It's National Eating Disorder Association Awareness Week, and it's great to see so many people sharing openly about their experiences with their bodies and bringing so much awareness to such an important issue for women and their bodies.
One question that often arises in the body positivity conversation is: "Why are you so focused on appearance? Isn't it what's on the inside that counts?"
I get why people ask this question. It seems superficial to spend so much time talking about our bodies. However, I see inner and outer beauty as inextricably linked. You have to heal one so that you can bring the focus to the other. I think most people who have had a violent relationship with their body would agree.
By "violent relationship," I mean you've got a history of constantly trying to change, mutilate, and tear your body apart because it doesn't meet the standard of perfection you're ascribing to. That describes me and most of the women that I know, even the "skinny" ones.
When you're caught up in this violence towards your body, it drains your energy and divides your focus. Instead of waking up every day and living at full amplitude, you spend countless hours fixating on food choices, punishing yourself for failing to meet the impossible standards you're holding yourself to, staring at your reflection and willing entire parts of yourself to disappear, and otherwise beating yourself up because of what you are or aren't doing, and the way that you look.
I and many women I know will admit to spending thousands of dollars on diet programs, fitness classes, miracle devices and "snake oil" solutions that promise to give us the body of our dreams. We have declined social invitations, or been unable to be fully present at social events, because we're caught up in hating our appearance. We've turned away jobs, suitors, friendships, and opportunities because we're ashamed of how we look. We've made "gym widows" of our partners and families because we HAVE to get that workout in. We've tortured ourselves and punished the people around us for the sake of striving to have a "perfect" body.
THAT'S a superficial existence.
The way to heal your relationship with your body and begin cultivating the beauty of the woman within is to make a choice to embrace your body as it is (side note: if you're someone with a history of clinical eating disorders, you probably need some outside help with this. And even if that's not you, working with a physician or a mental health professional on this stuff is always a good idea).
Once you make the choice to transform your relationship with your body, you can begin exploring avenues for self-care such as showing your body love through movement (my self-love driven way of describing "exercise"). You free up energy to start creating goals for yourself that go beyond measuring your worth on the scale, and instead are driven by defining the woman that you want to be in all aspects of your life. You can start designing a life that is fulfilling because you're able to share your natural talents and abilities with the world in a way that benefits everyone around you! I call this "living at full amplitude."
Spending time taking care of yourself and affirming love for your body are NOT self-indulgent, vain pursuits. They are critical to ensuring that you don't allow body issues to divert your efforts away from living at full amplitude. And anyone who tells you different is just being superficial!
If you're looking for a place to receive support, inspiration, and to connect with like-minded women about transforming your relationship with your body, check out the #healthyatanysize community!