Last week, temps hit 70 and sunny in Columbus, OH — it felt almost tropical!
So, Osh and I took full advantage by spending the afternoon outside barefoot and barelegged. It was LOVELY and definitely got me excited for warmer months ahead. I thought of late evening BBQs, play dates at the pool, and easy breezy dresses.
I also realized that my present excitement was in stark contrast to how I used to feel at the first sign of warmer weather: which was a panicked pressure to lose weight for the many events of summer (from weddings to beach vacations).
I felt the impending doom of needing to be ‘bikini ready’ closing in on me.
For years and years, anytime I’d have an upcoming event — summertime or not — I’d plot how I could lose as much weight as possible in time for the big day. Whether it was a pool party with friends, a beach vacation with family, a wedding I was attending as a guest, and even my very own wedding.
I’d spend the months, weeks, and days pressuring myself to get as small as possible in time for whatever impending experience was on my calendar. I’d follow different food plans (many times mixing them for what I thought would provide maximum results) and working out as intensely and consistently as possible.
I’d think about how my body would measure up next to others. I’d worry about what people would think about how I looked. I feared the shame, discomfort, and overall crappy-ness I’d feel when I had to look at yet another picture where I hated the way I’d look.
I’d sacrifice MONTHS of my life to these damaging patterns in the hopes that I’d feel OK for a single day.
I believed that if I could just lose X pounds by the event or make my body look like Y in time for the big day, I would be safe from all of it: the comparison, the judgment, the feelings of failure.
You know what I learned from years and years of that?
It never helped me have more fun, feel more present, or connect with the experience. And, my intense body manipulation tactics always backfired — through yo yo’ing weight, binge eating, food fixation / obsession, and continued participation in toxic diet culture.
You know what I’ve learned since healing my relationship with food + my body and making it my mission to help others do the same? That I was NOT the only one who feared the comparison, judgment, and feelings of failure.
In fact, it’s an epidemic that so many of us experience!
Last week, I checked in with you on Instagram and asked for you to share the specific body fears or pressures you were experiencing in relation to upcoming events so that I could best support you.
A flood of brave, vulnerable, and honest responses came through, and I hear you loud and clear.
Here were the main themes:
- Fear of judgment over body changes (i.e. pregnancy, postpartum, eating disorder recovery, etc) — the fear that because your body looks different than it used to that people will be judging those changes (judged by others + yourself)
- Fear of comparison with other bodies around you (i.e. bachelorette parties, wedding bridesmaids, group vacations) — the fear that if your body isn’t the smallest in the group or is larger and / or different from the others you’d be with that you could be judged / criticized via comparison (judged by others + by yourself)
- Fear that your body would make other people feel uncomfortable (i.e. cellulite, rolls, softness) — the fear that by simply existing in a body that doesn’t look like an airbrushed magazine model that others will be troubled
- Fear that you will hate seeing yourself in photos (i.e. multiple women shared concerns that their bodies were not ‘instagramable’, ‘instagram-worthy’, etc.) — the fear that your body is not good enough and that you’ll have to relive that not enoughness over and over again through pictures.
Let’s not rush past these fears quite yet. Let’s take a minute to sit with them.
First — have you ever experienced any or all of these fears? Are any of them feeling real for you right now?
Without judgment or the need to ‘fix’ the fear, simply acknowledge which ones are ringing true for you in this moment.
Second — I want you to think about the many many women who submitted responses to my question on Instagram.
I want you to imagine that a handful of those women are women who you love. Maybe your best friends, sisters, daughter, or your mom. Pick a few of the women who you love so deeply and fiercely and hold them in your mind right now.
Imagine them sitting on the other side of their phones feeling these fears. Looking at their calendars — at an upcoming bachelorette party, wedding, or beach vacation — and feeling that who they are right now is not safe or worthy of having that enjoyable experience.
Imagine they will spend the next days, weeks, or months trying to ‘fix’ themselves. To obsess over their food. To punish their bodies with exercise. To feel like a failure if they eat the ‘wrong’ thing. To panic that they haven’t done enough when the event finally comes. To be physically at the event, but mentally distracted wondering… what are people thinking of me?To be disgusted when they see a photo the following week as they pick their bodies apart.
Imagine that reality for these women who you love.
What comes up for you? What do you want to say to these women who you love fiercely? What do you want them to TRULY AND DEEPLY KNOW?
Pause and write it down. Write it all down.
Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do when it comes to body image triggers is to take ourselves out of the equation so we can connect back to our compassionate side. I consider compassion to be both kind AND honest — often much easier to practice with someone else than toward ourselves.
These compassionate truths you spoke when thinking of your friends are true for you, too.
Third — I’d love to share some reflective questions that I know can be incredibly powerful in navigating the pressure to lose weight for an event (even if that ‘big event’ is the warmer temps in general). Here they are…
- Reflect on the truth of your past experiences with intentional weight loss.
- What were your past experiences with intentional weight loss actually like for you?
- What did it cost you in the months, weeks, days of trying to lose weight (those times leading up to an event)? Be honest about what these experiences were like for you in the past.
- What was your reality like after the event? What happened in your relationship to yourself, with food, movement, etc?
- What opens up for you when you’re NOT intentionally pursuing weight loss? How might the next months, weeks, and days be different for you if you shifted your focus?
- What do you GAIN if you’re not intentionally trying to lose?
- If you weren’t focusing on body comparison or judgment at this upcoming ‘event,’ what would you be free to focus on instead? For this event or experience to be most fulfilling and meaningful, what would you be focus on?
- What if you accepted that your current body is the body you’re going to this event in — what would it look like to embrace and enjoy this experience in the body you’re in today?
Lastly — here are some truths I want to remind you of, today and always:
Our bodies are made to change.
You body. My body. They will, they are, and they do! Your body expands and contracts, which allows you to experience so much of life: from healing to grieving to exploring to giving life and beyond. Think of all the ways your body has supported you and shifted to create space when you needed it most.
It’s ok to not be 100% ok with every part of your body.
Yes, you heard me right. This idea that we have to be obsessed with every inch of our bodies all the time keeps us hooked into diet culture because there is ALWAYS something to be fixed.
It’s not your body’s job to make other people feel comfortable.
It’s not your body’s job to be responsible for all the fun, joy, presence, fulfillment, and excitement you have in your life.
Many of the behaviors, inner thoughts, and habits we develop to try to get ‘event ready’ actually detract from health and long-term healthy habits.
Self care that prioritizes your personal values and allows you to show up more fully in your life (rather than feeling distracted or isolated) are much more healthy and sustainable than any extreme things we do to get an ‘Instagram-worthy’ body.
Speaking of Instagram-worthy bodies… nobody loves every single picture they see of themselves.
You’re not alone!
You’re not alone! It’s ok not to love every single photo. Ask yourself ‘how helpful it is to sit there picking myself apart?’ if the answer is ‘not very,’ then close the screen and go do something that feels more valuable to you.
It’s not your body’s job to get more ‘likes’ on Instagram.
Your worth has nothing to do with how many likes you get on Instagram…despite what the algorithm would have us believe ;).
You deserve to say ‘yes’ to the things that light you up right now.
Not in 10 pounds, not when that dress that used to fit does again, not when you follow your meal plan perfectly.
Every body can wear shorts.
Every body can wear a tank top. Every body can wear a swimsuit.
You are enough.
You are enough. You’re not too much. You are enough.
This summer, I hope you’ll spend less time looking at your body and more time living in it.
What can you do today to help you feel connected to yourself and more present in your life?