How To Stop Feeling Shame About Your Body
Do You Ever Feel Shame About Your Body?
Reflections on Body Image report, published in 2012, found that:
- Between one third and half of young girls fear becoming fat and engage in dieting or binge eating.
- Girls as young as five years old are worried about the way they look and their size.
- One in four seven-year-old girls have tried to lose weight at least once.
- One-third of young boys aged 8-12 are dieting to lose weight.
How It Begins
I started dieting at the age of 13. It was called the California Diet. It was these little chocolate shakes in tiny milk cartons. I drank one for breakfast and lunch.
I could eat an orange with the shake.
Then for dinner, I had grilled chicken and a vegetable. I remember loving how my new body looked at felt when I lost the baby fat.
No one had ever told me I was fat, overweight, or even chubby. I got my standards from magazines, T.V., and movies.
I didn’t even feel like I compared myself to my friends at school. It was all unspoken standards from media that drove me to want to change my body.
I was a dancer from the age of 2 so I was not even out of shape. I just went from a size 7 to a 5 and was on top of the world. Then, I got rewarded for it in more unspoken ways.
I got extra attention at school and the boy I’d had a crush on for 2 years finally asked me out. It was my freshman year of high school and it had a big impact.
It was all great until I started eating normally again and went back up to a size 9, he just happened to break up with me around the same time I was putting on a little weight.
Then he immediately started dating one of my friends.
Did I mention she was a size 2? Of course, I thought this was the reason, he’d picked her and not me. This was when the association with weight gain and losing love formed.
At that point, my subconscious mind locked in the rule that if I was skinny I’d receive love. Otherwise, I’d lose it. Pretty healthy programming for a young girl.
I was devastated and I continued to gain weight. I was in a tight size 10 by my sophomore year.
Then, I made it into an Arts Magnet School for dance. I would be dancing four hours of my school day so I started the California Diet again. I started school and continued the diet.
Halfway into the school year, I was dancing four hours during the day and four or five in rehearsals after school, while still dieting.
I had dropped a lot of weight. My teachers were praising me and I was getting roles in the performances.
The problem this time was, I was only eating and drinking about 500 calories a day, while I was dancing for 8 or more hours a day.
I started getting sick and it was affecting rehearsals. I’d cough and not be able to stop. Then, I started binging because I was so hungry!
Then, I’d purge because I didn’t want to gain weight and have it affect my dancing.
I collapsed in the bathroom one day. I was vomiting and had severe diarrhea. I felt like I was dieing. I was so weak.
They said I had severe Colitis and put me on a 3 week liquid diet.
Over the summer, I got well but put on weight. When I went back my senior year, one of the other dancers commented on how much weight I’d put on.
Then, I auditioned for a part and the dance teacher told me I would have gotten it but I needed to drop some weight.
I quit dance. For years after I yo-yo dieted getting into my skinny clothes then ballooning up to a larger size than before.
Eventually, I reached a weight of 223 lbs and a level of self-hatred that drove every bad choice I made which was a lot at this time.
I needed to hate myself more so I started drinking whiskey almost every day and completely let myself go for 2 years.
At my lowest point, my boyfriend of 3 years told me and he never loved me and I needed to move out. There it was again, losing love after gaining weight.
Was it a self-fulfilling prophecy? Was it just my old programming playing this out for me?
I continued my drinking binge for another 6 months, utterly depressed and nursing my broken heart. Then, I started taking steps to get healthy.
I lost and gained weight over the next 6 years, never satisfied…always seeking more change. No matter what I did or what results I achieved it was NEVER enough.
Rewiring the Brain
Now, I am 42 years old and I am finally finding a way to love my body. Yesterday I went for a jog and actually loved it.
Today, I did weight training and enjoyed it while it was happening.
This is not a normal experience for me, but it has changed because my focus has changed.
Now, I workout every day just to feel better instead of working in a frenzy hoping to fit into those skinny jeans.
Before, I would dread working out and hate it the entire time.
Today, I ate chips and queso without running through the cycle of shame after eating it. I sent loving thoughts to my body and felt gratitude for the enjoyment of eating it.
I’ve realized after all these years of yo yo dieting and deprivation that I’d become more addicted to the shame than the food.
I can enjoy a good salad as much as a greasy plate of nachos so I had to ask myself what the compulsion was to gorge on nachos just when I would start seeing progress in my weight loss.
I tracked the feelings until I came to deep pool of self-hatred.
I saw clearly for the first time in my life that my overeating was an out picturing of my hatred. It was a punishment.
If I continued to come back to foods that were bad for me then I would have a reason to beat myself up and feel shame.
I could convince myself over and over that I was a “big piece of shit” that deserved punishment for what I did.
Today, I made a different choice. I had the queso, enjoyed it and then loved myself for it.
My Body Isn’t Perfect, Now What?
I can look at my body and see that it could be tighter in places etc.
It isn’t perfect but I am realizing that I have a choice to hate myself more or love myself more. Today, I decided to work out because I can.
My body is strong and I can work out. I actually enjoyed it again.
I could feel my muscles contracting and getting stronger while I moved them.
Then, after the workout my boyfriend and I made love. I was completely naked in front of him.
I made the choice to be open to him instead of hiding my body in shame.
I thought to myself, “my body isn’t perfect, now what?”
I decided to be open and loving.
It was beautiful.
You Are Enough
I am the one that has a choice. If I could talk to that 13-year-old girl I was, I would tell her she is worthy of love and her body is a gift.
I would teach her about raw foods and filling herself with vital life force.
I would take her in my arms and tell her she is enough. In all things, she is enough.
3 Ways to Stop Feeling Body Shame
1. Fully Enjoy Eating While You Are Doing It – Refuse to feel shame about it afterwards.
Realize this is an old habit to get you to hate yourself. You don’t have to play this game anymore.
Think of something you love, direct that love at yourself. Put your hands on your stomach and just think the word love.
2. Ask Yourself, “my body isn’t perfect, now what?” “How can I love it more right now?”
3. Know That You Are Enough– Let this be your new mantra.
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Also, if you’d like to learn more about rewiring your brain go here.
Misha Almira is a shamanic healer. meditation teacher, and full time blogger.