I want to start this post by saying that self development is an ongoing process rather than a destination. You'll never be able to "complete" it and never have a mindset wobble ever again.
After practising self development for a number of years, I feel as though I've found my flow in so many areas. I have a morning routine that works for me, I have tools that help me when my inner critic is loud and I'm always learning more each day.
But there is one part that no matter how hard I try, never seems to fall into place.
I am consistently wishing for my body to change.
To be smaller, more toned, more "in shape" (whatever that means).
To not be the way that it is.
Even just typing that feels like I'm violating some kind of life coach guideline.
The self help movement sometimes tells us that we should accept all parts of ourselves, and if we don't we're failing.
But being on top of every thought and feeling all the time just isn't possible.
Before being a coach, I'm still a human and I have struggles just like everyone else.
To tell you anything different would be downright dishonest.
While ultimately I know that my personality, values and strengths are so much more important than how I look, I still spend time picking myself apart in the mirror. I wish my thighs were smaller. I wish my stomach was more toned. I wish my body was free of cellulite and imperfections.
I know I'm not alone in my struggle.
We still live in a world that tells women that their value and worth is based on their appearance.
Whilst we have made leaps and bounds with equality and seeing beyond how people look, we are still told to fit in and not take up space. It's what birthed the self love and body positivity movement.
I would like to say here that, while I struggle with my body image, I am still pretty close to the norm. I'm a tall white woman who is a size 12-14. I don't experience discrimination because of my size or fatphobia. I'm not who the body positivity movement was created for - to find out more about this, I highly recommend this article written by Stephanie Yeboah.
Within my own journey, I am aiming for body acceptance and neutrality.
Who knows, one day I may fall deeply in love with my body. But for right now, getting to a place where I'm able to accept how my body looks, feels like the right goal (if there even is such a thing).
What I've learned about my body and diet culture
The problem is not with my body, it's with how I'm thinking about my body.
For as long as I can remember, I've struggled to be confident about my body. This was true when I was a size 8 and a size 14. So my body is not the problem.
Whilst immersing myself in self development, one thing I have learnt is to reject diet culture wherever I can.
Whilst I have never experienced an eating disorder, I can see how my own behaviours and habits have been affected by it. I have restricted food, over exercised and been influenced by all sorts of rules about what I should and shouldn't be eating.
I've always focused on being smaller and thinner, rather than being healthy.
I do also think that my current body image woes have been amplified by the fact my wedding is coming up. The pressure to look my best and fit into my beautiful gown is A LOT. Currently my dress is too small, which feels quite devastating considering it fit perfectly back in July 2020 when I bought it.
One of my favourite films is Bride Wars, but I can't help but notice in hindsight how problematic that film is, most noticeably the line:
"You don’t alter Vera to fit you. You alter yourself to fit Vera"
It also hasn't helped that when shopping for dresses I was asked if I like to size down to lose weight for the wedding. No wonder I've been in a tailspin about my body recently. The pressure to look our best, at the expense of everything else, feels crushing at times.
I knew something had to change.
So I decided to get serious about learning how to accept my body just as it is.
Earlier this year, I invested in working with an Intuitive Nutrition Health Coach, who also happens to be my good friend, Bex. Together we have been unpicking where my body image issues show up and how to move through them in a way that feels right for me.
Some of the things we've been working on are:
Releasing guilt around food and exercise
Focusing on how I feel rather than how I look
Being more mindful about what I'm eating and how I'm eating
Not comparing my body to how it was 10 years ago
Appreciating my body and tuning into what it needs
I'm also learning that it's not my fault I think in this way. We are constantly being bombarded by messages that tell us being thin is the only way. That it's normal to be miserable as long as you're losing weight. That it's our fault and we're just lazy if we're not able to diet and exercise 7 days a week.
It's time to draw a line in the sand.
As you can probably tell, I still feel quite early on in my journey. I know there will be setbacks and challenges along the way. But life is too short to let your mind be consumed with thoughts of how much you weigh, diets and forcing your body to be anything other than what it's meant to be.
I genuinely feel quite nervous to post this, but it's important to let you know that I don't have everything figured out. Being a coach does not mean you have a magic secret and never experience struggle. In fact, having these struggles usually makes you a better coach.
I hope you found this post helpful and if you're struggling with body image, know that it's normal. I can wholeheartedly recommend getting in touch with Bex if you would like further support with this. Her website can be found here.
Follow people on social media who are anti-diet culture and that you resonate with, and unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about your body or what you eat.
If you're concerned that you or someone you know might have an eating disorder, there's lots of helpful information on the BEAT website.