I have a confession. My body image used to be so unhealthy I was stuck in a downward spiral toward bulimia. The struggle is real, often concealed, and I know I am not alone.
This post was edited and almost deleted multiple times. This isn’t something I openly disclose. A confession such as mine bares quite a bit of shame. Bulimia is a nasty word. It’s scary to admit when there is a problem. I justified my actions and negotiated with myself all the time. I didn’t throw up every meal, every day, or even every week so obviously there was no problem. I was in complete control (it was quite the opposite). I would go weeks without making myself purge but ultimately I would relapse immediately followed by self-hate and shame. The first step is realizing something is wrong.
So what was going on? I was extremely self-conscious and my Sophomore year in college left me struggling to grasp balance (mentally, physically, and emotionally). This was a deadly combination and terrible spiral I fought to escape for years. When things felt out of my control I found myself purging more often. Balance is such a crucial part of life.
I was running, and binging, and purging, and eating more because my stomach was empty. My weight was always bouncing around like a bouncy ball. Ironically, when my habits were at their worse, I kept gaining weight rather than losing it. I was extremely unhappy and angry with myself. Control felt out of my grasp. But then I hit a breaking point several years ago. I scared myself enough to desperately want to stop. It is a constant struggle but it is one worth overcoming.
Unfortunately low self-esteem, negative body image, and eating disorders are more common than we think. We need to feel safe enough to talk about these issues. Only then will we have the strength to say adios to that little, evil voice that tells us we are not good enough. We are strong. We are proud. We are awesome. Let’s quiet that pesky voice telling us otherwise.
My tips to healthier body image:
- Find your person: This can be ANYONE. Find someone you can have full disclosure with (mom, sister, friend, brother, dad, boyfriend, husband, psychologist…..anyone). Talking things out and admitting there is a problem is your first step.
- Avoid temptation: We all have triggers that send us down a negative spiral. Figure out what yours are and avoid them as much as possible.
- Listen to your body: Your body is your temple. It allows you to do so much and you need to learn to listen when it is in distress. This includes your mental health; if you are constantly belittling yourself that will take its toll. Pay attention when you need a rest or you crave getting up and being active. Stop eating once you feel full. Drink water, lots of water. Get to know your body and what it needs.
- Turn negativity into something positive: Focus on what your body can do and what you do like about yourself. What are you grateful for? Every time you find yourself focusing on what you don’t like, make a point to find what you are proud of.
- Education is POWER: One of the most staggering things I have done for my body and self-image has been to educate myself. Learning more and more about what I am putting in my body, what nutrients I need, what proper portions look like, how many calories I require, what exercises will benefit my goals, and anything else I can soak up like a sponge has helped me tremendously.
- Indulge a little: It is IMPOSSIBLE to be perfect 100% of the time. Indulge a little from time to time. Loosen up!
- Do something nice for yourself: Buy a book, purchase a new top, go on an adventure, check out that new restaurant, get your favorite coffee drink, take a bath with candles and aromatherapy salts. Whatever may be the key to making you feel a little better, do it. Treat yourself.
- Wear comfortable and flattering clothing: Notice how self-esteem and good clothes go hand in hand? When I am wearing something ill-fitting and unflattering my self-esteem is completely shot and my self/body shaming is at an all time high. I try not to go there.
- Seek positivity: Surround yourself with positive people and that positivity will rub off on you when you are feeling low.
- Strive to be an inspiration: I have beautiful nieces whom I hope never experience the self-loathing I have inflicted upon myself. I am a teacher and a new Girls on the Run coach. If I am a lesser version of myself, they will see that. Seek to be a role model. Help others. Focus on more progressive, important opportunities.
If you find yourself struggling with depression, eating disorders, or thoughts of self-inflicted pain please know you are not alone. Seeking help is not weak, it does, in fact, require unbelievable strength and a whole lot of bravery. To Write Love On Her Arms is a wonderful nonprofit organization dedicated to providing hope and support. Their website also offers resources by state and a help line number.
I am going to leave you with this…. Lindsey
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