Well it doesn’t feel good. I can assure you.
After publication of Ultimate You (co-written with Joe Dowdell), the book I’d slaved over for more than a year, I got slammed on Amazon for being too fat to have written an effective fat loss program. It was devastating and yes I cried. It was one of my biggest fears come true.
I’m not an athlete or a fitness model, so being considered an expert in the fitness community at times I felt a little out of place because I wasn’t ripped enough or lean enough to be belong there. But honestly, fitness community or not, the truth is I’ve felt insecure about my body in most other settings too.
I’m only 5’3″ and have complained about my legs being too short. I’m curvy and have done my time hating my substantial booty. And thanks to my Czech background, I’ve got a very round face and the cheeks to go with it. As I’ve grown from a girl into a woman, I’ve laid to rest most of my body image issues and reveled in the fact that I can lift weights with the boys, do a few pull-ups and have even come to appreciate the shape my curves give me.
But I’ll admit, when I read “…the fat neck and cheeks of Dr Brooke…” all those issues came flooding back. Now, maybe you’ve never had your issues called out on the World Wide Web, but most of us at one time or another has been the victim of someone’s nastiness – whether their words were true or not, it feels like crap.
When this happens we can shrug it off and say “This person is a jerk, so what?” But let’s be honest: the biggest trash talk usually comes right from our own mouth. We’re often sh*t talking daily in our own heads about ourselves and it’s not pretty. Fat neck she says? Ha! What an amateur. I’ve probably done better than that in the last hour or so. I honestly thought this as I read here words, heartbreaking right?
Why is it that can we look at what someone else says and see clearly that being nasty is…well, nasty, and not see our own thoughts so clearly?
The nasty, negative chatter in our own minds is often so mean we wouldn’t utter it out loud to our worst enemy. But in our minds it’s on auto play, it’s had years of practice and it’s hard to stop. And often when we get a handle on it and we’re feeling good something happens to trigger it all again as was the case reading my review.
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Where Did This All Come From?
Our therapists will tell us, it’s been there for a long time, probably since childhood and our adult relationships and experiences just add layer upon layer to our unhealthy and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves and our bodies. And let’s not forget the ever popular villain: the media. Most women feel they don’t or can’t measure up to images of the female body they see on TV and in magazines.
But guess what ladies? I work with a number of these women – many of the real models and actresses we feel we don’t measure up to have been in my office (perk of living in NYC) – and guess what? They have body issues too. So what gives? Why are we all (or at least most of us) walking around most days hating this or that about our thighs or our bellies? Blame it on culture or the media or our mothers – but we’ve got a lot of hatin’ going on.
The truth for me is that when Ultimate You was released I was in the best shape I’d ever been in so to hear those comments about how I looked was maddening. But then I thought about it – was I feeling happy and completely satisfied with my body during this time? I was happier with my body than I had been in a very long tome but I’m not going to lie, I’d catch a glimpse of a trouble spot like the back of my thigh and feel a wave of disappointment and loathing. And there would be days when those thoughts or the pressure I put on myself to look a certain way would get the best of me.
It felt like, as good as I looked it would still never be good enough. Which was really sad, and a bit scary. Which made me wonder….is all this “work” worth it?
I mean, the way I’ve always gone about it hasn’t been to make myself more, it’s always been about being less: weighing less, less body fat, smaller jean size. It’s been more of a punishment for not being good enough than anything else. And it felt like a lot of work. A LOT of work.
I work at the gym, work to order a salad instead of a sandwich at a restaurant, work to pass up the dessert tray, work not have another glass of wine when we’ve gone out for just “a drink”. I know most of you know what I’m talking about. We work and we work – and most of the time it feels like just that: a lot of work.
And it doesn’t feel all that good, so is it worth it? How often do you order the salad with chicken instead of the slice of pizza for lunch and feel overwhelmed with contentment, satisfaction and joy? How many of us have felt more and more satisfied with each bite knowing you’re eating something so good for you? Basking in its fiber is filling up your tummy and aiding digestion, its nutrients reacting away in biochemical pathways, and the protein is balancing out your blood sugar so your cravings stay on an even keel.
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It is sort of amazing when you actually think about a salad, but how often do we feel it was easy and effortless to make the choice to feed ourselves very well? How about at the gym – are you at the gym putting in your time, much like serving a jail sentence? Or are you there feeling powerful, strong, healthy and filled with self love when you catch a glimpse of your muscles in the mirror? How often do we think of exercise and vegetables and proteins as nourishment, not punishment? When we’re eating to lose weight or even to be healthy, we often feel confined or controlled by a plan.
We look at a certain food and say, “I have to eat that” or my favorite, “Dr Brooke is making me eat that”. We’re usually not chewing on a mouthful of roasted salmon thinking, “Wow, I feel so nourished by this food.”
I love the word nourish. Nourish is a good word, so is cherish. How many of us cherish our bodies?
Cherish is defined as: to treat with affection and tenderness; to hold dear.
How often do we act in ways that “hold ourselves dear”? Eating healthfully, exercising regularly, committing to a weight loss goal – these can all be wonderful things to do for ourselves, but if we are looking in the mirror, noticing every flaw and thinking critical thoughts everyday well that’s not healthy – no matter what you weigh.
Instead of just trudging it out at the gym or managing to somehow stomach some steamed veggies, try nourishing and cherishing yourself. Perhaps like yours, my journey to be fully at home in my body goes on and on. I can love myself on that journey, nourish myself, be healthy and not give in to nasty comments – including those in my own head – or dwell on the opinion of someone who clearly doesn’t cherish me.
But you know what? That’s OK. It’s not their job to cherish me, it’s mine.
Here are some tried and true strategies
to help us all be BETTER on the journey:
- List 3-5 things you love about your body, such as your smile, your skin, your feet, your biceps – anything. When you catch yourself having a negative thought about something you aren’t satisfied with yet, rattle of these things you like. You still had the nasty thought, forgive yourself and turn your attitude around by reminding yourself of the things you do like about you.
- Stay focused on the process and appreciate the little goals. If you can do a push-up now where you couldn’t before – that’s something to feel great about! If you’ve lost 2 pounds – well it may not be the 10 pounds you want to lose, but it is something and you did accomplish it. Start each day listing all the things you’ve accomplished in your mind while you brush your teeth.
- Fake it till you make it. If you are having a difficult time feeling at home in your body or able to feel positive about it, just do it. Sure it feels like BS a little to say you love your body when you don’t 100% believe that yet – but do it anyway. It starts to take hold, it becomes your reality in time. You start to more effortlessly see more good, more to love. It gets easier. And at the very least, during the times you’re inclined to be nasty to yourself, you’ll be instead saying something positive – even if it doesn’t feel totally legit yet. If you really can’t get there to say “I love my body” start with a bridging mantra like “I’m willing to love my body” or “I’m open to loving my body”. We gotta start somewhere.
- Finally, if you do absolutely nothing else I say here PLEASE know that you have worth beyond your body. Women are more than how they look, their dress size, weight or body fat percentage and we must remember that. It’s so often the first thing we see or take in about someone else: how they look. It’s human conditioning but I challenge you to not make it the first thing you think or see about yourself or anyone else.
For most of us, owning our responsibility to love and care for our bodies no matter what their size or shape isn’t natural. We have years of conditioning to feel inadequate, not good enough unless we lose weight, or that our appearance is the only thing that matters. So grab the reigns from the outside world, which we have no control over, and take back your power, your peace of mind. Go ahead, love your body. It’s OK. Not everyone will love and cherish it the way you do, that’s fine. Keep those that do close and let those that don’t go – they are likely waging their own war with self-love.
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