I’ll be honest with you, this is definitely the most difficult thing that I have struggled with over the last couple of years. When I first started on this journey, I was happy (due to my pre-conditioned way of thinking) to stockpile so called “clean eating” recipes and practice cooking them. I was happy to head to the local health food store (heads up Archie Browns!) and invest in exotic ingredients with mysterious names that I’d never heard of before. I was happy to search for a form of exercise that excited me and encouraged me to move my body for pleasure (although the search still continues to a certain degree!) I was happy and prepared to do these things because in theory, they were no different to the preparations I used to make when starting any new “diet”.
But then things got a bit deeper. I finally acknowledged the fact that the time had come where the biggest obstacle I had to tackle was not my bingo wings or my wobbly thighs, but my mind. The demons who had occupied my head and the majority of my conscious thoughts for most of my life. The demons that were always telling me that I was disgusting, hideous, sickening, not good enough, too fat for that dress, too fat to sit on the beach in a swimming costume, too fat to go on holiday to a tropical destination, too fat to audition for various singing gigs (yes, I am a frustrated singer!), too fat to learn to surf….. you get the general gist. The demons who had encouraged me to put my life on hold until I finally achieved the perfect size 10.
And then a year or so ago, I had a moment of clarity. I FINALLY realised that:
So far, despite 30 years of dieting experience I have NEVER managed to achieve the perfect size 10 , so lets face it, my chances for the future aren’t looking great!
Even if I was to manage to starve myself into a size 10 (a la meal replacement shakes) then the effort it would take to maintain such a figure until the day I die, would be nothing short of life-long mental and physical torture…….not really my preferred way of living!
Why do I need to be a bloody size 10?
Who has brainwashed me into believing that this is by far the best and only acceptable body size. Oh and while we’re on it, it’s not just about the dress size; you need also to refer to the very specific body shape pre-requisites ie. Totally flat tummy, toned lightly muscular arms with absolutely no hint of excess flesh, pert, round bum with just the right amount of wobble, exposed, graceful collar bones, the much sought after thigh gap, slim ankles and feet... Yes, ankles and feet... I’ve thought about it that hard...I could continue...
Once these questions occurred to me, I couldn’t escape them.
They took up residence in my head alongside the demons and it felt as thought they were arguing with each other (just like the characters in Inside Out!) until I slowly but surely began to break free of the shackles………the shackles of the media who constantly perpetuate the myth of the perfect female body; the shackles of clothes manufacturers with their ridiculous, arbitrary women’s clothing sizes which vary dramatically from shop to shop; the shackles of the GPs who tell us that we can only be healthy if we fit into the correct, ludicrous BMI band that our height predetermines for us; the shackles of the insidious diet industry with has brainwashed pretty much every woman I know so that we refer to food not as gorgeous, mouthwatering or bland, but instead as “good”, “bad” or “naughty” I mean, seriously……WTF??!?!
So, I have put a lot of time, effort and work into improving my relationship with my body and altering my mind-set. And in fact, while my diet has changed for the better, I think that my biggest shifts have been psychological rather than physical. I have done a lot of soul searching, a lot of reading, and I have listened to a lot of fabulous people talk about the issues that I have struggled with and how best to overcome them. I could regurgitate their main points for you, but instead I thought it would be more helpful if I were to share what I feel are the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way. Things that I wish someone had told me at the start:
Understand that you are most definitely not the only person who feels this way! There’s loads of help out there if you search for it (although obviously Happilicious.co.uk is THE place to be!) And the thing to bear in mind about this is that if so many other people are wasting their energy on focussing on the negatives of their own bodies, they sure as hell aren’t focussing on yours, right???!!! Just pause and think for a minute….Imagine what fabulous things we could achieve if we channelled all of that negative energy in a more positive direction…….
This is something you will need to work at: It will not suddenly fall into place because you’ve read one body positive article. Throw yourself into it. Let it consume you. Let it take the place of all of your obsessive calorie counting and weighing! Read everything you can get your hands on; join Facebook groups; sign up to mailing lists; listen to podcasts. Study it. Live it. Focus on it. You wouldn’t expect to suddenly develop a monstrous 6 pack after one visit to the gym and learning to love and accept your body is exactly the same. It takes time, effort and practice. It is most certainly a journey. A bloody fabulous and very worthwhile one!!
Don’t give up when you have a set back. This is certainly one that I have had to come to terms with……Every now and then, I get dressed, look in the mirror and have a bit of a breakdown because I don’t like what I see! We’ve all been there right? But here’s the thing I’ve come to realise, It happens to me now every 3 or 4 months……..It used to happen nearly every day!!! How’s that for progress? And I bet even Kate Moss has her moments where she doesn’t like what she sees in the mirror – we all have our off days!
Listen to the way you talk to yourself. Ask yourself how you would feel if you heard someone talking to your mum/best friend/daughter in the same way? If you’re anything like me, you’d be outraged. So don’t do it! Focus on changing your inner script. Be nice to yourself. Use positive affirmations. It will feel really odd at first, but I promise you, it works. Remember: Our thoughts create our reality.
Understand that loving and accepting yourself doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly feel compelled to enter Miss Baywatch Bikini 2016. (Although, if you do, crack on and best of luck to you, I’m sure you’ll rock!!!) And neither does it mean that you have to stop striving to make you feel like the best version of you. On the contrary, once you have accepted where you are, right now, you can then figure out all of the marvellous things you can do to make yourself feel even better. Self love is fuelled by self care, and that comes in many wonderful guises.
Do you know what? As soon as I started writing this list, I realised that I could probably just keep on going! Honestly, I cannot over-emphasise the power of working on your relationship with your body. I urge you to give it a try! If you want any tips or guidance, I’d bloody love to help.
About Amy: After a long and winding road I'm now loving life and getting happier and healthier into the bargain. Whoop