Before a New Year Begins...
You know me and my love of milestones. birthdays, the beginning of a season, the start of a new year or a new chapter in my life. There's just something magical about new beginnings and it's a powerful moment to make promises to ourselves. In no other moment of the year is this truer than New Year's Eve. I always ask people this time of year if they make any resolutions and almost everyone has some kind of tradition of setting their gaze on a future goal, promising to do something they have yet to do, promising to leave stress behind a bit and focus more on the good stuff of life. I get it, I'm one of those people. I do this the night before a birthday, the night before a new year, when I'm sitting on a plane coming back home from a trip. It's so nice to sit with oneself and take stock of what really matters and what we'd like to change.
One of those years something very special happened, I promised myself I would look into that whole "vegan thing", boy was that a good idea and not in a million years could I have guessed where it brought me! It's been many years since that day and now I get to hear the stories of so many people who confide in me and look for support on their journey. You have no idea how much I think of those little conversations you and I have as true treasures. I would have also never thought that Carlos would join me on that journey, nor that we would have this place where we all get to hang out together.
Last year I promised I would be more present, more mindful, start living my days in a calmer and quieter way so I could take it all in. I started practicing mindfulness and boy was that another super cool idea!
For years though, I made but one promise to myself. I did it over and over again every year, not knowing that the actions I would take to do so, would pull me further and further away from what I thought was at the finish line. For years all I promised myself was that I was finally going to change my body. I would lose those last few pounds, tone up, trim down, firm up.
I also promised I would finally get rid of that annoying and painful sidekick I brought to life when I was around 5 years old, that made me overeat until I was in pain, that told me that eating more was the solution to almost anything, that told me that eating when I wasn't hungry would ease emotional pain. That little sidekick that also had a sidekick of its own, one that was perfectionistic, wanted the illusion of control, and wanted to finally be able to get a handle on her compulsive overeating, and if I could get a six-pack in the process (and not of beer), well, that was just the cherry on the cake.
What I didn't know back then, was that it was precisely the restriction and control, and the need to be perfect, that had created that part of me that wanted to keep me fed. In a world that prides itself on doing more than is humanly possible though, the voice that wanted to keep me fed was bad, and the voice that told me to diet, control it, that judged me and slapped my hand when I went for that second piece of cake, well that one was good. It was there to help. These two sides of me, and the scared little girl that was hiding behind them both, accompanied me through my childhood, my teenage years, and all my adult life, until the promises to change my body and try to erase the aftermath of overeating made me do such rigid things it became unmanageable. I hit rock bottom, realizing that that wasn't the life I wanted, that it wasn't worth it, and magically, through the episode of a podcast I happened to come across, I got the tools to start climbing out of the hole I had dug for myself.
For the first time it was like the dust had been wiped from my eyes and I saw things clearly. By trying to perfect myself, and wanting that feeling of being out of control with food to stop, I had taken my body out of its "socket". I had removed what it needed (enough food, freedom with food and lots of body acceptance), and replaced those with rules, lots of expired New Year's Resolutions to lose weight, and a poorer body image every time I was closer to what I thought was the body ideal. It took me years of making New Year's Resolutions and starting January 1st diets to realize that something was wrong with me but it wasn't my body.
I have spoken and written a lot about body image and how restriction through dieting affected my relationship with food, and you can read more about that in our series "The Dieting Chronicles" (intro, part 1, part 2 and part 3), and in one of our most popular blog and podcast series "The Bikini Revolution" (part 1, part 2 and part 3), but after talking to a friend (we'll call her Emma during this series of posts and episodes), I realized that with the New Year upon us, it was time to tackle another side of these issues. Not the role restriction plays on messing with your relationship with food (although that will probably make its appearance), not the role being mindful and attuned plays in your eating habits and how we don't need external rules to tell us if we've been bad or good with food. Not the handy dandy tips I've given you in the past to start seeing all bodies as beautiful. Instead, I thought it was time to talk about body image, and the difficult issues that are behind all those things we've just mentioned: the gruelling task of learning to love our bodies when we live in a society that shows us only one possibility.
One bra size.
One skin color.
One body size.
We're not only going through an epidemic of beauty sickness, we're going through probably one of the worst moments in history when it comes to the way women and men view their own bodies and talk to, and about, themselves. With this comes the January trap, of picking yet another area to master in the quest for the beauty ideal.
This is what I've learned from my long journey to where I am now, which is the healthiest relationship with food I have had in my life (I haven't actually said that or written that "out loud" until now and I can't tell you how good it is to see it on paper and feel it in my core). I've learned that only when I let go of the quest for perfection when it came to my body, when I allowed myself to eat unconditionally when I was hungry, and relearn my body's signals, only then did things slowly start falling into place. Only then did I reach a place of seeing food and eating as just a normal joyous part of my life but not the only part of my life. It was hard, but I worked for it, and it was hard because as a recovering perfectionist it feels so much more natural to control and try to manage every little aspect of my eating and exercise. What I know now is that the cure wasn't in another January diet, but in letting go, and clearing out old patterns of thought by adding in accepting and kind ones in their place (don't worry we'll be talking about what these are and we have many times in the series I mentioned above). The key was in learning what the research actually says, not the new shiny diet books, and in trusting my body again. That was the hardest part of all.
This was what I called step 1, finding a new way to relate to food after I had lost any and all connection to my own body when it came to eating, following only shoulds, rules and having a naughty and nice list of foods. Step 2 had to do with the way I saw my body when I looked in the mirror.
This January in the blog, and in the podcast, we'll be talking all about step 2, in what I'm calling The Body Image Series.
In 2018, on what I think has become National dieting month, I'll be giving you a new perspective, introducing you to this revolutionary idea that states that you just might be perfect and cool just the way you are today, and that if there are issues with your health, problems with your relationship with food (as was the case for me), you can approach these issues without punishing yourself. We're going to tackle that mean girl voice that tells us we're not enough, that angry guy voice that tells us we still need to put on more muscle, that shaming voice that tells us aging is bad, and we're going to get down to the truth.
Because the truth that lies at the bottom of this is that we live immersed in diet and beauty culture, that undercurrent that affects the way we view ourselves whether we believe so or not. None of us are immune, and learning to be ourselves and appreciate our bodies for the glorious engines that they are, is H-A-R-D in today's world if we don't look like the one beauty ideal that is sold to us every minute of every day.
That's why when in a recent conversation with my friend Emma, when she, one of the most gorgeous one of a kind women I have ever met in my life said she was going through the worst body image moment of her life, and that she wanted help and support to make 2018 her body image/body love year, I said: I'm here, and we're all going to do it with you. By "all" I of course mean you, me, and anyone who wants to join us. You can thank Emma for the awesome body image series that will fill the podcast this January.
Some of the episodes will be tough, others will maybe even be kind of funny, whether you're a man or a woman, we're doing New Year's Resolutions differently this year, we're going on a different kind of diet, we'll be removing all that negative self talk that is not only cruel, but that can also sometimes sabotage our desire to exercise and move out of pleasure, or sabotages our efforts to be mindful while we eat, or that simply makes us unhappy. Sometimes we can be our own worst critic and in a world where different is not good, it can feel very alienating when the judge and jury lives in our very own house and sleeps in our very own bed. So we're going on a cruelty free diet, and I'm not even talking about veganism! We're going to start quieting down that mean voice and start raising the one that makes us strut down the street, catwalk style, even when we're wearing pyjamas and no makeup and are walking the dogs or getting coffee (yes... fine that might only be me, but still).
It's going to be the best start to the year ever, and we're going to do it all for Emma, and for every girl, boy, woman and man who has ever felt they needed to change their appearance in order to be accepted and loved, by others or by themselves.
We'll begin next week, in this brand new year that approaches! Each episode and post will have a topic, it will include an awesome TED Talk by really cool experts who research this stuff every day, it will have an exercise or two you can do, and tons of insights and support. Sometimes all we need is to know others struggle with this too and that there is hope. Of course I'lll include a ton of personal stories from my experience as well.
It's the body image series but I secretly call it the body love party.
Ready to start 2018 in a new way?
Let's do this!