Thursday, May 15, 2014

Women's Health and Body Image

"Ignorance Is Bliss" ©Tabetha Hastings
I did not wake up in the best possible way this morning. Before I even opened my eyes I realized I had a headache. I thought I'd distract myself with some Facebook and perhaps the headache would leave, but... no.

The news on my Facebook feed was not good: one friend (yet another friend) was just diagnosed with cancer, and another needs an operation. Another was in chronic pain, and there were others in various states of physical and mental anguish.

Bad news everywhere. I laid there wondering what to say to these people. How could I find the words to soothe them? And, of course, it brings up my own fears about illness.

If you're like me and believe in the Law of Attraction, you know how I felt at that moment, focusing on the negative; it's bad enough to attract what you don't want by focusing on it, but it's doubly bad if you know you're doing it. It made me want to quit Facebook and put my head in the sand just so I could feel okay. If I don't know about it it doesn't exist, right? 

Of course I'm not going to isolate to escape the bad news of friends. This is life on planet Earth, and bad things do happen to good people. Besides, if you isolate from the bad news, you isolate from the good news as well. The key to riding out the storm and being able to support others is setting my own tone. Finding my balance and my connection to source before even attempting to anything to my friends who are hurting.

So instead of focusing on the negative, I laid there thought my way to a somewhat better feeling place. (Ask if you'd like to know how I do that.)

Then I got out of bed, and immediately had negative thoughts about my body. My knee hurt, my body was stiff and all I could think was how I wanted to lose my huge thighs.

I limped my way to my desk on my poor knee, and sat down to Facebook again.
Miraculously, a video about loving your body came across my feed. In the early part of the video, women were asked to describe their bodies with one word. They said things like wobbly, ugly, disgusting... horrible things. I was shocked at how extreme the words were, but not surprised that's what they thought. I know very few women who love the way their bodies look.
Myself, I've been working on clearing the negative self-talk for some time. It's there, but not nearly as severe as these women (huge thighs, anyone?). I would hope that if asked to describe my body in a word I would say strong, resilient, lush, voluptuous or healthy.
On a good day I would.

The question I have is: How can you hate your body?? Your body is where you live. It's how you move through this world. I may not love the way my body looks all the time, but I love my body, and I love what it can do, and those are important distinctions to make.

Watching the video, I couldn't help think that there is a correlation between hating one's body and disease. I'm certainly not saying that everyone who is sick started out by hating their body, but given how rampant body hatred and disease both are, there might be a connection.

What would happen if we truly loved and appreciated our bodies? Would our beautiful cells respond with perfect health? If not, what's the worse thing that would happen? We'd be happier. And the advertisers, cosmetic companies, plastic surgeons and anyone else who tries to make us feel like we're not good enough - would be a little bit less wealthy.

So, my challenge to all women, is to love your bodies. Even if you think that I'm crazy and there is no correlation between health and body image... love your body anyway. Love your body because it feels better to love your body. Love your body because you deserve to love your body.

The first step to that is accepting your body. It's hard, but you can do it. Realize that body hatred is probably a deeper issue than just hating the way you look. There are other issues that need to be addressed, and only you know what they are. When you're ready, you will address them, work through them and move forward.

Watch the video here - this woman lost weight, became a body builder, and still suffered from the same issues as before. We've got to deal with our issues ladies. We've got to own our shit.

There is a ton of information out there on this topic, and I'm no expert. I'm only going from my experience, and the following things have really helped me:

  • First of all, listen to your self-talk. What are you saying about your body, about your abilities? What are you saying about yourself? Catch yourself when you say something bad and ask would my best friend say that to me? (If the answer is yes, then you need a new best friend!)
  • Some other things to feel better: 
  • Focus on what your body can do, not what it looks like.
  • Focus on what you body can do, not it's limitations.
  • Turn your negatives into positives. For example, you could say: 
  • My thighs are big, but they make a great lap for a cat/dog/kid.
  • My feet are wide, but I stand firm on the ground. And they get me to where I need to go.
  • My arms may be not be toned, but they give great hugs. 

Why are you talking trash about a body that serves you so well? What would you do without your arms? What would I do if I actually lost my huge thighs? Because you know what? I don't really want to lose my thighs, I just want to lose some of the fat. My thighs are great. They are key part of my mobility and I'd like to keep them, thank you very much.

Bottom line: appreciate your body, it's the only one you've got. 
And just maybe if you learn to love and appreciate it, your body will be healthier for it.

A note to anyone who reads this and is thinks just get your fat ass to the gym
Okay, there's a thought. But it would be a HELL of a lot easier to get to the gym when you're feeling better about your body. You're not going to work out if you feel like the entire gym is judging you. And yes, people may judge, but we tend to judge ourselves more harshly. If we can accept ourselves as we are, we might not worry about people at the gym, which would make it easier to go.
Also, this body image issue does not only affect women who are out of shape. Women who are hitting the gym may just be going through it too.
Self love is the key.

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