There is a big difference between body love, and body acceptance, and for those of us that have spent the majority of our lives at war with our bodies, body acceptance, is a gift.
I was recently asked when I knew that I loved my body, and it made me reflect on my own journey, and, it was a journey.
I was diagnosed with body dysmorphia and bulimia and social anxiety disorder around food in 2010. It took three years for me to be able to look in the mirror and just be able to see my body at the size it truly was, let alone be able to say I loved my body.
With the body dysmorphia, my reflection was that of myself at 120kg, wearing size 24 clothing and grossly unattractive. In reality, I was 65kg, wearing size 10-12 clothing and from the attention I was receiving from the opposite sex, was not unattractive.
By the time I reached my 40th birthday in 2013, an age I had feared for such a long time, I took a picture of myself early in the morning before personal training and I finally saw myself. I looked at my body and recognised it was strong, healthy and size 12.
I was proud of my body, but I couldn’t say I loved it.
But what I could say, was that there was body acceptance. I was able to look in the mirror and be proud of my body, but appreciate there was potentially some area’s to still work on. This was a much healthier place for me than I had ever been in before. This was also a place I stayed in for at least another 18 months.
In mid-2014, I had been working hard to complete both my health coaching certification and my eating psychology certification.
One of the exercises recommended in the eating psychology certification training to support people with body image issues, is an exercise called mirror work. (it is an exercise I give to those in my core program The Body Love Experience).
Mirror work involves standing in front of mirror, preferably without clothes on, for as long as you possibly can, and truly look at your body in as much detail as you can. It is a very confrontational exercise for most people, including myself!!
The first time I tried it, I think I was able to look at my naked body for maybe five seconds before grabbing the towel and covering up. But I persevered for the next few weeks, with the length of time getting longer and longer each time.
Then one night it happened. I was running a bath after a very hard personal training session, my body was sore and I just wanted to relax, but I stood in front of the mirror and looked at my body and for the first time, I didn’t want to look away. In fact, I couldn’t stop looking at my body. And I was looking at my body with love. For the first time.
My body was strong, healthy, and whilst still had a few rolls of fat, was truly beautiful. At the time I was 70kg, I had had surgery to remove excess skin from the weight loss in 2009 so there is a large scar going all of the way around my body, my arms still have excess skin, my legs, lots of excess skin, but OMG, I LOVED every part of what I saw in the mirror, including the double chin!
My body was abused for seven years when I was very young, it was had been through obesity from age 13, multiple health issues including glandular fever and severe anaemia at the same age to punishing extreme exercise regimes, a lifetime time abuse of food, and yet, her she was in all of her glory. Still standing strong amongst all of the hatred I had once had for it. Finally, I got it.
Body hatred and punishing diets and exercise regimes was not going to fix, improve or change how I truly looked at myself. Self-love, self-care, self-respect, self-belief, self-trust. These are the ways that I was finally able to love my body in all of her beauty.
When you have spent your life hating your body, getting to a place of body acceptance is an achievement. Body acceptance means you may want to change aspects of your appearance, however, you don’t feel the need to go to extreme measures to do so. It means you treat your body with respect, with love. It also means you recognize and appreciate what your body can do for you.
Body acceptance means you may not love your body, but you no longer hate it, and that is the starting point to finally finding peace and finally healing your relationship with your body.
Body acceptance is part of the journey to Body Love. But it is a very big part of it.