Do you love your body? I suspect that many of us addictive eaters will answer this question with a resounding NO!
To reflect on this issue of body image I revisited some of my eating disorder books. For example Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach (1978) and To Eat or Not to Eat – A Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Disordered Eating by E Englezos and S Paton (2014). Both talk about fat being a form of protection, and that we actually want to be fat so as to stay invisible. We set our boundaries with our body weight as we can’t express our feelings, thoughts and needs in words. Or we’re trying to avoid being seen as sexually attractive so that we don’t have to engage in relationships.
That has never been my personal experience, at least not consciously. But for many women (and also men) this is a big part of their story. Personally, I believe that I developed my starving and purging methods to try and control the addiction. Compelled to eat to soothe myself, I was desperately trying to control my weight because I did NOT want to be fat. I had a relentless inner critic that was telling me to do anything, no matter how damaging to my body, to prevent the humiliation of being judged ‘fat’.
The other day a friend asked me if I loved my body and to my surprise, I responded with a wholehearted YES! I feel very comfortable in my body. I really appreciate what it does for me on a daily basis. But I used to hate my body. So, how did I get here?
It happened very gradually. I found that the more inner work I was doing the more I learned to love and respect myself. I learned about who I was, what I actually need, and how to ask for what I need without being afraid of people’s reactions. I gained a huge amount of self-esteem by working with counsellors and in self-help groups. As a result of letting go of my binge foods and eating to a nourishing and healthy food plan, the weight has come off and has remained stable. But it was the inner work, changing myself from the inside out and learning to reparent and nurture myself, that really did the job.
Yoga has been a big part of learning to appreciate my body. In early recovery I embarked on a yoga teacher training course. Now I practice yoga daily as part of my daily recovery practice. Yoga has truly transformed my life because it teaches me to be present to my body in this moment. Yoga has taught me body awareness and appreciation.
Here are 5 things that I would recommend to anyone wanting to move towards body love:
- Start from the inside out and do your inner work through personal development, counselling, coaching, group therapy, or any other form of healing
- Learn anything you can about setting healthy boundaries, what your boundaries are and practice upholding them to create self respect
- Do gentle physical exercise that you enjoy (rather than slaving away in the gym). Try gentle walking, dancing, swimming or yoga
- Learn how to breathe deeply and create awareness of how your breath enters and exits your body
- Do visualisation meditations (free on you tube!) that guide you to travel through your body