You Take Care of What You Love

You Take Care of What You Love

Strolling through Chelsea, listening to a podcast, this quote hit me like a dagger to the heart. I’m not sure where it originally came from, google search has failed me, but it is oh so true.

I have a little pug dog, Tater Tot. He is currently living large on a farm with his grandparents (NYC is not dog friendly). Back in the day, when we lived together, that pup wanted for nothing. I realized at one point that I literally spent more money on his food pound-for-pound than on mine. We would walk for hours after work, stopping by the dog park, visiting his puppy friends and checking out the latest arrivals at his favorite boutique dog store.

I’ve never had a problem loving others, and expressing that love. However, when it comes to loving myself things get a bit trickier for me.

The reason this quote hit me so hard is because I don’t feel like I’ve been taking the best care of myself the past few months. I have begun to accept my true self in radical ways by working to free myself from shame and guilt around food, my body, sexuality, money, and spirituality. The guilt I use to drag around is now lifting, dissolving, disappearing and it feels wonderful. Yet, there is more work to do, and this quote, “You take care of what you love,” woke me up to what I knew deep down: that my current actions are often not that of a person that truly loves them self.

For example, yesterday these three voices surfaced as I walked by my favorite bakery in the city. The first voice wanted instant gratification. “We need chocolate malt shake and a sugar cookie, stat!” The second wants something sweet, but doesn’t want to eat too much sugar and end up feeling sick or not having room for a nutritious dinner. “How about just a cookie.” And then there is my inner mean girl, voice number three, the part of me that has been conditioned by society for the past 20 years. It tells me that eating sugar is bad, and if I eat one I better feel guilt and hide it. “No cookie for you.”

That third voice, the mean girl, use to speak the loudest. But now, after months of inner work, I’ve moved past the guilt and shame. I have stopped dieting and binging, and oh it feels so good! Lately, I’ve been listening instead to the first voice – doing what I want, when I want, without any guilt or shame attached. This has been an important step in healing my body image issues and rebelling against dieting, but now I’m ready to embark on the next step in this journey to self love. I want to strengthen that second voice, my intuition.

I want to truly love myself. I see now that to do that means taking time to slow down, get quite, and listen. It’s time to crack open my journal. Time to dust off the ‘ol meditation pillow. Time to pause. Time to go deeper.

-Eva

 

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Women be Smaller

Women are taught…

You should be thin. Read: Take up as little space as possible.

You should go on a diet. Read: Shrink in size.

You should cross your legs and keep you hands on our lap. Read: Take up less space.

Your hair should be smooth and strait. Read: Your hair should take up less space.

Cross your arms over your stomach when standing. Read: Hide your body.

You should not be so emotional. Read: Minimize your feelings.

A wife should always differ to her husband. Read: Your opinions are lesser than a man’s.

Don’t be bossy or a bitch. Read: Don’t be opinionated or outspoken, be passive.

Don’t lift heavy weights, you’ll bulk up. Read: Don’t get too strong.

I could go on and on. We have been socialized to believe that femininity means to be small, contained, and quiet. Therefore, a lot of women are uncomfortable with taking up space – physically and emotionally.

However, men are encouraged to be muscular (big), to take charge, to be ambitions, and to be opinionated. Men are encouraged to take up space. They sit with legs in man-spread position and arms draped over the seat beside them (no matter how packed the subway is that day).

I choose to stop buying in to these twisted social norms. No man is more entitled to take up space than a woman.

Women of the world, reclaim your space!

 

P.s. Minutes after writing this post I found this amazing poem by Lily Meyers (apparently I missed it when it went viral!).

 

This body acceptance stuff really works!

I was surrounded by 360 degree mirrors. As you might imagine, this can be a difficult situation for a person working through body image issues such as myself.

I took an unintentional break from my weekly yoga class. A trip to California and a huge deadline at work kept me away. As I unrolled my mat for the first time in about a month there they were – 360 degrees of floor to ceiling mirrors. But, today was different.

I had an ah-ha moment about half way through class. I realized that my belly was muffin topping over my yoga pants, but I didn’t care. I didn’t break the pose and scramble to “fix myself” as I usually do. I just smiled and concentrated on the instructors voice. Instead of picking my body apart in those mirrors, I looked at myself in the eye. I typically have to force my inner critic to be quiet, but today I just didn’t care. I didn’t care if my belly was hanging over my pants. I didn’t care if my hips looked wide in chair pose. I didn’t wonder if the people around me were judging me. I just didn’t care. I was there to do yoga.

It was one of the most intense yoga classes of my life. I felt my heart open and my body release. I was at peace.

 

Positive Body Image in a Photoshopped World

A selection of this months headlines:

“Flat Belly Your Way! The smart plan to target stubborn ab flab.” – Shape Magazine

“Lose 10 Pounds!” – Men’s Health Magazine

“Exclusive – Jen’s Secrets for staying young.” – People Magazine

“Stars Secret Diet Tricks – The 20 best fat burning tips that will work for you!” – US Weekly

What do all of these headlines have in common? They are all insisting that you need improvement. Specifically your body. It is apparently not acceptable the way it is, so you better buy these magazines because they are going to tell you how to fix it. These are the messages we see every single day. It’s not a surprise, then, that a recent survey of over 2,000 women found that 78% of them were unhappy with their bodies and wished they could wear a smaller size (D. Martz). 78%!

Body image issues are not limited to a certain gender, or size, or age. Earlier this week during a speech about body image and I asked “Who in this room has ever had a negative thought about their body?” Everyone, men and women, a 20 year old and a 60 year old, raised their hand. Negative body image is something that we’ve all struggled with. Therefore, I’d like to present to you five practical ways in which we can build better body image – no secret diet tricks required.

Strategy #1: Becoming a critical viewer of the media.

As you know, the media promotes one ideal body type, and by only showcasing that one type they perpetuate the myth that a person is only worthy of admiration and attention if they look a certain way. Ironically, these images we’re comparing ourselves to are not even real. Supermodel Coco Rocha said,

“For me just to look ‘natural’ in a photo takes two hours of hair and makeup, good lighting, styling, and Photoshop – and six hours later, you have the picture. But when I go home, it’s just me with no makeup, pimples, and a pair of baggy pants. That’s life — the rest is fantasy.”

In order to combat the negative effects of this photoshopped illusion we can pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make us feel bad about ourselves and our bodies. By identifying the ways the media is manipulating us we can choose stop passively accepting their destructive suggestions. Then we can move on to:

Strategy #2: Alternative exposure therapy.

In 2003, a pair of Harvard researchers published a study about the the Pacific island of Fiji. In 1995 Fiji got cable TV. This included shows like Friends, Ally McBeal, Melrose Place, and rates of anorexia and bulimia skyrocketed. Before that most Fijians preferred a fuller figure, and eating disorders were almost unheard of on the island. However, by 1998 (just three years after the island received cable), the researchers found that girls who watched these shows at least three times a week were 50% more likely to have a distorted body image (A. Becker).

This study illustrates how the media we consume can have a huge effect on our body image. If a show, a magazine, or even an instagram account is making you feel bad about your body stop exposing yourself to it. Instead, expose yourself to people of all sizes who are confident, and happy, and living the type of life you want to live. This type of exposure therapy has been scientifically proven to improve body image. Instagram, facebook and other forms of social media are great for this.

Now, strategies 1 & 2 both focused on the external influences on body image, but that’s really only half of the solution. We must also consider what’s going on inside, and that’s where the next couple strategies come in.

Strategy #3: Ending the negative self talk.

Self-deprecating talk, whether said outloud or thought, is incredibly detrimental to our body image. We often engage in negative thought patterns without even realizing it, and we tend to be much more harsh on ourselves than we would ever be to a friend. By becoming aware of these thoughts we can then stop them and replace them with:

Strategy #4: Appreciation for everything our bodies can do.

Keep a list of everything you like about yourself. Things that have nothing to do with the way you look. I’ll even start your list for you: (1) You are working to build better body image! If you weren’t you would have stopped reading this post long ago! By focusing on our positive attributes instead of the negative we can begin to live in a place of gratitude instead of criticism.

Strategy #5: Do not give up.

My last strategy of the day is quite simple. Do not give up. If you’re an adult you have been exposed to 10, 20, maybe 50 years of the media telling you your body is not good enough. No wonder we’ve all struggled with negative body image! All of that conditioning will not be undone overnight. Stay the course, do the work, and know that you CAN overcome!

I have personally been working to overcome my body image issues for about two years now. It has been a tough journey at times, but I’ve found that the happiness and freedom that come with positive body image are well worth the struggle.

Eva

 

Sources:

D. Martz, PhD, professor of psychology, Appalachian State University, North Carolina.

A Becker. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, December 2004; vol 28: No. 4.

This text is adapted from my Toastmasters speech “Positive Body Image in a Photoshopped World,” presented on 5/16/16.

The Last 10 Pounds

That elusive last 10 pounds.

We think – When I loose those last 10 I’ll finally be happy. I’ll be comfortable in my clothes. I’ll be healthy. I’ll be more attractive. I’ll wear a bikini. I’ll wear shorts. I won’t feel gross anymore. I’ll get a boyfriend. I’ll be lovable. I’ll go on that vacation. I’ll buy cute clothes. I’ll be confident. I’ll stop dieting. I’ll stop binging. I’ll be beautiful.

But what if the DESIRE to loose those last 10 pounds is actually the thing keeping us from feeling good and living the life we want to live. After years of having the “ideal” body type (tall, skinny, fit, tan, blond), then gaining weight, then a few years of dieting, and then a few more years of body acceptance work I have come to a very important conclusion:

What I weigh does not matter.

My wight has no effect on how happy I am. My value as a person is not determined by a number on a scale. My pant size is not “good” or “bad” or in any way indicative of my morality. My health is not dependent on my weight. (At my last doctors appointment my doctor literally exclaimed, “Beautiful!” multiple times as she read through my blood test results. I am heavier than I’ve been at any other point in my life, and incredibly healthy.) What I weigh does not matter.

What does matter? My mindset.

All of those things I listed earlier, those things that we think we’ll finally achieve once we’ve lost that last 5, 10, 50 lbs., are achievable in our current bodies. Exactly the way we are right now.

Our culture has decided that in order to be happy (and to have/do all those other things) we must have a specific body type. That “perfect” body is an illusion. It’s smoke and mirrors. It’s an unattainable image that has been manufactured and photoshoped by an industry that makes money by making you feel like shit. In order to sell us more pills, potions, diet books, “health” programs, etc. companies must first convince us that we are not good enough the way we are.

Thin privilege does exist in our society. That doesn’t mean that we have to buy into it. In the same way, white privilege exists in our society. That doesn’t mean we have to accept it. We can be part of the solution instead of passively contributing to the problem.

We can push back. I believe diversity is worth fighting for. Equity is worth fighting for. We can choose to be brainwashed by the media, and do as they wish by dieting our miserable lives away, or we can embrace our individuality and choose to think differently. We can listen to our bodies instead of listening to the latest diet trend. We can choose to do the inner work and accept ourselves just the way we are.

Lets choose to be happy now.

Lets chase our dreams instead of chasing a number on a scale.

Smile. You are awesome. You are loved. Just the way you are.

-Eva

BODYpeace Journey – Intro

At 6:00 am morning I sat cross legged on my yoga mat and tried to remain still and focused while the car alarm that had been going off for about a half hour honked persistently outside my window. Getting “zen” in the middle of Harlem can be quite difficult no matter the time of day. As I tried to focus on the words of the beautiful meditation I was listening too I couldn’t stop thinking of a time about five years ago when I lost my patience with my dog and threw him in my apartment after spending a half hour trying to get him to come in the door. He was obviously hurt. I hate that I did that. I literally love my dog more than just about anything else in this world. The meditation said “I forgive myself, I release myself,” but I just couldn’t forgive myself for that. Not today. Hopefully another day. I’m sure I’ve done worse things in my life. I know I have, but for whatever reason this one carries the most shame and guilt at the moment. What, you ask, does this have to do with body peace and self love?

“Acceptance is not giving up. Acceptance is giving in to the Universe’s plan for you, which is always so much greater than anything you could conceive with your silly little mind. Acceptance lets you off the hook and gives you freedom.”

-Heather Waxman, BODYpeace

I am currently reading the book BODYpeace by Heather Waxman and Kasey Arena and woah. The book is challenging me to get real with my thoughts and feelings about my body and myself in general. So, I am in the midst of digging everything up, and I mean everything, up! As Heather puts it,

“Your BODYpeace healing process is a detox; your emotions have to come up in order for them to be healed.”

So many women these days, so many of my friends, have extremely distorted and negative body images. One of my friends who is going through some major depression and anxiety (so much so she had to be hospitalized and is currently on suicide watch) told me the other day that depression is the best diet because she’s no longer hungry. She’s so happy that she isn’t hungry and she’s literally wasting away in front of my eyes. I don’t know that I have a single friend right now who doesn’t have some sort of disordered eating. I myself currently struggle with disordered eating and negative body image (much more on that soon).

I am really looking forward to closely examining all of my baggage. I feel compelled to share this journey here. I hope that someone else can be inspired by what I’m going through.

Have any of you read this book? Or are you currently reading it? I’d love to connect!

Love and light,

Eva