I will admit here: I have had a very up and down relationship with my body.
I’ve gone through periods of loving it- to trashing it through rigorous exercise I ‘hated’- to hurdling from one fad diet to the next- to over eating to ‘cope’ with the feelings that arose from hating my body so much.
Nightmare. When I rose above the hatred I felt for my body and realised that diets, excessive exercise were just drawing me further and further away from truly discovering what I really needed, desired and wanted in my life, everything changed. In a big, beautiful, abundant way. When I truly got to know what I was using the diets for- the exercise I loathed doing- the over eating, I felt self compassion, forgiveness, respect, self love and self awareness. I felt whole.
One of my favourite body love authors Geneen Roth states that if you are waiting to be happy when you are ‘skinny’- ‘have smaller thighs’- ‘have more toned abs’- (insert whatever else you might physically want to ‘feel’ good)- many of you will be bitterly disappointed. You might get to your ‘ideal whatever’ and still be wanting ‘more‘– because what you in fact wanted, hasn’t been truly fulfilled with what you thought you needed.
And I can certainly vouche for that. When I was skinny- my skinniest- too skinny in fact– I was miserable. Exercise was a form of punishment for putting up with the stress of a job that was making me feel worthless- and unappreciated. I felt nothing short of crap (that’s being nice- really nice- about it!) and that just kept drawing more and more crappy thoughts, feelings and experiences towards me. Energy in, Energy out. To manage I controlled stress through excessive exercise and really really clean eating (obsessively clean eating).
Then the opposite happened. When I moved out of my comfort zone I realised I found change hard. Really hard. I realised that throughout my life I had relied on external validation, material things and other people’s reinforcement to support my happiness and feelings of worthiness and self love. Because I was alone in new surroundings, establishing myself in unfamiliar territory, I turned to food. Honestly I pulled up a chair at the fridge and ate. I ate without tasting- without being present. I didn’t care. Food was comfort. I put on a bit of weight, started finding nothing in my wardrobe fit. And froze.
‘Freezing’ can be a good feeling. It was for me. I discovered a few things: I am certainly not alone, though I am comfortable sharing my story and sharing it with others to help them to realise they are not stupid- unworthy of love- out of control if they too have a story similar to this. Where food is either torture or poison.
I sat down one night after covering up the mirror in my bathroom (yes, I did this!) and decided enough WAS enough. This was exhausting- but more importantly- self abuse. Like a lightning bolt I thought- “What the hell am I doing to myself. I have a body- a healthy body- a body that helps me to practice yoga, the allows me to cook, do pilates, run, digest my food, help me breathe, keeps me alive. Why do I hate it so much when all it does is serve me? It never lets me down”.
When I spoke to friends about this I found out they too were having differing degrees of issues with their body, as was a friends child, as were family members of mine. And if the universe wasn’t telling me that my experience wasn’t just affecting adults, I was randomly on you tube and a clip on eating disorders for children sprung into my line of vision (now that is the universe communicating something to me).
I knew from that moment that I needed to share this practice with you- and your children- to help you develop greater love for your body.
I believe in this: We do everything based on an internal need to ‘feel’ something. Pain- pleasure- accomplishment- creativity- control- love- joy- peace. You get the idea. A few examples:
+ I practice yoga to feel peaceful
+ I cook to feel creative
+ I eat healthy food to feel nourished
When you over eat- or under eat- you are doing this because you want to feel something: control, comfort, pleasure, peace, joy.
I have many blog posts to birth on ‘how you want to feel’ in life, especially since we are heading towards a new year. But for now I want to mention that: Feelings underpin everything we do.
Parents, women and men- if you are at logger heads with your body try this practice, when you are ready- to draw more love, compassion and gratitude towards the ‘servant’ that turns up everyday without fail to enable you to do whatever it is you want to do: your body.
Body Love Massage
If doing this for your child, encourage them to get involved. If your child is older you can show them what to do over the top of their pyjamas, or on top of yours. It is so easy that they will certainly get the gist very quickly.
I don’t stick to a ritual of doing this every night because that makes me feel stressed- like another thing I have to do and that certainly doesn’t sit well with my craving for space- peace- and joy. I trust that I will know when I need to do this, and currently it is a few times per week- sometimes more.
// Following a shower or a bath dry yourself out with a towel. Give yourself a huge hug with the towel wrapped around you and say “Thank you body”.
// Stand in front of a mirror (note: If this is too hard to do initially omit this step- I know I had to do this a few times to get used to the confrontation I felt coming up).
// Get your favourite moisturiser (parents: a little coconut oil is gorgeous for little ones sensitive skin) and start by placing a small amount in your hand. Warm it up and rub your hands on your neck, chest, shoulder and upper back (as far as you can reach). While rubbing list the things you are grateful for, for those body parts. Parents you can narrate for your children and see if they can think of a few things to say.
+ Thank you for holding my head up high
+ Thank you for supporting me in downward dog position
+ Thank you for my long elegant neck
// Move down to your arms- stomach- bottom- thighs- legs- feet.
If this seems too much honour this and check in to see if just focusing on the part of your body that you are might be having difficulty with fits. For example a client of mine tried this with her thighs and found a significant difference in a month of regular practice. This works.
// Finish off by giving your body one huge hug. Really hug yourself and learn to say “I love you, for who you are, what you are. You are perfect just as you are. Right here. Right now”. If this doesn’t resonate with you- create your own affirming ‘love note’.
I hand on my heart support the development of healthy body image for everyone- and it is NEVER to early for children to learn to love themselves, down to the one gorgeous thing that supports them: their body. It is never to early to start ‘insurance policy-ing’ children’s self love, self awarteness, self compassion and self care. Never.
I would love to know you find this body love practice. Feel free to list any other strategies you have found helpful for you or your child when over coming difficulties learning to love the skin your are in.
Images via Pinterest