This past month, Jared and I moved, drove 1783 miles across the southeast to celebrate and spend time with friends and family, packed and unpacked a 3 bedroom home, started new jobs, and got some hard news of a loved one’s diagnosis. On top of that, we all live in a world filled with devastation, political tension, and violence.
I feel like I am just now catching a moment of calm. Can we just let out a collective sigh of relief – even in if is in the hope of soon-to-come relief? I am tired y’all.
Recently, I have noticed that I have become increasingly uncomfortable in my body because in the past year, it has changed. Body image is something I work on *all the time* with clients and it is personal work I am not unfamiliar with. I have some new thoughts about getting used to an ever-changing body that I wanted to share.
Our body image is forgetful. When we are in a moment, or a whole day (sometimes it be like that), of hard body image thoughts, it’s typical to play-up the past. I find myself glorifying my smaller body, all the while forgetting what it took to maintain that small body. It took several disordered eating and exercise behaviors not even daily, but hourly to maintain. In this hard body image moment, it’s easy to forget how much I despised my body that I now am yearning for. A humble reminder that it was never about my body. Perhaps I am in this moment because of all life’s circumstances, not simply because of my body.
Our body is uncomfortable. In my own experience, my body image is relatively good when I am comfortable and is relatively not-so-good when I am uncomfortable. I describe this as the “invisible hair phenomenon” to my clients. You know when you have that pesky, thin, random strand of hair on the back of your arm that you keep reaching and reaching for that you can’t get a hold of? This hair and finding relief is then all you can think of. When we have clothes that don’t fit our here-and-now body, it’s like an invisible hair. The snugness is all we can feel and our brain will keep drawing its attention to our body and its changes, all we want to find is relief. Buy the new clothes, size up. The difficulty of sizing up and the acceptance it requires is no easy feat, but I promise (speaking from experience), it helps you to find a bit of relief for days and weeks to come. I urge you to meet yourself with compassion when your body is uncomfortable. What do you need to experience some relief from the discomfort? A good cry, comfortable clothing, sunshine on your skin, a good laugh? Your needs are valid and worthy of meeting.
Our body image is shortsighted. Diet culture, and hustle-culture, has taught us to be desperate and reactionary with our body. If you don’t like something, fix it. And do it quick! Lose an absurd amount of weight in 3 hours! Truly, the marketing and empty promises are ridiculous. However, they are aware of our longing to feel comfortable, acceptable, and lovable in our bodies and they prey on that. I am the queen of flying off the handles and acting impulsively, that is how my eating disorder thrived. All the time spent engaging in compulsive and compensatory exercise never developed the muscle to rest and sit with my discomfort in my life and my body. Sitting with it is a common phrase used in therapy that means to just slow down and ponder a thought. It doesn’t literally mean you have to sit. Sitting with it can look like journaling, processing with a trusted friend, walking while thinking, or really just not taking an action immediately. I call these “speed bumps” with clients. How can we add a speed bump to slow down the moment between the thought and the action? Just because I have been having hard body image thoughts recently does not mean I have to start counting anything or moving more or anything. It can just mean I have a lot going on right now, my body is changing, and I just need time to adjust. Be patient and kind to yourself as you try to lengthen the time between your urge to change your body and what action (if any action) you decide take. Remember, our thoughts are just thoughts – they aren’t truths or calls to action. Also, our perception is just our perception. It’s also not truth, but rather how we make sense of something informed by our experiences and circumstances, it can change by the day.