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I’m not allowed to feel insecure

Society makes us feel as though we need to meet certain criteria before we’re “allowed” to have a flawed body image. You have to be overweight, have had children, have stretch marks and/or cellulite, or have had some kind of body-altering experience.

I’ve never experienced those things so I never felt entitled to have any complaints about my body. I haven’t earned the right to feel insecure… right?

Wrong.

You don’t have to have one specific body type to struggle. You don’t have to have one specific experience to think your body isn’t good enough as it is.

I’ve struggled with my own body image for as long as I can remember. When I was 12 or so I remember obsessing over “needing” to lose five pounds for a family event. I used to count calories in elementary school. I begged my mom to buy me Slim Fast bars in 7th grade because I heard they’d expand in my stomach and make me feel full.

In high school I went in the opposite direction. Instead of counting calories and obsessing over my weight, I ate nothing but Taco Bell (because hello, driver’s license!), school cafeteria food (gross), and hot dogs.

Fast forward to college and it was back to obsession, but this time under the guise of “health.” I took some alternative health classes and became obsessed with buying organic food (exclusively), proper food combining, eliminating sugar, animal products, and anything that was even remotely processed. Since I was also only working with a grocery budget of $25 a week, it was pretty easy not to gain any weight. Instead I was walking around wearing a size 00 and barely tipping the scale at 105lbs.

Then I turned 25, quit my day job, started doing yoga full time, and promptly depleted every last bit of energy reserves I had. I lost an unreasonable amount of muscle mass, body fat, and energy. I was wearing myself into the ground and felt as weak as I looked.

Once I moved to France a few years later, I dropped all food rules except one: “Do whatever you want!” This worked out OK for a while, but once I stopped being able to button my pants, I knew I wanted to make a few changes. But I wondered where I would even begin to tear down these bad habits around food I’d been operating on for so long.

I just knew I couldn’t do it with obsession; I had to find my “why” and make it a true change of INTENTION from the inside out. This doesn’t sound radical or like a great new idea, but why is have so many of us struggled so hard just to find the center? Why has it felt so difficult to just reach a simple balance with how we treat our bodies?

I think a lot of women in my generation grew up around other women and/or mothers who constantly talked down about themselves. It feels like every day of my life my mom was on a diet. She was always saying how she looked or felt fat and would restrict her eating. It was so normal to me, I just thought that’s what we were supposed to do as members of the female population! And this probably sounds a lot like many of your mothers or mother figures!

This year when I turned 30, I vowed to get in the best shape of my life. I won’t lie– vanity was definitely part of it, but more than that, I wanted to FEEL good. I was tired of battling this feeling of never being “quite where I want to be,” yet also lacking the self worth and motivation to do anything about it.

I started here: what is my WHY? WHY do I want to feel better? WHY do I want my clothes to fit me instead of buying new ones? WHY do I feel bad about all of this anyway?

I dug deep and answered every single aspect of my WHY, and then made a game plan from there. Instead of going cold turkey and quitting every indulgent food I enjoyed, I cut back. Instead of going full throttle at the gym and focusing on sweaty power yoga to slim down, I made a very intentional, reasonable schedule and followed that.

So where am I today? Where did all of this actually land? Where have I settled?

I’m a work in progress. I HAVE stuck to that initial plan, and I do feel really good. The foods I choose are generally ones that nourish my body and occasionally I have the ones that nourish my soul. It took a LONG time to find the right balance, and six months into my 30th year, I’m finally starting to feel good. I feel balanced. I eat indulgent foods once in a while (truly, once in a while), and healthy, wholesome, balanced, clean foods the rest of the time. I don’t obsess, but I’m very mindful of how I feed my body.

I truly believe there’s a “right” approach for every season of your life. If what you’re doing now isn’t working, it’s OK to try something different, and that’s my biggest takeaway of this entire journey. I was tired of yo-yo-ing up and down, and for me, that initial exercise of setting my intention set me down a path that’s been sustainable and healthy for me.

Today when I look at my body, I try not to pick it apart. I don’t look for what’s wrong, but I look for what I appreciate. I look for the progress I’ve made with the work I put in so far. I focus on what I can DO.

When you feel good on the inside, you’ll start to feel good about the outside. And even if the outside doesn’t line up with how you feel inside, you’ll begin to make choices that align with your desires once you FEEL worthy of achieving your goals.

Having a positive body image isn’t something you just get. It’s something that requires constant effort and tending, like a plant. It can grow and evolve and change, but if you take your eyes off it for too long, it’ll wither away. Don’t let your attention waver. You ARE worthy of feeling good. You CAN make changes when you set your mind to it. And it’s never too late to start.

6 Comments

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    Gayle Thorn

    June 23, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Great article! I have been that work in progress my entire life. Occasionally I learn something new and take another step only to wonder why I didn’t see this or make this change when I was 20 or 30 (I’m 57). Then I step back and remind myself that growing is a process. it doesn’t and can’t happen all at once. I am continuing on my journey day by day, even moment by moment, to remain the vital, active, healthy person that God wants me to be. I pray your journey will be a blessed one. 🙂

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    Melanie Gibson

    June 23, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Thanks, I needed some encouragement today. I seem to have strained one of my right adductor muscles and it hurts like crazy to do anything that flexes that hip or makes the right knee raise. I am pretty sick of it at this point, since it happened Monday morning and I have had to be very careful about every step I take all week and exercise is a big no-no; just a bit of gentle stretching as I experiment and see what it lets me do. It’s twice as bad because it is not something really exciting where they rush you to an ER and make a huge fuss over you; it’s not even worthy of making an appointment with a dr. and getting everyone’s sympathy that way. So I am holed up here in my apartment feeling sorry for myself, resting it until it gets better, and doing about 5% of what I am used to. There has been this nasty little voice in the back of my head that has been saying, “You will get fat and out of shape, blah, blah, blah….” Of course, my idea of gaining weight is 5 0r 10 lbs. and that I get more bloated, so I don’t feel like I get to play with those who have a long way to go. It’s good to be reminded that I am still a work in progress and there will be times when some more work has to be done before the results can be enjoyed.

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    Louise

    June 23, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Good for you, Erin and for having the courage to speak out – I feel exactly the same way – it’s almost as if you have to fall into a particular category, e.g. ‘ I don’t have stretch marks/ am not very overweight so therefore it’s as if I’ve no right to feel insecure/ anxious about body image’. There are some amazing body positive advocates out there in the yoga community but actually I feel a little intimidated by them sometimes and to me it seems they can appear a little militant in their rhetoric. It’s as if I couldn’t join their circle unless I look or feel a certain way, and surely that does the opposite of what the intention is which is to foster inclusivity without judgment?
    Thankyou for this article it gave me the courage to write this!
    Keep doing what you do!
    Louise x

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    Beth Henningsen

    June 23, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    My mom has been on a diet and complaining about her body my entire life and I’m 50. One of the first thing she comments on when she sees photos of someone is how much weight they’ve gained. I gained 40+ pounds with two pregnancies and was overweight, but not obese by any means. I clearly remember complaining about my fat thighs and looking down at my daughter who at the time was probably about 2 or 3. I thought for a moment about the weight insecurities I listened to as a child from my mother and vowed right then and there I would NOT pass that along to my daughter. I eliminated most convenience or processed foods, we stopped going out to eat as often, and we added a lot more vegetables. We went on South Beach for several months which cuts sugars and carbs from your diet. I lost at least 40 pounds. We don’t maintain a strict South Beach diet, but are much more mindful of the carbs we choose to eat, mostly sticking to whole wheat bread with extra fiber and saving potatoes for special occasions. We keep ice cream in the house for the kids , but only indulge in it once every few months. My kids are grown (the baby is starting college in the fall) and so far they seem to have healthy body images. My kids would rather come home and have me cook them dinner than go out. And I have come a long way in body acceptance as well.

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    Steph

    June 24, 2018 at 4:31 am

    Thank you for this piece, Erin.
    I think you’re on to something with the fact that we grew up around women who talked down about themselves constantly. I’m from the same generation, and I remember when I was a child, my mom, who wasn’t much more than what would be a size 0 now, had the bathroom cabinet filled with anti-cellulite products, there was one of those suction cups roller hanging by the bathtub and there were times where she would spend 30 minutes everyday massaging her thighs and times where she couldn’t find the motivation and then complain about it constantly. Her thighs never lost their cellulite and she never wore short skirts. Fast forward to my late teen years, I was a size 0, played basketball 3 to 4 days a week, I was okay wearing short skirts and shorts but I’d wear tights under my more clingy trousers because it smoothed the little cellulite I had on my butt and thighs. I’m in my 30s now, and I accepted that I can be as fit as I’ll ever be and still have that cellulite because it’s genetic. And frankly, nobody that matters to me cares about it, why should I care? Still, although I’ve never had any problem getting naked in front of anyone (thanks to years of team sports changing rooms), cellulite, stretch marks (I have plenty of those and they never bothered me) and scars on display, I sometimes catch myself trying to put a pair of tights under my trousers… Our insecurities are never based on anything reasonable, and we’re allowed to have them however we look to the outside world.
    On a second note, last year I broke up with my companion of 11 years, and since then, while trying to get out there again, I’ve been hit on by a few men, and they always compliment me on my physique, which is nice at first, it boosts your ego a little, makes you think you’re still desirable. But the downside is, I recently met someone who I was starting to consider as a potential serious boyfriend, who constantly says he loves my body, and how perfect it is… Again, it’s nice, if he finds my body perfect and sees no flaws in my cellulite-d butt, then again why should I be insecure about it? So obviously, my mind spiralled… and now I have a new insecurity, am I just a nice body and a pretty face to him (and to everybody else)? Will I ever find a man again that will appreciate my mind and personnality? Am I just desirable and not lovable? I think at the core, it doesn’t matter if we get rid of our body oriented insecurities, if we don’t start loving ourself as whole body-mind-soul being, there will always be something that will make us say “I am less than …”. So, this is my work in progress now.

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    Liz Fox

    June 24, 2018 at 10:08 am

    I just love your posts. I am 62, a yoga teacher, andI think you are saying what every girl thinks. Ok, every woman. Bt we are all little girls in some deep or maybe not too deep place. Your honesty and insight belies your youth. Thanks so much for the giggles.. xo

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