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How do you love your body in a fat phobic world?

I was listening to a podcast this morning about body image, emotional eating, binge eating, and it was between two other women that I truly respect in the same field, and they were talking about the above line, “How do you love your body, as it is, in a fat phobic world?”

To be honest, it hit a nerve, because I know how true it is to feel uncomfortable in your own skin, in such a fat phobic world.

In my life, at my heaviest I was 120kg, and at my lowest was 65kg, and I recall vividly how differently I was treated when I was at both.

I had been big all of my life, so was used to being treated poorly and having derogatory comments made about me, to my face, and behind my back. It was something I got used to.

I also got used to the comments “you have such a pretty face, if only you could lose weight”, that was my personal favourite!

When I was at the peak of my corporate career, and working at one of the Big Four accounting firms, the partner I reported directly to was, let’s say, believed he was attractive to other women, and to his credit, did work out and so was quite fit. When I first started at the firm, I was 95kg, and within two years, got down to 65kg.

He went from never engaging in a conversation with me that wasn’t work related, to asking me not only about my weekend, but the guys I was dating, the exercise routine I was in at the time. He would take me out for coffee, or lunch. His complete attitude changed.

It wasn’t only him that I experienced that from, friends and family treated me completely differently.

It blew my mind that just because I had changed on the outer, that I was treated so very differently because I had lost weight.

Now, I am a body image coach, and I love my body, but now, I also back to weighing 95kg’s because of a lot of emotional stresses that has happened in my life in the past 2.5 years. Whilst for the most part I didn’t turn to food, understanding the damage that stress does to your body, especially emotional stress, meant that within three months of my dad passing away, I had gained 10kg and I was barely eating. (stress and weight gain in a whole other post!)

Whilst I coach on the topic of body love, and I completely 100% love my body, I can see in people’s eyes the questioning in their eyes when they ask me what I coach on.

I have had potential clients come into my coaching room, look me up and down, with full judgement, before they sit down, and then I start the conversation, and within 5mins they are fine.

It takes enormous courage to love you, and love and accept your body, in a world that treats those carrying additional weight with the same discrimination they treat somebody that may be of a different colour, religion or sexual orientation that they are comfortable with.

So how do you love you and your body, if you are carrying additional weight and are scared that if you do have the courage to walk the path towards body acceptance, to body love, to end emotional and binge eating, that your body weight may in fact either not change at all, or you may gain more weight? Very valid concerns!

My first tip, really ask yourself how much you want to have a peaceful relationship with your body and with food? On a scale of one to 10, how badly do you want to experience that peace and freedom? When I was about to start my journey of recovery from bulimia, my counsellor advised me that I would have to give up exercise. No biggie, unless your way of purging is exercise! I would exercise 6-8 hours per day to control how my body looked. No matter how much I negotiated with my counsellor about “can I not just do an hour of yoga each day?”, and the answer was a clear “no”, and he asked me, “how badly do you want recovery Michelle?”, and it was an easy decision. I wanted my recovery and to end the pain. Having an eating disorder, and body dysmorphia, there was A LOT of pain.

Second tip, is to get really comfortable with uncertainty. You have absolutely no way to control how your body is going to respond when you loosen the grip on emotional and binge eating and start healing the wounds and stories that have created the relationship you have with food and your body. Your body may lose weight, or it may gain weight, or even just stay the same. For the first six years of my recovery, my body stayed around 70-72kg. My body found it’s set point and stayed there until the stress of my dad’s illness and subsequent passing two years ago.

Third tip, create a support network around you. Surround yourself with people that see you and your beauty within who you are, not what you look like around you. The biggest support for me in my early days of recovery was an ABA group (think AA). I was also grateful for a man in my life at the time that loved me for me, who I was in the inside, not outside. I also had some beautiful friends that didn’t love me for how I looked on the outside, it was because of who I was as a person.

Last tip, seek out help! Yes, engage a coach, counsellor, psychologist, whatever works for you, and start working on seeing your own worth, your own beauty, and that brings out the magic that is you, in every moment.

Understand that what makes beautiful, is on the inside, and not on the outside and once you are able to fully embrace that, loving you, loving your body in a far phobic world, is actually a piece of cake! 😉

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