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February 4, 2017

The 8 Steps I took to Find Peace.

I don’t know why I started the fight, but I know why I ended it.

After a decade of being at war with my body, I finally found my peace. Behind my silent suffering and my disordered eating, there was a girl who desperately wanted the answer to breaking free from a life that didn’t serve her.

My peace didn’t come from nailing my macros just right or finding a breakthrough workout that was effective, challenging, hard but fun, affordable, endurable, and fit my schedule. It didn’t come from achieving my goal weight or hitting the measurements I dreamed of. It didn’t come from banning carbs, or not eating past a certain hour or cutting dairy, gluten, and any solid foods out of my life.

I started to realize my journey with my body wasn’t comparable to anyone else’s because it wasn’t theirs. What works for JLo, works for JLo—and that’s wonderful, but her life is slightly, but notably, different from mine. Once I stopped seeking my shortcut through someone else’s secrets, I started to feel like my body could just be mine, and we could do this whole living thing together just the way we were.

Of course, it wasn’t all marital bliss once we realized we were going to spend the rest of our lives together, so we decided to figure this whole cohabitation thing out. We worked at it, and we continue to work at it. I’ve had days that I wanted to trade her in for a different model and days that I didn’t believe a freaking thing she told me. But what I realized was, when I checked into how I felt in my body, I started to relax. I wasn’t in control anymore and perfection wasn’t my destination. When I gave myself permission to let go of controlling, all I wanted to do was hand the wheel over.

Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of backseat driving, but we started to negotiate our direction and where to stop along the way. Turned out, my body had a lot of opinions, just like I did, about what was best for us. She also had a lot of opinions about those things that needed to be added to our “we’re not doing that anymore” list. My body was funny, thankfully forgiving, and also very sensitive. She felt rejected, ignored, “not enough,” and abused for so long. Rightfully so, of course, but sh*t, I had no idea where to even start with her—so we started over.

I started by changing my mindset from a sprint to an ultra-marathon. I stopped trying to find a quick fix and started looking for lifestyle choices that worked for the long haul. I defined a few key steps along the way that took me from feeling like a prisoner to feeling like a warrior within my own skin.

1. I changed the way I spoke to my body. We complimented each other, even on days we didn’t want to. I stopped tearing her down and instead spoke words of affirmation, of love, and compassion.
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2. I gave myself permission to quit exercise that felt rigid and forced, and started discovering movement that brought me joy. I started to find myself on my yoga mat almost daily, rather than at the gym. This permission, and my practice, allowed me to stop demanding perfection—and instead, I sought acceptance of where I was day-to-day. I started saying yes to things that felt good, rather than forced because she spoke. I listened, and we vetoed anything that made us feel less-than-beautiful. Exercise became an intuitive space that we could add movement in for some feel-goods, and I removed calorie expenditure as the goal.
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3. I scrapped my restricted foods list and started practicing balance. This was scary territory to navigate, so it required a lot of patience. I was rediscovering the joy of food, and while a bit scary, it was quite liberating to not see food labeled as good and bad, and to learn to identify craving versus hunger. This was a big negotiation for my body and I, because we had never talked about it before. I just made the rules. One by one, we tried new things, and she showed me that I wouldn’t expand overnight. Slowly, we worked on this trust concept. I trusted her to tell me what we needed, and eventually I didn’t need her to explain her reasoning—or to justify, or rationalize our current caloric count for the day.
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44. I got mindful about what I ate when I ate and how I felt. I kept a diary of it to keep track of how my energy and my body responded to certain foods, to start to decide how best to fuel my energy.
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5. I had an honest heart-to-heart with my wardrobe and got rid of anything that would require me to lose weight to start enjoying it. If being at war with my body was making me wait to start enjoying the life that was passing by me, then I wanted peace. I focused on shifting my mindset out of “I will be happy when___,” and I began living one day at a time.
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6. I  started meditating to sit with my thoughts. I had plenty of them through this process, and I spent time with them. As I deepened my meditation practice, I practiced acknowledging my thoughts, along with my worry, and letting them pass through me. I didn’t have to grab them and take them in, but could watch their passing like leaves down a creek. This brought me a sense of calm when I felt out of control.

7. I began cooking more and preparing meals. I adopted behaviors from Thich Nhat Hanh‘s book, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, that inspired me to slow down, to taste, and to notice. As I adopted this behavior and mentality as my yogic lifestyle, it naturally poured into my relationship with my body and my thoughts and fears around food.

8. I took my power back from believing food controlled me. I moved into a place of knowing and trusting that this body was mine, and we had choices every day. I offered myself grace, forgiveness, and compassion as often as I needed it.

What I’ve learned in doing this is that my body is actually a really intelligent thing. My cravings are dull compared to what they were when I had lists and plans to follow, because I have this fancy feeling of balance where I can give myself permission to have whatever it is my body tells me it needs or wants—and we don’t fight about it anymore.

I don’t feel guilty. Life doesn’t end, the sky doesn’t fall, and I don’t have to punish myself. Perhaps, most magically, I’m not less than because I gave in, because it’s no longer a power struggle between my mind and my body; we love each other. I see her now, and I think she’s perfect, imperfections included.

She was made for me, and I owe her a life well-lived.

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Author: Halley Hadfield

Image: Courtesy of Author. Photograph by Christy McConnell

Editor: Travis May

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Halley Hadfield