Healing Old Wounds: Learning To (actually) Love My Body

For as long as I've been a "woman", i.e. since I went through puberty, I’ve struggled with accepting the shape of my body. I can still remember the exact day I looked down and realized I had hips for the first time when I was around 13 years old. I had been extremely thin my entire life and all of the sudden I started bearing curves. Even though I was still thin, the disruption in the image I was used to seeing really freaked me out. I remember grabbing my hips and crying to my mom about how fat I looked, and how I wished I could have kept my narrower less womanly pelvis. 

Perhaps some of these early struggles with body image were born out of my involvement in ballet form a very young age, although I can’t really be sure about that. There are so many factors that play into struggles with body image, including the fact that we live in a society that celebrates a completely unrealistic version of “perfection” with a lot of pressure on women to live up to that. Regardless of the reason, I started feeling frustrated with my body at a very young age. From there I traveled quite a tumultuous rode with body image issues, disordered eating, and unhealthy mind patterns. These struggles played a huge role in why I became passionate about health and lifestyle and eventually why I started my coaching practice in order to help women like myself overcome imbalanced lifestyles and struggles with body image and health. But sometimes I forget that my personal journey is continuous and there will always be ups and downs.

Recently I hit a bump in my own health journey, and it really threw me for a loop. Because it forced me to face incongruence in the way I felt about myself.

After not weighing myself for years I stepped on a scale a few months ago, and it rocked my world. It’s mind blowing how a number on a scale can have the ability to completely shake my confidence and convince me within a matter of seconds that I’m not as healthy, beautiful, or balanced and I thought I was. Which in all honesty is completely crazy seeing as the number being reflected back to me was a healthy one! But because of my past and struggle with body image and disordered eating, I had never really learned to become comfortable with myself at a healthy weight. I simply didn’t allow myself to step on scales anymore in order to avoid any leftover negative feelings. A few years back I only felt good about myself when I was technically under the recommended weight for my height. It’s a sad reality that a lot of women and men face. So stepping on the scale and seeing that I was in the “average” weight range for my height made me feel a lot of things.

When you struggle with body image it can be really difficult to understand and navigate because there's the rational side of you that KNOWS you shouldn't be obsessing over it and that there's absolutely nothing wrong with your body and then there's the irrational side of you that totally doesn't care about what your intelligent mind has to say, and continually taunts you to focus on the "problem". This internal battle alone is enough to exhaust a person, and it can also make it really hard to want to talk to anyone about it because you know deep down your body is fine and people might judge you for talking about it, or even worse they might think that your self-judgement implies judgement on their body as well, which is ABSOLUTELY not the case. 

This experience began a chain of events that would led me to a huge epiphany, but the road to get there was pretty shaky. After looking at that number and feeling my self-worth drop, my confidence decrease, and my unhealthy obsessive thoughts start to creep in, I was horrified. I was scared to be feeling these old, familiar feelings again and even more scared that I wouldn’t be able to get them to go away. As if this wasn’t already enough of a struggle I started to freak out about what this meant for me as a coach. How could I help people heal their relationships with themselves, their lifestyles, and food if I myself was still facing struggles? On top of wanting to jump out of my own skin, I started to feel like a fraud, and together these things were draining.  As you can imagine the more I stressed about this, the more I focused on it, and the more I focused on it, the more power it had over me.

I knew that I couldn’t stay in this place for long, that it was only temporary and that I had to get through it. So I turned to my tools, asked for support, got really honest with myself, connected deeper into my heart and my spiritual practice, and got curious. It’s amazing how different the experience was now as opposed to a few years ago, because of all of the amazing tools I’ve learned and was able to access.

As I came through to the other side I realized this had been an opportunity for me to love and accept myself on a deeper level than ever before. It was an opportunity for me to learn how to feel good about myself regardless of any number on a scale. It was an opportunity for me to heal completely, instead of simply avoiding the trigger.

For all of these years I’ve been avoiding scales because I never fully healed my relationship with them and with myself. Even though I intellectually understood that I had gained the weight I needed to in order to be healthy, I never really wanted to face it, it was something I just tried to avoid. And now coming to terms with it was allowing me to take the power away from the number and give it back to myself.  

Even though it felt like there was something wrong with me while I was going through this struggle, it was really just another period of growth; which makes a lot of sense because growth is often uncomfortable and comes in interesting ways.

The thing I thought that would make me a weaker coach actually helped me to become an even stronger coach, because the deeper I heal, the more capacity I have to help others heal themselves.

My health journey, like yours, is ever evolving. At times I know I will be faced with different periods of growth that will require me to show up for myself in a very real way. This particular experience was one that really hit home and allowed me to release some old and unhealthy patterns and beliefs around my body and body image.

I share this with you to let you know that you are not alone. We all go through struggles and face challenges no matter who we are or what we do. As hard as it is to let go of old habits and create new ones, it’s even harder to continue suffering. Love yourself now, completely. And if that feels impossible ask for help, look for resources, find a way, because you are so incredibly worth it.

I love you.

Natalie