May 7, 2014

But What If I Can’t Accept My Body As Is? ~ Tamar Henry

Birth of Venus

Warning: naughty language ahead!

Last year, around this time of year, an Australian clothing company, Inner Subversion shared a post on Facebook that quickly went viral: (warning, expletives ahead…)

“How to dress for your shape: Are you human-shaped? Play up your confidence and natural sex appeal by wearing whatever the fuck you want.

Life Tip: As the weather gets warmer, continue to wear whatever the fuck you want. Flaunt everything or keep it cool under cover. Dress to make yourself feel rad.

How to get a bikini body: Put a bikini on your body.

Want sexy own-the-beach summer legs? Shave, or don’t because they’re your fucking legs.”

I love everything about this. And I really want to embody it.

But, to be perfectly honest, I don’t fully embody it. I don’t always believe I have a “bikini-body” (whatever that means) unless I look a certain way. And that way, for me, is about 20 pounds lighter than I am currently. Influenced by culture, and deeply embedded in me is the idea that my self-worth is inextricably linked to how I look, and how thin or “not thin” I am.

In my adulthood, having finally found a weight and body that I felt comfortable with, after changing my diet and investigating what forms of movement worked best for me, I somewhat suddenly was faced with significant weight gain and health issues that seemed to come out of nowhere. I’ve been processing and reacting to this big curveball for a couple of years… (see here, here, here, and here).

Here are some of my current thoughts about my body image/comfort with my body in no particular order:

1) Being 20 pounds lighter isn’t the top priority in my life right now.

2) Despite much advice to the contrary, I don’t want to/am not ready to give away or get rid of the clothes in my closet that don’t fit me.

3) When I try on clothes that I wore a few years ago, I get sad and frustrated.

4) I often wish I had the body I had three years ago.

5) I deserve to feel good about my body right now.

6) I probably won’t wear a bikini this summer.

7) My body saved someone’s life.

8) I will never give up on my body.

9) My body teaches me.

As you might have noticed, these statements are not totally consistent. I feel like I’m living in this sort of “no-man’s land” when it comes to my body.

On the one hand, I would love to embrace the way my body looks and feels all the time, no matter what.

On the other hand, the reality is that I just don’t. But just because I don’t embrace it all the time, doesn’t mean that I don’t love it.

I am sure that some of you reading this can relate. You are done with starvation diets, you are done with hating your body, and at the same time you are not totally satisfied with your current body, and no, you don’t love how it looks all the time. It’s a tough place to be because you want to be the person who doesn’t care, who accepts her body as it is, all the time.

But that just isn’t the case…at least not in this moment. So, what to do? How do you live in this space where you are not willing to embrace either the “12 weeks to flat abs” or “give away all your clothes and buy a whole new wardrobe of what fits” dichotomies?

I have struggled with being in this no-man’s land, and here’s what I’ve come up with that’s been truly helpful for me:

1) Find (in your closet or purchase) a few items of clothing that you do feel good in. You don’t have to give away the clothes that don’t fit you, but find some go-to pieces that you feel good in right now.

2) Do something that consciously gets you in your body every day. Do something that reminds you of what your body can do, what it’s here to do, what you are made of (skin, muscles, organs, cells, etc.) Ideas? Take a walk, practice yoga, swim, taking a few deep breaths every hour, do an inversion (like handstand or headstand), dance or stretch.

3) Have a go-to “I did that?!?” thing that reminds you, regularly and often, what your body has done. Mine are donating my stem cells five years ago, running a sub four hour marathon in 1998, and scaling glaciers in the Himalayas in 2009. Yours might be giving birth, biking across a state, writing that report while sacrificing sleep or overcoming cancer.

4) When you feel fat or heavy or weighed down (and yes, I do believe you can “feel fat”), do two things: a) ask yourself what you could release or let go of that would help you feel lighter. This might be a thought, a belief, an object, an appointment, etc. b) notice this feeling and say yes to it. Let it be there. Let it be okay that it’s there. Love it anyway.

5) Look in the mirror and say “I love you, Tamar.” (Replace with your own name, of course) Try to do this every day. I know you might want to write this one off—but I swear to you, it really works. Make sure you include your name, not mine.

Practicing these things have helped me because they’ve made something that I thought about every single day for sometimes hours at a time more of an occasional passing thought. It’s not that the problem is “solved.” I still feel I exist a little bit in no man’s land. However, the problem feels like less of an actual problem.

Thinking about my body, looking at it, is a lot less charged for me than it used to be. So, while I don’t think I’ll be wearing a bikini this summer, I also don’t care too much. I’ll still go to the beach and I’ll still swim. My perception of my body won’t prevent me from living life. And for me, that’s a triumph.

If you see yourself in no-man’s land too, I’d love to hear from you. What has helped you live here? What are your go-to tools/strategies/sayings?


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Apprentice Editor: Kimby Maxson/ Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Flickr


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