A lot of my recovery has been learning how to take care of myself unconditionally. To accept myself enough that, regardless of how bad my body image is, I will still honor my body's needs. Don't get me wrong, it's fucking hard. I will likely work through this for a long long time as my body begins to stabilize.
What helps me stay grounded and think in a recovery oriented mindset is to look at my life holistically. I ask myself, in 10 years time, will I remember whether or not my stomach folded in this way or not? Or will I remember the amazing cheesecake in front of me? Is my purpose in life solely to lose weight? Obviously not. Am I valued for my looks and looks alone? No.
God It's so hard. Especially in a world, or culture, where dieting is advertised as wellness and health, acting against the norm is particularly difficult. I'm surrounded by girls my age who regularly engage in diet talk, body shame, and self criticize constantly. It's hard not to let other's bad body image affect my own thoughts, which then affect my willingness to take care of myself.
So then what works for me? How am I able to "drown out" the noise and take care of myself?
1. Stay grounded in my sense of purpose
I remind myself of what fuels me with purpose - advocacy and empowerment. Nothing brings me more joy than deep connections that arise from vulnerability and empathy. These friendships and connections are arguably the strongest and most meaningful, and unless I act out of a place of authenticity, I will stay stuck in a life of lies and shame.
I often post about body positivity and acceptance, about rest and nutrition, and a balanced lifestyle. So it would be counterintuitive if I didn't even try to act in line with what I preached, right?
3. Stop comparing
I remind myself that everyone is on their own body image journey, and that no one could have brought me to where I am now with my body image except for myself. Nothing I say can truly make someone want to work through their body image, in the same way that no one could force me to make lasting changes in the way I approached my life except for myself.
I constantly bring myself back to my lane. To mind my own business. That comparing and judging myself based on the people around me isn't serving me but only heightening and fueling my insecurities. I remind myself that one woman's beauty does not take away from my own beauty.
4. Remind myself of my past pain
I remind myself that my worth stems from so much more than my appearances. I remind myself of all the pain and grueling hard work I've had to endure to be where I am today. I remind myself of the sadness, anxiety, and fear that crippled my life when I acted in a disordered manner. Most importantly, I remind myself that even when my body looked different - even when I seemingly hit all my "body goals," my bad body image didn't leave me. I wasn't magically confident and free. I wasn't happy and calm. No - my anxiety and fear only amplified and depression clouded all my experiences. No matter what new goal I attained through restriction and over-exertion, it was not enough. I found a new part of my body to change, and I told myself that "after this, I would be done."
5. Further educate myself on the latest nutritional sciences
The more I read up on nutritional sciences and understand the body's metabolic processes, the more I am able to understand how all the discussion around dieting is highly misleading and flawed. The more I learn about nutrition, individual differences in set point weight, and how the body will do anything in its power to keep us within our own set points, the more pointless dieting seems. The more I understand how stress hormones and other neurological process only amplify survival mechanisms that preserve bodily fat, the better I understand how dieting only encourages weight gain in the long run and triggers a whole set of physical problems.
Note: For some, reading up on nutritional information may be more triggering than helpful. I know that this was the case for me for a given period of time. For some, learning rules about nutrition may only provide new guidelines and sets of rules regarding food that only fuels disordered eating and heightens food fear.
That's not to say that those individuals will never get the opportunity to learn the information, but when they are in a certain period of their process to self acceptance, this time will arise.