Do You Love Your Body? I have to admit, my answer for most of my life has been NO! I’ve been working on an attitude adjustment, and struggled with loving my body, body image, and self-esteem my whole life! I’m still working on it –being both an athlete, and professional in the health and fitness industry for my entire life you’d think this wouldn’t be an issue for me, but it is… and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. It makes me sad to know that I'm not the only one who needs to shift my mental state and embrace my body with an attitude of gratitude, and a little more love and affection. If you struggle with loving how you look, read on and I'll share a little bit about my story and a few secrets I learned last week that are helping me shift my perspective and helping me move closer to truly loving my body... Body Image and the Media Thanks to the media and marketing ads our heads our filled with images and photos of drop-dead gorgeous women with perfect boobs, and perfect bodies, and perfect hair, and gorgeous teeth, and fabulous clothes, and we’re flipping through magazines wishing we could be just like these air-brushed beauties. And while there are a few genetically gifted gals and guys out there, the reality is that nobody is perfect, but every BODY is beautiful! For those of you reading this who are like me, and somewhat body image challenged, all I have to say is don’t give up on yourself! I still believe it’s possible for me to learn to love me and I’m working on it… Hope that you are on the path to self-love and acceptance too! What Are You Thinking… It’s the conversation that’s happening between our ears that makings the biggest difference in how we see ourselves, how we feel about how we look, and in turn how much we love or hate our body. And while the media, parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, coaches, and peers might be positively or negatively influencing our beliefs. The bottom line… It’s our own belief system about our self-worth and self-esteem that’s affecting how we feel about our body. My Story… As a teenager and competitive gymnast, I was constantly “reminded” by my coach that I needed to watch my weight. These comments and some of the ways I was influenced regarding food and food choices still affect me today. In college as a dancer, while I never considered myself bulimic and sadly wished I could be “strong” enough to not eat. I still binged and purged with diet pills and laxatives. In my mind since I wasn’t throwing up, there wasn’t anything “wrong” with my behavior. I couldn’t ever eat what I wanted in front of other people, so I learned how to hide and sneak food to comfort my cravings and try to satisfy the bottomless pit of emotional emptiness I was feeling inside. Food was my friend, it made me feel good in the moment…then the mental anguish would set in for the number of calories in the box of cookies I just ate, or the ½ a dozen donuts, or entire bag of chips! And I’d beat myself up and the cycle of negative self-image and self-worth would continue. While I don’t do diet pills and laxatives anymore, I have to admit that compulsive emotional-based eating still is an occasional challenge. As an adult, I was in several relationships with men who were abusive both physically, and emotionally. It took me awhile to get strong enough to decide I deserved better. But I suppose a little piece of me always thought, “If you’re fat, you’re ugly, no one will notice you, and guys will leave you alone.” I am now married an amazingly wonderful man, and bless him for telling me daily how beautiful I am and how much he loves me. He does this knowing that I don’t believe him, but hopes that someday if I hear it enough I WILL believe him and embrace my beautiful body inside and out. While sometimes a part of me wishes he’d stop telling me this – I know that his loving words are a blessing and are helping me to heal. If you don’t have anyone else in your life telling you daily that you’re beautiful and loved – stand in front of a mirror and start telling yourself out loud these two very important things. I AM BEAUTIFUL! AND I LOVE My BODY! In fact I’m going to start doing this too because I’m the one who needs to say it, and start reinforcing healthy beliefs about my body image – who’s going to join me and start doing this too? I know my husband loves me, I know my clients love me… It’s time I join the party and love me even more than they do. More excuses for a bad attitude… Another personal challenge for me has been medical issues. Several rounds of high-dose steroids over the past 15 years caused my weight to skyrocket! I blossomed from what I thought was a hefty size 6-8 at 125-130 pounds, to a size 16-18, and honestly at my heaviest I was too afraid to get on the scale! Looking back at photos of me during that time, I’d estimate my weight at 250-265 or higher. Most of my life, my weight has continued to creep up. I’ve had mini-breakthroughs where I’ve gotten down to a size 2-4, but not been able to maintain it. (“BAD Girl,” says the brain and the cycle of hating my body continues.) I look back at photos of me as a gymnast and wonder why I believed it when I was told I was FAT! Seriously… 5’4” 115-120 pounds of solid muscle… where was the fat? If I was fat then, what am I at 150, or 165? Sigh… does weight really matter? I think it’s not as important as how you feel about yourself. It’s only a number, and from my experience, whether my number is 115, 150, or 225, when I look in the mirror I see the exact same person! Body Image Ah-Ha’s The realization that I see a fat me regardless of my size was reflected to me last week when I went to LA for Image Consulting! I was so excited to learn how to dress my body, and get help from an expert to transform my life. Silly me, thinking that a new wardrobe would magically solve all my body image issues. (And that I was truly ready for a body image transformation!) The first revelation I had was that what I’m wearing isn’t the real issue. I can wear the cutest most flattering outfit, and still not really “SEE” myself as sexy and beautiful. A whole day I spent putting on fabulous clothes and learning how to pick the right colors and styles to flatter my figure. With each change of clothes I fell deeper into despair that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or would ever be able to love my body in ANYTHING I was wearing. My mental mindset needs more of a tune-up. The real transformation has to happen with what I’m telling myself about my body, and my ability to LOVE myself regardless of my size, or what clothes I’m wearing. I did learn A LOT about my brain, body, and wardrobe and am eternally grateful for my Image Therapy day. After a good night’s sleep, I met a friend for a chat and she gave me the second biggest blessing EVER. While sharing my story and shedding yet a few more tears, she said, “ You need to focus on the Positives, not the negatives.” One brilliant sentence, shared with me at the exact right moment has helped to shift my perspective about how I SEE my Body! As a coach, mentor, and Pilates Teacher I’ve spent my entire life looking at bodies, analyzing movement, and looking for what’s wrong so I can help people correct bad habits and improve their health! I am hard-wired to see the negative, so I can “fix” it. This is a gift and a blessing to my clients, and part of why I am very good at what I do. But turn the mirror on my own body, and I can’t “fix” the shape GOD gave me. Stretch as much as possible and I’ll never get my 5’4” frame to magically be 5’8”. Sure I can tone my muscles, and eat right but my hips will always be my hips, my belly will still be there, my butt’s my butt, and surgery wouldn’t really drastically make me any better. (Or at least I’m not willing to go that route to see if it solves my Love My Body dilemma) WOW – All I have to do is FOCUS on the POSITIVES! Can’t tell you how excited I am to work on this. It’s taking some effort, but I’m only a few days into working on my new perspective, but I have to say already it’s making a difference. Instead of getting grumpy about how I don’t like my belly and feeling like it’s pooching out too much, (even though I know I’ve got a good strong core.) I’m embracing the positive and celebrating the sexy curves of my waistline. Honestly…every time I remind myself how much I love my waist and the natural curves of my shape I’m actually starting to see my body differently. This attitude adjustment to focus on the positives, along with the amazing help I received in learning how to pick out the right clothes to flatter my shape and show off my assets is going to change my life! I’m tickled at the thought of moving into my 50’s and loving my body more as its aging than I did in my youth. Is that really possible… I think the answer is YES! If you’re feeling challenged to love your body, keep working on your brain! Hopefully my Ah-Ha moment and transformational tips to focus on the positive aspects of YOU will help you see yourself in a new light. Celebrate your assets and notice what it does for your self-confidence, self-worth, and appreciation for the beautiful body you’re living in! Regardless of your shape or size, EVERY BODY is Beautiful. In 2014 one of my goals is to learn to LOVE my body, and be kinder to me. Hopefully along the way I can help inspire as many Women (and Men) as possible to do the same. Thanks for reading about my journey to love my body. Sometimes I wonder if sharing feelings from the dark side is OK. I’ve mustered the courage to put this out there, because I’ve realized that NOT talking about it doesn’t shed light and love on the issues that need to change. If we can learn to support each other – everyone wins! Please share your thoughts and comments about body image, and what you do to keep a positive outlook to remind yourself that you’re beautiful inside and out. Love Your Body it’s going to be with you for a lifetime!