My Struggle to Embrace my Body

People always say that struggle makes you stronger. Nice-sounding words, but I’ve wrestled with believing them. The reality is that when I’m in the midst of the struggle, it’s almost impossible to see the other side, much less believe I’m going to be better for it.

Buying into Lies About my Body.

One of the biggest struggles in my life has been dealing with body image—as in, loving myself for who I am, regardless of my size or shape. I know there are many others like me, suffering varying degrees of being obsessed with their perceived physical flaws. This tendency is called body dysmorphic disorder, by the way.

I’m in recovery from anorexia nervosa*, an eating disorder that used to make it impossible for me to eat an adequate amount of food to maintain even the lowest normal weight for a person my size. Anorexia is a disorder that tells me things about my body, constantly reminding me I need to lose weight and be more like society’s “ideal image.”

Recovery has taught me that my eating disorder tells lies. At the beginning of treatment several years ago, I learned that my body image was greatly distorted, and that I saw myself as 40% bigger than I actually was. It took a lot of work to accept my body for what it was.

Healthy Body Image Attitudes.

After all I’ve gone through around food, eating and body size, I’m finally able to regard my body and myself with a measure of love and compassion. Hard-won amidst plenty of pushback from my eating disorder, my new thinking opens up a world of freedoms for me. Here are some of them:

  • I take care of my body by eating food that’s nutritious and that I like.
  • I strengthen my body with moderate amounts of exercise. (The key word here is “moderate,” because in the past, I pushed myself to extremes with rigid workouts I insisted on doing regardless of the weather, how tired or even ill I might’ve been.)
  • I give my body adequate rest, making sure I get enough sleep. I allow myself naps and downtime when I feel fatigued. Also, I don’t overbook myself with activities or events that would push me too hard or cause unnecessary hurry or stress.
  • I keep on top of routine medical check-ups, including trips to the dentist and eye doctor. When I’m sick, I go to my physician if necessary.
  • I shop for and wear clothes based on my style and color preferences, rather than pick out things simply because they cover up my body.
  • I am aware of and avoid media that portrays false images of how a female body should look, knowing that these images fuel my body image distortions.
  • I physically and/or emotionally detach myself from certain people in my life who tend to be critical and judgmental of my appearance or choices.

Although today I show love and appreciation to my body, I also know I must continue to be vigilant about old attitudes that creep back in. When they do, I use the tools I have learned to take my physical, emotional and spiritual temperature, so I can restore myself to a healthy self-perspective.

When I think of my new relationship with my body, a favorite yoga pose comes to mind—the Dancer Pose. I love this one because I feel elegant while doing it, and it requires me to concentrate and use every part of my body. It’s wonderful to feel my muscles stretching and tightening. Though I focus on a point in front of me to keep my balance, I often fall. (Then it’s my Falling Dancer Pose!) This is fine—I simply get up and try again.

The Upside of Struggling.

I can’t say I enjoy challenges and difficulties, but let’s face it…they’re an inevitable part of life. They become so much more tolerable, however, when I change my attitude toward them and realize they each have a gift to give me if I persist long enough to find it. Hanging in there through life’s hurdles helps me develop qualities including courage, compassion, acceptance and confidence, to name just a few.

It’s a tremendous relief knowing that God understands I’m pretty much a baby when it comes to enduring hardship and pain, because He stays right next to me every step of the way, comforting and strengthening me. I never have to feel alone with any problem, no matter how big or small. And through His reassuring presence, I get yet another gift—a growing faith.

* According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), 9% or 28.8 million people in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime
anorexia body dysmorphia body image eating disorder God healthy body image self-acceptance self-care struggle to lose weight

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