I struggle. I struggle almost everyday with my body image and self-compassion. Often times, I catch myself wishing my body looked different. I feel guilty when I skip a workout or eat loaded cheese fries instead of the healthy lunch I packed. Typical thoughts that go through my mind are, “I wish I were smaller, more toned. I wish I weighed less and had more self-control with food and stress eating.” You know what I’m talking about—the negative inner dialogue we have with ourselves about our bodies. That kind of self-talk does way more harm than good, so why do we do it?
About five years ago, I was very overweight and unhealthy. I went from undergrad—where I spent the majority of my days in dance classes and walked everywhere on campus—to graduate school—where I spent the majority of my days sitting. While my lifestyle changed to sedentary, the eating habits I had developed during undergrad remained. My weight and bad eating habits grew out of control, and I didn’t know how to fix them.
Finally, during my first year as a student affairs professional, I found a lifestyle change that worked for my body and my schedule. I started eating small, healthy meals multiple times a day, in addition to exercising regularly. Before I started my path to a healthier me, I could barely even run a mile. Overtime, I lost about 25 pounds and felt a total shift in my confidence and happiness levels. I maintained that lifestyle for several years but have spent the last year or so “falling off the wagon.” I have felt guilt and disappointment for allowing myself to get back to a lifestyle that does not serve me well mentally, physically, or spiritually.
I recently read an article in People Magazine about Gabourey Sidibe—lead actress in the movie Precious—and her struggle with weight and body image. Something she said in the article resonated with me. She said, “I sometimes get so mad at myself. Mad at my body. My body sometimes feels like a tragedy. But I’m trying hard to change my mind about that. For all the ways my body has failed me, it’s come through for me a million times more.” Reading this statement prompted me to think about my body and how much it does for me everyday.
Five years ago, I couldn’t even run a mile. Now, even after falling of the wagon, I can regularly run at least 3 miles. I also go to the gym relatively consistently. I can actually complete (and enjoy!) the hour long bootcamp class I wasn’t able to complete five years ago. That’s something for which I should be thankful and proud. Our bodies are capable of so much more than we think. We just need to remember and appreciate that.
If you struggle with appreciating your body, I encourage you to change your mindset from focusing on what your body looks like to what it does and can do. Furthermore, do something each day that lets your body know you love it. Drink more water, take 10 minute walking breaks at work, eat for nourishment and energy (not just for pleasure!), exercise by doing something you find fun, stretch, take some time to breathe, meditate, or find other small things you can do to show your body some love. Your body is the only one you have, so it’s important to appreciate it and treat it right.
Find new ways to challenge yourself and set new goals. Setting goals outside of work can bring a sense of accomplishment and pride. Achieving goals can help you grow your self-love and confidence. Let’s stop focusing on what we wish our bodies were and be thankful for what they already are.
This post is part of our #SAfit series for May. With the constant hustle and bustle of our profession, we can’t forget to put ourselves at the top of our to-do list sometimes. It is essential that we remember to take time for self care and this series highlights how our colleagues work #SAfit into their lifestyles. This can look different for each of us and your journey is your own. For more info, please see Mandi Stewart’s intro post. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series too!