How To Accept Your Body Just the Way It Is

Here’s a question from 17-year-old reader Josie, who’s havin’ a little trouble accepting her body just the way it is…

Q: I’m still in the recovery of my own battle with food; unhealthy binge/restrict cycles since I was 12, then full blown bulimia when I was 15. I acknowledged it was a problem about 18 months ago, but it took 6 months to pluck up the courage to to see someone, and then another 6 before I stopped purging. Then slowly the bingeing started subsiding.

As the bingeing left, I slowly lost weight to a point where I’m now inside my ‘comfort zone.’ Bingeing was disappearing but with stress of exams I’ve binged a couple of times in the last 2 days. Yesterday I binged on a creme egg, half a packet of haribo and a bag of 10 mini brownies, today I’ve had part of this giant cookie, a mouthful of marzipan and this other weird Dutch thing but again not much. Neither time was I left feeling bloated or sick. I know I’m making progress, but it doesn’t feel like it

I was going through a great stage of feeling good about myself a couple of months ago but then I overate every day during Christmas. When my bingeing was at its lowest I was starting to like my body. But it seems to have..gone. And I don’t know how to bring it back. Have you got any tips for accepting yourself as you are? —Josie, 17

A: Hi Josie. First, thank you for writing and sharing your story and struggles-that’s what this site is all about.

You say you’re having trouble accepting yourself as you are. Ho, boy, does that sound familiar! It used to be that the only time I ever felt slim, happy and in control if I was on a diet. It didn’t matter whether I had actually lost any weight yet or not-just being on a restrictive food plan made me feel skinnier and better about myself. So I stayed on diets off and on for years. But it never stuck. The bingeing always returned, and with it, the depression, self-loathing and flat-out body hate.

Food, weight and the shapes of our physical bodies aren’t actually the problem. It’s our minds. I finally got so tired of the diet and binge cycle that I vowed never to restrict my food again. I vowed to work solely on building my self-esteem (mostly through talk therapy and reading) and being kind to my body (I started jogging for mental and physical health, not beauty). And after a couple of years (I know, that sounds like forever!) I got to a point where I honestly said: If I stay this weight forever, that’s OK with me.

I focused on getting better at my job, and doing things that made me feel strong and accomplished, like making new friends or doing things that used to scare me. I jogged the NYC marathon (all the while not losing a pound). I continued with therapy. I sought out a support group for bingers. And I started recovering more and more.

Soon binges became rare, and most days I had a lot of peace around food. The funny thing is, after I let go of the physical and truly believed-down to my soul-that my weight didn’t matter, my outsides started to change a bit. I go to a point in my recovery where I became ready to focus on eating better, for my health and happiness, not looks. And it just so happened to have the side effect of making my body a bit smaller and fitter.

I had to completely let go of weight and size in order to get to my body’s happiest place. Seems counterintuitive, but that’s the way it happened for me.

I feel like that was a bit rambling-forgive me, I was on a plane for eight hours yesterday!-but I hope it helped. I guess the bottom line of what I’m trying to say is that the body dislike you’re feeling after bingeing is totally normal. The excess food does have a physiological effect on us-making us retain water and feel puffy or sluggish. But it’s mostly mental. We feel we’ve failed. We feel weak. We feel out of control and we feel fat, whether we actually are or not.

Just remember that you won’t always feel that way. And day by day as you continue to address the mental and emotional reasons behind your eating, your physical body will come into line. As you get healthy on the inside, it’ll get healthier on the outside.


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3 Responses to How To Accept Your Body Just the Way It Is

  1. Rachael says:

    Taking up some activity that involves using your body - something out of your comfort zone too is good.

    Salsa dancing, or soccer for example.

    I took up yoga and I honestly began to appreciate my body for what it could do. The first class I was hopeless - my legs couldnt bend the way they should for poses but within 4 weeks I was amazed how much more flexible I became. Yoga is gentle and meditative and I found it really helped me learn to love my body.

  2. Rachael says:

    I have also started a “compliments” section in my journal. it may sound vain but if someone says something nice about me I try and write it down and refer to it during dark periods when my inner dialouge is abusing me and calling me a fat disgusting loser.

    Reading “you have nice hair”
    Or “you’re eyes are beautiful” during those times is a little pick me up.

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