THE ANATOMY OF HAPPINESS
How I learned to love my body after a lifetime of hating it.
I used to treat my body like I hated it. Well, the truth is that I hated it.
From being an awkward, skinny kid who looked like a boy to someone who hit puberty 2 years before most of her friends, this hate story began early. I hated the sharp angles of my gangly frame, my too big nose and my too-short hair (that was cut along with my brother’s, at a barber’s shop). As an adolescent, I hated that I looked liked a boy with breasts. I hated being hairy all over. And that I was short.
As an adult, a sedentary job and some incredibly bad habits made me overweight, gave me a bad back, and a body that I continued to hate.
One day (fuelled by some very unflattering photos), I decided that enough was enough. And so began a saga of diets, starvation, weight loss pills, gyms, trainers and fitness programs.
You’d think all of this would help. It did. Very temporarily. The weight went, but it always came back on. I went from fat to skinny fat to fat fat.
It took me many years to figure out what I was doing wrong. And what I was doing wrong was hating my body.
I starved myself, not caring about what my body needed. It made me fat, made me weak, and depressed, and didn’t help at all with my body image.
I worked out too often and too hard, not caring that my body wasn’t capable. Eventually, injury and exhaustion would cause me to quit.
I kept quitting on myself, cursing a body that refused to be ‘perfect’. Never mind that I wasn’t doing any of the right things for it.
I had no faith in myself, and was committed to failure right from the start. Every time I started something, it was knowing that it wouldn’t work. Basically, I never gave myself a chance.
When I hit my early 30’s, I took a long hard look at myself, and for the second time decided that enough was enough.
It’s been a long and difficult journey. But I’ve finally learned to like (love, even) my body. Every little lump and bump. Every curve, every dent. Every blemish.
Here’s what I learned to do differently:
I workout to suit my body. I do push myself. Hard, sometimes. But I know my body is strong enough to take it. I try and be as regular as possible, and celebrate every little fitness victory, from being able to hold a longer plank to doing what I call ‘boy’ pushups
I listen to my body. I rest. I’ve learned not to ignore tiredness and injury.
I’ve discovered yoga. And it’s changed my life.
I eat a lot better. I eat enough. It’s not like I don’t have bad habits, or cheat days, but I’m more mindful of what I do to myself or put into my body.
And most of all, I’ve learned not to quit on myself.
And guess what... I look better in my 30's than I did in my 20's. I’ve lost weight, and kept it off. I feel stronger. I feel more attractive. And I actually really like my naked (and still very imperfect) body.
I guess, when you learn to love your body, it loves you right back.