as an excuse to give up on my health goals but rather to learn as much as I can to help not only myself in the future but other women as well. The beauty is in all the learning and tools I have to be able to provide for my daughters’ stability through their body changes as young women.
Pema Chodron once said, “Nothing ever leaves us, until it’s taught us what we need to learn.”
Once I changed my focus and looked beyond the weight gain, I began to notice a permanent change in my mindset and body. The self-loathing softened. I recognized the message coming through and faced it head-on this time.
It’s produced an appreciation for who I am and acceptance for where I’m now. I’m responsible for becoming my best cheerleader. I trust in my inner voice instead of believing my worst inner mean girl.
You know – that inner voice. The gentle voice that is often directing us to what we need. More sleep, less caffeine, healthy food. The sound we often dismiss because we think we know better or don’t want to listen.
I’ve learned the importance of acknowledging each success as well as each failure with an attitude of learning, not shame. No longer beat myself up when my body doesn’t comply. I research what works best for my body, what doesn’t and make a change. I tune into what my body’s whispering.
Becoming an advocate for my health and focusing on my strength in the gym, has helped me repair my adrenal health and improve my hormone balances. It’s taken years of consistency and patience to see progress. My head is clearer than I’ve known but more importantly – I FEEL terrific!
It’s been a lesson for me in acceptance. Accepting all the things my body is instead of all things I convinced myself it wasn’t. A change in the way I see myself.
Life’s not perfect. I’m not perfect nor do I expect myself to be any longer. I only desire to be the healthiest version of myself these days. I have much more compassion in myself and less judgment. I’m no longer at war with my body, I embrace it.
It’s refreshing, trust me!
This journey has led me to look inside myself more deeply and honestly than I ever have. In return, I’ve received priceless gifts of re-discovering my self-worth, confidence, and beauty I once believed wasn’t mine to own.
Do you have a similar story? Perhaps my story has resonated with you?
Please reach out. I’d love to hear about it!!
If you’re interested in learning basic lifestyle changes you can implement into your life toward better health, click here to learn how I can help you.
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