Learn to Love the Real You

It feels like with each decade that I put on some more weight, so in my late twenties when I started driving I added a few pounds, not too many. My thirties and early forties I had babies and with each pregnancy a few more pounds landed and then peri-menopause in my forties brought hormonal changes and I notice my tummy has become rounder and its harder to shift. These are all normal changes and obvious for me to spot when and how I put weight on however sometimes its not so obvious, it may be unconscious reasons that relate to emotional issues and discord in personal or work relationships that we reach for unhealthy eating options.

Body image is such a big issue for many of us, both women and men can become obsessed with how they look, their size and how much they weigh. “Do I look big in this”? it’s a really big industry too selling weightloss whether it is selling gym memberships, personal training programs, bootcamps, nutritional dietary plans etc.. but here’s the thing losing weight or coming to accept the person you are in your skin is really an inside job.  We can spend a lot of money on weightloss programs and initially we can see results, then disappointingly we regain the weight again and again.  Unless we learn to love ourselves and tackle our unhealthy beliefs and habits it is a waste of money investing in weightloss programs.

We may believe that we are genetically pre-dispositioned towards being bigger, I am not so sure about this, yes we all have dna that is genetically linked to our family however we don’t have to follow in the footsteps of our family, we do have the ability to change and make choices that will steer us towards a healthier lifestyle.

We know of Comfort eating/emotional eating, eating to supress our emotions, shoving the food down to shove our emotions down. Did you know that sometimes people who carry a lot of weight are using the weight gain for protection? it can be used to keep them safe from an abuser, or keep a partner at a distance. Talking with someone like a coach can help us develop a strategy to get out of a situation that does not feel safe and working with a counsellor can help us get in touch with feelings in a safe way and express what we are feeling instead of pushing the feelings down with food.

Once you decide to make changes whether it is physical or emotional it is wise to hook into a network of support, find a tribe that fits for you and that supports you as you embark on a new way of eating, or relating and or going through a personal transformation.  The Mighty Community linked  to the repair website is highly recommended for members here. 

A person who is comfortable in their own skin and has good self-esteem is very attractive. Having a daily practice of positive affirmations as you look in the mirror is a tool that can help build self-esteem. Sounds simple doesn’t it? but its not that easy as we often carry negative beliefs about ourselves and these beliefs become a voice inside of our heads and this voice can get louder as we start to say our affirmations.  It is ok to acknowledge the negative voice, it is our resistance to change but keep practicing daily positive affirmations. Practice helps. I practice affirmations, simple ones, and the gorgeous feeling of warmth and love that this practice helps to cultivate within myself is a feeling that no one else can give to me.

Another issue affecting our self image and self-esteem; I have clients as young as 16 in my counselling practice who are feeling depressed and anxious and a main contributor to this is spending a lot of time scrolling through social media sites and comparing themselves to the images and feeling jealous and insecure as a result.  When I was younger I had to work on reassuring myself, I felt bad about how I looked because I looked different to the models in glossy magazines. Media has for a long time been obsessed with looks and being really thin and in the 1990s the super model was born and I was super impressed with their look and the lifestyle they appeared to have.  I compared myself unconsciously to images of beauty and size that was unobtainable for most of us.  The magazines and social media platforms create an image that us mere mortals try to live up to, we compare our bodies with what we see and we rarely compare favourably. Of course the images of models are photoshopped to hide any flaws and filters are added to enhance photos.  Its’ no wonder young people and not so young people are suffering with anxiety and depression and having low self- esteem as a result of spending lots of time scrolling on their devices and comparing themselves negatively to the images they see.  I now know it is a great idea to limit my time online, a woman I know who works in digital marketing suggests setting an alarm before going on social apps, this helps us to be in charge of our time. Keeping an awareness on how we feel while we are looking at magazines or social media apps and reminding ourselves that the images are choreographed and photoshopped and not really representative of real people going about their lives. As well as reminding ourselves of how lovely we really are and how it’s the beauty within us that really matters.

We are all so different, we are different shapes, sizes, skin tones and have different tastes too.  If we are bombarded with images of an ideal woman or man and we don’t live up to this, are we judging ourselves harshly? You bet we are and when we judge ourselves harshly we also project that judgement onto others too.  I am often shocked to hear people say something derogatory about someone else’s body weight. I am sensitive to this as I have loved ones who are a generous XL size and I know the hurt they feel if someone comments on their size and I feel protective of them too.  Body Shaming serves no one, it never encourages someone to lose weight, it never helps the person shaming either. There are a lot of people who like to be bigger and they have partners who love their curves and this is something we should celebrate. We really do need to celebrate our differences. So starting with me, if I can accept me for who I am, celebrate me the authentic me, I am less likely to judge other people and by doing this I am consciously choosing not to cause hurt for others. It’s a win win.

Carole Fitzpatrick