I hinted at this already in this post.
During a women’s retreat, we all had to strip down and stand stark naked for a while, in full view of each other, and then sit down in a sweat lodge for a couple of hours, our bums slightly uncomfortable on compacted soil, getting very warm and sweaty. Not my idea of creature comforts if you had asked me beforehand.
Still not my idea of creature comforts but I know what I got in return now…
It was strange seeing everyone (including the leader) naked. We had to pretend that we didn’t mind. We had to not look. We had to pretend we felt good in our bodies. There was nowhere to hide.
But of course we looked.
And of course I looked.
And I was astonished.
Out of about 40 naked women, only ONE had a body I would consider ‘ideal’ – i.e. conforming to the ideal of beauty common in our society at present.
So it struck me then – why are we all trying so hard to conform to that ideal when it is pretty much impossible to and when it was quite evident that very few women actually FIT in that ideal NATURALLY!?
It was a real eye opener.
Our food struggles pretty much all stem from this ideal, or at least revolve around it when we start dieting and not being happy with our bodies.
We try to control our bodies, to morph them into something they simply cannot become, we obsess about them, we obsess about food, about what to eat, what NOT to eat, HOW to eat it, how NOT to eat it, day in, day out, and yet nothing changes.
One thing I noticed for sure is that in the 20 years or so I obsessed about and stared at my hips (with that dissatisfied look in my eyes and that sinking feeling in my stomach and heart), their basic shape didn’t change one iota – whether when they were slimmer or bigger.
I then realised the same could be said about any part of my body. Nothing really changed. Everything had the same shape, and really, if I was honest, it was just the shape that I wanted to change, not necessarily my weight.
Shapes can’t change (unless you go under the knife) (and even then…).
It was time to stop the battle against my body and its funny shapes. I decided to accept them just as they were.
It wasn’t easy. But I felt I had to do it in order to be at peace and to stop eating about it.
I was lucid: I still preferred my body slimmer than bigger, even if the basic shapes didn’t change. Of course I did. But as I came to know and truly understand, through all the books I read about intuitive eating, change starts with acceptance.
Change in eating behaviour starts with body acceptance.
So I started accepting my body how it was, whether slim or big, whether it had funny shapes here and there or not, and little by little my food intake got smaller and more spaced out throughout the day, and it became more and more consistent, with fewer and fewer binges, with smaller and smaller binges when they did happen.
Every time I started focusing negatively on my body, I would eat more again, a form of self-flagellation for ‘not being right’. For not being perfect. For not conforming.
Every time I accepted it again, my eating would normalise again.
This is not a linear process. The issues come back every now and again, but I’m better and better at dealing with them, and quicker and quicker too, using all the tools at my disposal.
So if you do find yourself eating emotionally, overeating, bingeing, berating yourself, feeling guilty, ask yourself: ‘Am I accepting my body just as it is?’ Because if you’re not, that is at least partly why you are eating the way you are.
Body confidence and freedom from food are inextricably linked.
If you would like to find out more about my Freedom from Food programme and learn a fantastic tool that will help you put a stop to your binges: EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), aka tapping, come to my next Freedom from Food workshop. More details can be found here.