If it scares you, face it.
I’m talking about food. Whatever makes you anxious, fills you with fear, makes you run the other way, possibly to your calorie counter or scale, face it. Don’t keep avoiding it. Stop depriving yourself of it. We try so hard to control what we eat, but food ends up controlling us.
No food is off limits. Slowly open yourself up to the foods that scare you. Take it day by day. Not just eating those foods, but eating those foods without guilt or regret. That’s key. Instead of punishing yourself for overeating or eating “unhealthy” by bingeing on more food or even throwing it all up, be kind. If you have to be your own cheerleader and talk yourself through those negative thoughts then so be it. When nothing is off limits, when everything is an option, you can make choices. Choices based on what you want and what will make you happy. You’re free. Realize that it’s not the specific food that’s making you overeat. It’s the mindset you have when you eat it. That all or nothing attitude stems from your black and white relationship with food.
I love chocolate, but for the longest time, I avoided it. When I did let myself eat it, I could never have just a little. I would eat the whole chocolate bar and feel awful. This made me avoid chocolate even more because I felt like I couldn’t control myself when I ate it. I realized that it wasn’t chocolate that triggered this reaction. It was my, “I shouldn’t be eating this, it’s not good for me, I am treating myself, but also testing myself, I need to make up for this chocolate by eating less or working out, it’s so good, I can’t stop, oh screw it, I’m already eating it, might as well eat the whole thing” attitude.
Changing my mindset changed my relationship with food. Am I scared of chocolate anymore? No. Do I want it all the time? No. Do I binge on chocolate? No. Slowly, I am tackling my other “fear” foods and somehow by making peace with food, I am making peace with my body.
Dedicate this week to facing one of your fear foods. If you overeat on it, fine! That’s expected. But don’t eat it with guilt or regret. Eat it, savor it, enjoy it, and if you have to, remind yourself that, “No food is off limits.” Create a positive eating experience and food will no longer control you as much as you try to control it.
I would argue that caring for your body in traditional ways- like eating a healthy diet, exercising, and taking your vitamins- may be the least important part of your health. (I know! Radical idea coming from a doctor!)
This may sound shocking to you. After all, you’ve probably watched many other doctors get on television to tell you that your health is all about using food as medicine, getting enough exercise, and avoiding bad habits. I’m not suggesting that those aren’t great health-inducing behaviors. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter how great your diet is if your body is flooded with stress hormones! No amount of kale is going to counterbalance the toxic effects of high levels of cortisol and epinephrine on your body.
So what’s the most important part of your health? The nature of your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. When your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings are positive, relaxation responses are activated, healing hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins are released, and the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms are activated, allowing the body to do what it does best-heal itself.
Which Question Will Guide Your Life?
What do I want to look like?
Who do I want to be?
“I’ve Been So Good Today”
When I hear that phrase, I always think of the relationship women have with food and exercise.
“I’ve been so good today” as they eat an apple.
“I’ve been so good today” as they deny themselves a slice of cake.
“I’ve been so good today” as they suffer through a workout.
So what constitutes being “bad?” Eating an extra cookie? Skipping a workout because you feel sick?
Being “good,” to me is about your personality. Opening a door for someone with a bag of groceries. Giving up a seat on the bus. Showing the people around you how much you appreciate them. Loving yourself.
It has nothing to do with the quality of the food that you eat or the calories you burn.
When a person is craving weight loss, they are never craving weight loss. Weight loss in and of itself is meaningless. A person tends to crave weight loss because they believe that lost weight will change their life in some way. Hirschmann and Munter talk about this in their book When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, saying that women tend to fall into the mistaken belief that you change your body and you change your life. Kate Harding pointed out in her landmark post on The Fantasy of Being Thin that we don’t imagine ourselves just as a thinner person, but as a different person. When a person wants to lose weight, they want something else to change.
So, the next time you catch yourself thinking “I want a [smaller, different, thinner, etc.] body,” I encourage you to ask yourself, “What is it I really want?” Once you figure that out, focus on getting your true desires, rather than getting bogged down in weight loss. You are more likely to succeed in the end.
- You cannot determine someone’s health based on their size or appearance.
- Fat is not a bad word.
- BMI is not a good indicator of your health.
- Never a mistake, always a learning process.
- We are remembered for what we bring into the world, not for our flesh.
- If you lived your life based on what you thought you should do, instead of what you want to do, you might miss out on a life that’s more fulfilling and meaningful to you. In the same way, ask, “What do I want to eat?” rather than, “What should I eat?”
- Pleasure is a huge part of knowing our satiety and hunger.
- Stop beating yourself up for your feelings - they’re teaching tools.
- You can’t perfect self love. Let go and breathe. Every moment is a new opportunity.
- Skip the part where you beat yourself up. Take the time to be upset, rant, cry, feel what you feel, then be done with it. Life will still go on, whether you beat yourself up or not. There’s no need to bring yourself down.
Not An Apology.
I was ten years old the first time I felt the need to apologize for my body. The first time I felt like I needed to change how I looked in order to please everyone else. At every family gathering, my twenty-five year old cousin would come up to me and say, “너무 말랐어. You’re too skinny. You need to eat! Look at you, you’re too skinny” while grabbing my wrists and waist as if that would get the point across more clearly. I responded every time with a nervous giggle, shaking my head, hoping that she would stop. I dreaded these family gatherings because I expected this every time. And every time I felt the need to apologize for my body. I am sorry.
Fast forward ten years later, I’m four inches taller, three pant sizes bigger than my cousin and she doesn’t say those things to me anymore. Instead, I hear my aunts and uncles tell me that I’ve gained weight since I left for college. I hear, “You look different. You look younger? Older? Is it because you gained weight? Your face looks bigger.” Even after ten years, I still respond the same way. I give a nervous laugh, I smile, I nod. I still feel the need to apologize for my body. I am sorry.
I wonder whether we’d have as many insecurities if others didn’t tell us what they thought about our bodies or whether it was good enough for them. Not that others are the ones to blame for our insecurities, but what others think about us has such an incredible impact on how we see ourselves. It would be a mistake not to acknowledge this. From my Korean cousin who projected her insecurities onto me when I was just ten to my soccer coach who would grab my shoulders and tell me that I was too thin, too weak to be a soccer player, these things made me feel insecure. From the thinspo and fitspo models on tumblr who I do not look like at all to the offhanded comment my ex boyfriend once made that I should lose the eight pounds I’d gained from college, these things made me feel insecure. It’s sad that when I desperately needed to hear, “You’re perfectly fine the way you are. You don’t have to change. You’re good enough. Your body is exactly as it should be at this very moment,” I was bombarded by messages that I needed to change, that I wasn’t good enough, that my body was too much of this or too little of that.
So I want to say this to you: People will always judge you. They will judge your appearance, your weight, your face, your clothing, your style, your arms, legs, butt, stomach, everything. They will judge you and criticize you and feel like they’re entitled to having an opinion about your body and what you should look like. And the sad cliche that is true and yet so hard to accept is that you can’t please them all. I tried since I was ten and as a result, I compromised my own happiness and peace of mind. I never felt good enough. It doesn’t have to be that way. Your body will continue to change. YOU will continue to change with every year and what matters more than anyone’s opinion of you is how you see yourself. If you see yourself with love, if you believe in yourself, if you see how beautiful you are, then you have something that no one can ever give you or take away from you with their words: Self acceptance.
Butt, Hips, and Thighs
If you have a butt, you might have the shapely hips and the thighs to go with it. You might even have cellulite or stretch marks that tattoo these parts of your body. Health magazines tell you how to get rid of thunder thighs. Glamour magazines use fruits to describe your body and somehow you’ve become a pear. A pear.
You stand in front of the mirror and you stare with eyes of hate and frustration. Your eyes commanding your butt, your hips, and your thighs to shrink and the cellulite and stretch marks to disappear. They refuse.
You get angry. You get angry because you’re sick of shopping for jeans. It’s hard to find a good pair of jeans. It’s even harder when you’re trying to fit into a pair of 0, 2, 4 sized jeans at H&M or Zara or Forever 21 and you can’t. Your inner voice says, “You’re fat. You could fit into these at one point in your life.” It says, “Don’t buy pants. Don’t buy jeans. Don’t buy shorts. You won’t fit into the size you want anyway.” And suddenly buying jeans entails too many failed attempts of squeezing into a pair of jeans that are too small, of picking up the wrong size, of beating yourself up in the dressing room because you believe that a pair of factory made jeans will tell you that you’re good enough.
Never mind that the sizing at clothing stores is arbitrary and loosely defined. Never mind that your butt, your hips, and your thighs are beautiful. Never mind that if you were to buy the pair of jeans that fit you, you would look fantastic. Never mind all of those details because in your mind, that number matters. That number on the label, just like that number on the scale, tells you that you’re okay. It is society’s benchmark of discipline, self worth, and beauty.
And it’s bullshit.
I dare you to stand in front of your mirror and love yourself. Look at your butt, your hips, and your thighs and appreciate them. Because that ridiculous number is not going to ruin your life anymore. Beauty can NEVER be a number. Numbers are cold, harsh, and unforgiving. But you are not. You are warm. You are loving, compassionate, forgiving, caring, witty, intelligent, funny, and charismatic. You are strong, bold, ambitious, and beautiful. You are far, FAR more than what any number will ever tell you.
For once in your life, see past the number and see the truth. Open your eyes to your beauty and suddenly you will see beauty everywhere. There will always be something beautiful wherever you go.
What does “Healthy” even mean anymore?
The media tells us that healthy means fat free, low fat, diet soda, low calories, no sweets, fad diets, and Miley Cyrus with her gluten free diet and pilates.
Healthy has become a box, a cage, a set of identifiable rules that we’re supposed to live by. Healthy has become an insult, a source of envy and jealousy, a word stripped of its true value by my insecurities, your insecurities and their insecurities.
Healthy is no longer about your health. Healthy is about your body, the size of your waist, the number on the scale, your appearance, the exterior over the interior.
Are you trying to be healthy? I’m trying to be healthy. But what does that mean for you? Does it mean eating less sweets and carbs and more protein, vegetables, and fruits? Does it mean exercising everyday, three times a week, twice a day? Does it mean being strict, self controlled, and scheduled? Does it mean you can’t have a slice of birthday cake because you’re being healthy? Does it mean you’re going to eat less because you didn’t work out today? Does it mean you’re going to beat yourself up because you ate more than you planned to? Does it mean you “made up” for what you ate by going for a run? Does it mean you’re going to focus all your time on being healthy that you forget that there’s more to life than just being healthy? Are you really being healthy?
I won’t say what healthy should be because I don’t know what that is anymore. Apparently healthy means I’m picky or that I can’t have chocolate or have a sugary Starbucks drink when I’m in the mood.
But here’s what healthy means for me:
Dark chocolate. Hot chocolate. Chocolate everything. Grilled chicken salads. Steak. Blogilates. Sitting on my bed and tumblring for hours. Sleeping a little. Sleeping a lot. Pizza. Peanut butter. Running for 10 minutes. Maybe 30 minutes. Drinking tea or coffee. Having breakfast. Skipping breakfast. Fuji Apples. Filling my water bottle and drinking all of it. Or none of it. Eating too many cookies or just one. Looking at the ingredients instead of the calories or looking at both. Listening to my body. Ignoring my body. Being nice to myself. Positive thoughts. Going out to dinner with friends. Getting dessert. Eating dinner at 6 pm. 8 pm. Maybe even 10 pm.
In other words, living your life and finding a balance is healthy. Life gets hectic, busy, boring, emotional, exhilarating, exhausting, all of the above and more and you can’t be healthy if you’re trying to fight that. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.
And with that, I’ll end with this definition:
Healthy adjective (healthier, healthiest):
Enjoying your health and vigor of mind, body, or spirit.
So…are you enjoying your life?