on loving your body.
This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. It's important.
My body and I have never really had a great relationship. For as long as I can remember, I've always assessed it in terms of "good" or "bad", "fat" or "skinny", "happy" or "disgusted". There was no in-between. Now I know that I was born rather lucky. I inherited some pretty decent genes from my parents, and was raised to value health and wellness. I was put in sports and dance at a young age, and was fortunate enough to have en expert gardener for a father, leading to summers feasting on fresh veggies from our backyard. However, none of that made it any easier to grow up in a society that sets oftentimes unrealistic ideals as to what we are to look like. This has only been compounded by the advent and popularity of social media - images flooding into our lives minute by minute of the beautiful celebrities, top models, fitness stars, crash diets. Not least of all, as I personally grew up a ballerina, now work in fashion, and have fallen hard for the fitness industry and all that comes with it - the pressure put on me to look great, be thin, and have a certain body type has always kind of come with the territory.
From a young age I learned to study myself in the mirror, analyze my body, pinch the parts I didn't need. I learned which angles I should stand at in the morning when I got dressed so that I wouldn't be depressed all day. I learned how to make sure my food came right back up as soon as it went down. I learned how to go relatively significant periods of time without eating, even laughed as we called it the "liquid diet" throughout college. I learned to love the compliments that came with losing weight, gaining a six-pack. I learned to loathe the feeling you get when your favorite jeans won't button. I learned the pleasure that comes with men looking at you a certain way, and the stress caused by gaining a pretty generous amount of weight over a single summer. I have yet to learn how to make these thoughts and feelings go away.
I am still learning how to love my body.
Yoga has helped me in a big way. Not only have I physically grown stronger, healthier, more flexible, but I've grown in my acceptance of myself, my confidence, and my happiness. The support from the yoga community has been unparalleled, and seeing amazing yogis, yoga teachers, and humans of all shapes and sizes kill it on their mat has been unbelievably inspiring. It has taught me that health and fitness is not about weight and abs. It has taught be that being of a certain body type does not make you better, or worse. It has taught be that the body is strong and powerful, no matter what size. It taught me that its not losing weight that helps you improve your practice, its hard work and effort. It has taught me that when I am happy, I don't seem to notice what I consider my imperfections quite as much. It's taught me an incredible amount of confidence and price and love for body that's mine, all mine, and that can do some pretty amazing things.
But I still struggle.
Those of you that know me know that I spend a lot (understatement) of time at the gym, yoga, boxing, working out. As much as I brush it off as being for my sanity (which it undeniably is, don't even come near me when I've gone a few days without a good sweat), it's also about so much more. Every time I step foot into a class or on the treadmill, there is a voice reminding me to "suck it in", telling me how great my abs will look, reminding me that those miserable stairs create a great ass. I'm writing this at the airport, waiting to board an red eye to London, drinking wine after downing some Shake Shack, and the most pervasive thought I have right now is how far I'm going to have to walk tomorrow to negate the giant pile of cheese fries I just consumed (and loved, by the way). I know this is not healthy, and I know I'm not alone.
I say all this to draw attention to it. To point out that disordered eating takes many forms. To bring to the forefront of conversation something that is so engrained in our lives we don't always know that it's problematic. It's true that in recent years we've started to see a change in how body image of perceived - we finally, FINALLY, have some beautiful, strong, incredible women as role models that aren't necessarily a size 0 (and some that are). But we're not there yet. We're not even close.
Yet as much as there needs to be change in society, the most important change that needs to happen is a personal one. A personal decision to love the body you were given, to take good care of it, to feed it right, to exercise, to rest. To understand that you are not the same as anyone else out there, and that that's ok. To know that the body you are in is yours, and it's amazing. I may still be learning how to live like this, and I likely will still be learning every day for the rest of my life. But let's talk about it, lets bring awareness to something that can often fly under the radar, lets change the conversation, lets focus on happy and healthy and proud and confident.