Yesterday I spoke to a good friend I’ve known for almost 18 years. We were reminiscing about the early days of our friendship and she commented, as she so often does, about how much older she looks now than she did then. It suddenly occurred to me I don't think we’ve ever had a conversation in which she DIDN’T have something self-deprecating to say. Now she thinks she looks old. Back then it was usually about the size of her hips – she’s always been convinced that nearly every morsel of food that passes her lips heads straight there.
The crazy part is, she’s thin and beautiful and always has been, and is extremely young-looking for her 46 years. To everyone who knows her, she’s enviably slim and lovely. But in the mirror, she’s wrinkled, lumpy and pear shaped.
While I think my friend is an extreme case, she’s far from exceptional. How many of us believe we’re fatter than we are? How many of us brush off compliments and don’t really believe them? How many of us look in the mirror and can only see our flaws?
For me, it’s been a decades-long struggle to learn to accept my body. Like my friend, I’ve never been overweight. Yet I’ve been worrying obsessively about my weight since I was a teenager. Only in the last couple of years since my focus has shifted to living a healthy lifestyle instead of just watching my weight have I been able to stop constantly worrying about it. While I don’t love everything about my body, I’m now able to take pride in the fact that I’m a 44-year-old mother of two and I wear the same size clothes I wore in high school. I take care of my body – I eat well and have been working out regularly for the last 15 years, so I feel I’ve earned the right to that pride. Am I perfect? Far from it. But much to my surprise, it turns out, that’s OK.
With all the images of perfection we’re bombarded with daily, it’s not easy to accept our own imperfections. But by focusing on your health instead of your dress size, you’ll find you can do away with unhealthy starvation diets and stop concentrating only on your weight. Ending the obsession is the first step towards accepting your body. And, while you’re shifting your focus away from obsessive dieting, positive self-talk can go a long way to helping you like what you see in the mirror.
Here are a few thoughts that have helped me feel better about my body, imperfections and all:
- I’m not applying for any modeling jobs, so why would I think I have to be model thin?
- I work hard for this body. I should appreciate it.
- It’s not a competition; whoever wears the smallest size doesn’t win.
- It doesn't matter how I compare to anyone else. My only goal is to be the best me I can.
- Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. This is mine.
- I wouldn’t trade my children for a flatter stomach, so why wish for my pre-pregnancy body back?
- It actually IS possible to be too thin. Healthy really is better.
- If men can find women attractive, curves and all, why are we so determined to get rid of them?
- No matter what it looks like, I’m grateful to my body for carrying me through life.
- Healthy is beautiful.
Next time you look in the mirror, keep these thoughts in mind. Focus on having a healthy body, not just a thin one. And next time someone gives you a compliment, instead of deflecting it, take it to heart and savour it. Learn to see the beauty others can see in you.
Rena Rubin-Hines is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner specializing in women’s health issues. Rena’s philosophy is if we eat better, we feel better and we look better. With a no-nonsense approach to health and nutrition, Rena offers straight answers, practical advice and effective solutions to a wide range of women’s health issues including weight loss, anti-aging, digestive health, as well as prevention and treatment of a variety of health conditions. Rena is dedicated to helping women live healthier lives, naturally.