The Joyous Body… Let’s be real (slight sarcasm)
"Healthy body image. Positive self talk. Love yourself. Accept your flaws. You, do you. Treat yourself with kindness. Be gentle. Respect. Honor your body."
These concepts sound lovely, right? Like a photo that aligned perfectly to post on intagram--mountains, ocean, jumping through the air... and BAM--rainbow! All is well... (sarcasm)
For many years of my life... I stress the word many... These phrases have filtered through my unconscious self over and over, but they never spoke loud enough to penetrate my heart on a deep core level. Honestly, I didn't find truth in any of it. To me, it was bull$#!+ when I read articles about body image, about discovering yourself on a deep level, etc-etc-etc. When I came across these articles, a photo of a girl would more than likely be included--perfect hair, washboard abs, tan, and of course in a bikini--rocking the hell out of it. "Of course you love your body... it's perfect".
Body image is a huge topic of discussion. This is not new news. I am not putting out any breaking discoveries. What I am putting out there is my story. I would like to share with you the reality of my personal journey. A long journey where I can finally embody some of these concepts on a very deep level. For me, it's been a battle (and I now know, I am not alone). A battle I finally surrendered to when I realized my body was way more than something I sculp, that I make fit into a pair of jeans that are already 2 sizes to small, or a vessel to attract, to gain or to manipulate what I wanted. There came a day, no exact date, I don't remember the time of year. I don't remember what I was doing or who I was with. There was no applause or high fives or celebrations or Facebook post. All I know is that something shifted. A shift that can only take place when you decide to face the reality of your situation and do the work. Guess what folks? No one is signing up to do the work for you. No pressure. You get to decide. No one says you have to do the work... There are days I am not sure I want to promote you doing the work--because I know the reality of what work looks like. It looks like hell--Blood. Sweat. Tears. Fire. Self doubt. Not feeling worthy. But OH, sweet love, there is such beauty on the other side. A beauty that can only be seen and felt by the heart and visionary eyes. A sensation that runs through your body like an electrifying current--reminding you that you indeed are alive... ALIVE and WHOLE exactly where you are in this very moment.
Oh yeah, the story... Let's go way back.
I knew I had body image issues in the 3rd grade. I recognized that I was taller, fuller, larger than all of my classmates (including the boys) and this knowing made me uncomfortable.
Allow me to share a story, that was very monumental, yet so trivial. I loved (love) sour cream & onion Lay's chips (who didn't, right?). At some point a very close someone told me they were not healthy and I shouldn't eat them because I needed to watch my weight (or at least this is how I interpreted the message at a young age). In 3rd grade I started learning a very unhealthy form of moderation, self control, health and body image--that glued itself to my psyche for the next... well until about 7 years ago-- and it still sneaks up on me from time to time. These chips remained in the house, as well as Little Debbie's, TV dinners, breakfast cereal, etc. There is no judgement here. We were living like every other American family in the early 90's--the American dream. Looking back the analogy is like this-- putting crack in front of crack addict and telling them not to do it. Not only telling them not to do it, but also not giving them any tools to make a better decision. So what did I do? The longing to be accepted and complimented was speaking loud and clear. Somehow I made a pack with myself-- You can put a certain amount of chips in the bowl. And when they are done. No more. I savored this moment of my day by taking tiny bites until they were gone. It was too late, the guilt and unhealthy relationship with food had begun. What is absolutely heart-wrenching for me, is that I know I am not alone. I see it more so in the generation below me... we recognize there is a problem, but there is very little light shed on how to avoid this vicious cycle... A problem, and no solution, incorrect and contradictory information, and media that is driving this unhealthy way of being... not just physically--but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually... We are getting hit on every level, leaving us completely disconnected to these amazing, intelligent human bodies.
There was a big piece of information that was left out for me. For so many years, I tried to fill in the that blank space (the not knowing) with extreme exercise, restricting calories, of making sure I stayed at a certain weight, of weighing myself multiple times a day, of dabbling in drugs, unhealthy relationships, alcohol and seeking validation everywhere I could outside myself. The more I received validation on the way my body looked, the harder I pushed. We, as humans, tend towards our tendencies... The more I suffered, the more suffering I caused myself.
What was I missing? The root--I was missing self love, self respect, self compassion, understanding, and acceptance. I was missing the understanding of the deep wisdom that my body carries. This body that is deeply and inherently connected to intuition and instinct. This body-- a vessel to walk this earth, to have an unbelievable human experience, to sense, to feel, to awaken, to create, to birth, to dance, to sing and welcome everything. I was missing acceptance. I missing the beauty in diversity.
I love how Clarisa Pinkola Este's describes it:
"To support only one kind of beauty is to be somehow unobservant of nature. There cannot be only one kind of songbird, only one kind of pine tree, only one kind of wolf. There cannot be one kind of baby, one kind of man, or one kind of woman. There cannot be one kind of breast, one kind of waist, one kind of skin.” (Women Who Run With the Wolves)
It's been a process. A process of untangling and unraveling the way I had been programmed to view my whole self. Intentional or unintentional, this is part of my journey, and I am grateful for this knowing. There is no blame. There is no judgement. Only love for the wisdom that can now be felt inside my bones. There was true freedom I experienced when I shifted my perspective of not viewing my body as dumbbell that I was sentence to carry for life.
So the questions are answered.... No, I have not always been "healthy". I did not grow up eating the way I do now. My parents often wonder if I was really born into this family... (I take it as a compliment). My journey to health started in July 2006. The words that changed my life were from a dear friend from Vermont, Donna Remy-Powers, that sounded like she was speaking Chinese when they came out. "Have you tried a gallbladder cleanse?" Let's just say... I smiled and nodded, with a blank stare. I won't go into the internal dialogue, but my curiosity of highly peaked. That curiosity to better my overall well-being, has not left me since. I was having extreme gallbadder attacks, and was scheduled to have my gallbladder removed as soon as we returned back from this trip to VT. What did I have to lose at this point besides my organ! So, I did the cleanse, as well as a few other suggestions from the internet (not always the best idea) but, it worked. This experience opened up a world to me that was unknown--completely uncharted territory. The first book that was first placed in my hands was The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin... This set me on the fast track. I could not shovel the information in fast enough. I now have a whole collection I have read. Applying the principles and tools to my life was a constant awakening, excitement and empowerment to whole body health. I was slowly taking my health into my own hands. Dear friends, family and reader you have no idea the sparks that are ignited when you take ownership of your body into your own hands-making choices that are yours to make.
So this was almost 10 years ago. This was before people in the Shoals were talking free-range, grass-fed, and green smoothies. I am so fortunate that my boyfriend at the time (now husband, Josh) was also on this journey with me. It is quite intriguing how the universe works. We were having the same discoveries separately but at the same time. If you knew us at this point in our lives, I can only imagine how overbearing and overwhelming we were. Our hearts were from a place of passion, but I now realize that we were a bit fanatical... Fortunately, we have found balance 🙂
What I have discovered on this never ending exploration to whole body healing:
- - Health issues are being reversed
- - Food became fuel
- - Food became enjoyable
- - Cooking and eating became sacred
- - I developed a high respect for farmers
- - I stopped counting calories and trusted my body could
- be satiated without someone else telling me when it
- was full
- - I stopped being hungry
- - I stopped having an unhealthy relationship with food & body
- - I started eating fat... a lot of it
- - Food was no longer a separate part of me
- - I feel better
- - What is balancing for me, may be harmful for you
- - There is not a one-size fits all health plan
- - On the days I feel "fat"--I take a deep breath, I remind myself it will pass (& sit longer in meditation to connect & ground)
- - Working out and eating healthy is not a ball and chain- I enjoy it!
- - When I see a person in their own skin, and loving themselves--I find this highly attractive.
- - I stopped complimenting people on just their physical attributes
- - Bodies--big, small, tall, short, wrinkled, slim, trim, full are beautiful
The yogic teachings and practice was the final thread that patch-worked this quilt together. If you don't love yourself, it doesn't matter what you put in your body. Fireworks went off when I finally opened to this idea and higher awareness. My hope is that I can share with you the tools that have helped to free me from my own suffering. This is why I show up everyday to teach.
I hope you have support wherever you are on your journey to health. If you don't feel supported, please ask those closest to you to support you, but be VERY specific in how they can support you. Wake up everyday with gratitude in your heart and thoughts-- it will unlock the light and joy within you.
*On a side note, please note--I am NOT giving medical advice. If my story resonates with you, I encourage you to reach out to schedule a WELLNESS CONSULTATION.
I will leave you with this quote:
“Ultimately, self-compassion is a series of choices, a moment by moment conscious turning away from that which will harm your spirit toward that which will nourish and sustain you. It is choosing, in any particular situation, and over and over again whether you’ll treat yourself well, or beat yourself up, whether you’ll deny yourself, or treat yourself as lovingly as you’d treat your child or your most precious friend. Self-compassion means looking at yourself with kindness, with a conscious awareness of your sufferings, and in time, with a deep appreciation for the way you have transformed them.” -Daphne Rose Kingma
May we speak kindly to ourselves. May we work with what we have been given, not against it. May we empower ourselves and each other to be full of love and life. May we tell our children everyday that they are brilliant, strong, creative, courageous and whole. May we look at ourselves in the mirror and say: I am loved. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am whole. I am brave. I am brilliant. I am compassionate. I am grateful. I am safe. (Try it)
Get your body back? Try getting back into your body.