One year ago I was living in an apartment in Kuala Lumpur which had a free gym. I started going almost every day and after 2 weeks I found myself in the following scenario. Looking in the mirror at my stomach I observed the following thought:
‘Once my stomach is a bit more toned I will be happy with my body’
It is a thought I have probably had hundreds of times before without noticing. But this time I caught it and was horrified. From that moment I quit going to the gym, released ALL pressures of exercise and decided instead that I needed a mind work-out!
One year on, my eyes don’t dart to my ‘problem’ areas anymore. I have begun to stop worrying about food and the effect of it on my weight and I exercise as and when I want, but NOT to change my body shape. Here are a few things that helped me:
- The documentary ‘Missrepresentation’ which shows how women are portrayed in film, TV, music videos and even politics. It explains exactly why we have such low self-esteems and I was disgusted to see the objectification, manipulation and sexism that have always been there which I now see in a different light. We are being manipulated into feeling low about our appearance so that we continuously buy products to fix something that was never broken and to aspire to an image which is at best unrealistic and at worse completely fake due to airbrushing. After watching it I made a conscious decision that I will now refuse to be further manipulated by our consumer culture. The documentary can be watched free here.
- Being mindful of thoughts when you see images on the screen or in magazines. How do the images make you feel about your own self-image, are they damaging your confidence? Are you setting unrealistic and unnecessary targets for yourself which will never be met? Are you your own worst critic?
- Looking back at old photos of yourself. How did you feel at the time? Content with your appearance or still wanting something more? Imagine yourself 10 years from now looking back, what will you think about your figure as it is now? Ask yourself how long you are prepared to reject your own body. If you are having thoughts such as ‘I will be happy with my body when….. (my arms are more toned, my stomach is slimmer….etc) you are resisting your body, resisting reality and not living in the present, but in the future. This is therefore not a body issue but a self-esteem one. The future doesn’t exist, only the present moment
- Being mindful of where your eyes and thoughts go when you look in the mirror. Do they go straight to your perceived ‘worst’ areas? What would happen instead if they went to your best features and you sent love and acceptance to the ‘worst’ areas?
- Body worship: take a few minutes of quiet time to yourself with silence or some soft music. Touch and examine the different parts of your body one by one, thanking it for all it’s done for you and apologising for any past negative resisting thoughts you’ve had towards it. This may sound like a strange practice but it is extremely powerful. Repeat regularly until you start to love and accept your whole body, no exceptions
For me the results of the above have definitely given me a much healthier relationship with food, and a 90% reduction in damaging self thoughts. I am now getting back into exercise slowly but from a much better place and for the right reasons. The first time I did the body worship exercise I cried and cried as the realisation hit me that I’d never given thanks to my body. Instead I had actually given it 30 years of criticism. Criticism that I wouldn’t accept from anyone else but did from myself.
Thanks for reading