Body Acceptance: Loving My Body, Old and New

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan aka ~Indygirl

I can’t remember ever liking my body as a child or a teen. In my 20s, if I did like it, even for a second, it was only because I had “starved well” that day. In my 30s I definitely hated my body and in my 40s I was bigger than ever, weighing in at 460 at my highest. Oddly enough, it’s in my 40s that I’ve started accepting my body more.

I don’t know exactly what has changed, but my body is no longer subject to my rules of perfectionism. I have, in fact, granted myself permission to have a bad hair day, an “I feel bloated day” or a day when I’m just off my game. I used to stand in front of the mirror for an hour primping and preening, having to look just perfect before I would leave the house. If I couldn’t achieve what I thought was needed, I was bad enough off about my self image that I would call off school and even work. I would cry and starve myself the whole day in an attempt to make up for my failure.

What did I see in the mirror that was so wrong? I was fat. I hated my hair. I had a zit. My mascara was odd. You see, nothing else could be wrong if I was fat. I had to make up for it in every other way. I had to be perfect to overcompensate for being fat. I needed perfect grades, perfect makeup, perfect clothes, and never to make mistakes. Let’s face it: I set myself up for the failure and depression I suffered with expectations like that.

Where did those expectations come from? From a very young age, my mother and her family rode me about my weight. My mother said she didn’t want me to suffer by being overweight as she did, but her tactics were very cruel. Name calling, pointing at parts of my body and asking “What is that?” and commenting about whether I was or was not eating were prime examples. No matter what I did, she was not pleased. The rest of the family just kept lecturing, taking their diet pills and starving, setting a great example for my bulimic teens and 20s. I’ll save that story for another blog.

How did I go from the 200’s and hating my body to the 300’s and accepting my body more? Therapy helped, so did losing the toxic people who made me hate my body in the first place. I really believe we don’t loathe our bodies naturally. Children don’t hate their bodies until somebody points out that theirs are different. I think it’s a learned behavior. If it is learned, it can be relearned a different way, a healthier way.

First I lost a relationship that was fairly toxic to me. At the time, however, I would have done anything for this person, who reminded me constantly of my weight problem. One time he even point blank asked me “So when are you going to look like a cheerleader?” Still, thinking I was in the wrong, I began a bulimic cycle that took years of therapy to undo.

I also lost my grandmother, who was diet pill happy and could not resist telling me about how I would be so much prettier if I were slender. My mother also passed away, and I no longer had anyone telling me how I should feel about my body, except strangers who take it upon themselves to belittle others. I miss my mother and grandmother greatly, but I don’t miss the pressure they put on me to be thin. That pressure made it virtually impossible to love my body.

Tips to love your body now:

  1. Don’t let others be your mirror unless they are a positive one.
  2. Find what you like about your body and play it up.
  3. Spend time admiring things about yourself in the mirror and in pictures.
  4. Do things that make you feel beautiful.
  5. Protect yourself from toxic people who belittle your beauty.
  6. Avoid comparing bodies.
  7. Relearn to love yourself.
  8. Participate in things that make you feel good about your body.
  9. Discover your style and appreciate it.
  10. If you can’t find yourself, reinvent yourself.

Just like you learned to hate your body, you can learn to love it again. Personally, I got a tattoo on my right shoulder of some Victorian flowers that signify that I will no longer wait to live--life is happening now, not 10 pounds from now. It reminds me to love what I have and move on in freedom, stopping to smell the flowers along the way.

Have you learned to love your body, or are you still struggling to accept yourself for who you are now? Do you have any advice for others who might be struggling?