My Body Was a Battleground: Radical Self-Love and Feeling at Home in my Body

 

I've been writing a LOT about my journey with self-love on my Instagram over the past few months, and I've been humbled and overjoyed by the way it has resonated with so many people.

I've been receiving messages every day from people who share their struggles, their challenges, and their triumphs with me, and to be able to connect individually with so many people on that vulnerable, genuine level has moved me deeply.

At this point in my journey, I feel deeply at home in my 5'4, plus-sized body on most days. I still have days where I struggle, but overwhelmingly, I've gotten to a place where I feel radically loving toward myself (internally) and my body the majority of the time, and it's been life-changing in ways I didn't know existed.

I wanted to start talking about my self-love journey here on my blog, where it's easy to read, reference, share, etc, but I think it's important not to ONLY talk about where I am right now - so over the next few weeks, I'll be creating a series of blog posts detailing my journey, as well as writing about what's helped me get here (I'm NO expert, and it's a combination of a million things, but I'm hopeful that sharing what's helped me may be helpful for others too).



For now, I'll start with an expansion of the post I wrote for theeverybodybeautystandard on Instagram, which sums up my journey in a shorter format:

 

(CW: descriptions and talk about how I used to think about food, weight loss, my body, control, etc in disordered ways)

 
 Image description: plus-sized woman with pale skin and wet, shoulder-length red hair sits cross-legged on a grey couch with her arms to either side. She's wearing a black sports bra and black underwear, and her soft, rolling belly has many red stretch marks and flows gently over her underwear band onto her thighs. She's smiling at the camera and looks content.

Image description: plus-sized woman with pale skin and wet, shoulder-length red hair sits cross-legged on a grey couch with her arms to either side. She's wearing a black sports bra and black underwear, and her soft, rolling belly has many red stretch marks and flows gently over her underwear band onto her thighs. She's smiling at the camera and looks content.

My body was a battleground for many years.

 

A beast to be tamed. Something to be punished and shamed when it didn’t look the way I had been taught to think it should, when I couldn’t successfully tame the hunger and compulsion. Something to apologize for, to be overcome.

 After my mom died when I was 19, I went on an intentional weight-loss journey, and I praised widely for it. It made me feel victorious and powerful and in control. I had done it the “healthy” way, too, or so I thought. So when I quickly gained back triple (then quadruple, then quintuple) what I had lost, I felt like a failure. I was deeply, deeply ashamed.

Being in my body felt like torture. I spent hours a day thinking about food, trying to control myself into compliance with what I thought I was supposed to be eating. I wanted to curl up and wither away every time I binged.

Somedays, the weight I had gained felt like something I couldn't imagine bearing any longer.

As a kid, I had spent hours a day moving my body just because it was fun. But after high school, exercise had become a “should”. A punishment for eating more than MyFitnessPal told me I should. My body resisted it more and more, until it began to feel impossible to get myself to go do anything active. Another example of my failed willpower, I thought.

I tried nearly everything to lose weight again. Nothing worked. I was desperate - surely something was wrong with me if I couldn’t make myself lose weight? I began to feel like a failure. I began to think of myself as a lazy, immoral person. I began daydreaming about being able to afford the most extreme methods of “fixing” this “problem”, like weight loss surgery. I knew I wasn't technically in the range that doctors started recommended it, but I couldn't imagine how else I could stop spinning out of control. I still spent hours a day thinking about food.

I was endlessly knowledgeable about food, nutrition, exercise, and weight... and yet, I eventually got to a point where I couldn't even do the whole "healthy lifestyle change" (read: diet) for more than 3 meals without binging for days or weeks after.

I fought my body every single step of the way. And yet, each step felt harder than the last. I became more and more mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. It became almost impossible for me to do anything but binge, to get myself to move my body beyond what was required for whatever I had to do that day.

Failure. Lazy. No willpower. Not working hard enough. These thoughts spun around in my head daily, and rooted themselves into my being, colored everything I did.

 

But what I saw as a failure of willpower at the time, I've come to find, was actually my beautiful, resilient body protecting me from the harm I was unknowingly trying to cause.

 

 Image Description: plus-sized woman with pale skin and red hair with bangs stands against a white wall in her pink bralette and blue and white underwear, lovingly touching her belly while making a silly kissy face.

Image Description: plus-sized woman with pale skin and red hair with bangs stands against a white wall in her pink bralette and blue and white underwear, lovingly touching her belly while making a silly kissy face.

Through a mix of many things at once - therapy, finding and understanding true body positivity, Health at Every Size (HAES), and Intuitive Eating, finding supportive online communities, daily practices in retraining the way I saw my body, following other people who were finding self-love through the lens of body positivity online, and more... I began to feel safe enough to stop trying to control my body. To start listening to it instead. To trust myself and my body. To be gentle and kind with myself.

And as these things happened? That overwhelming weariness, that unfathomable inertia... began melting away. And in its place, a deep joy came washing in, filling me up until I was bubbling over. Space for patience and empathy and love for others was suddenly available in a way I hadn’t known before. An energy and zest for life that I had never even dared to dream of was suddenly mine. An unshakeable confidence in my own deep self began to bloom.

Today, my body feels like home. I feel an overwhelming sense of affection toward every single inch - every dimple and bulge, every dip and glow of my stretch marks, the soft abundance of my belly. The thoughts and emotions and dreams I experience. I claim it all with a powerful love and trust I didn’t know existed.

I’ve come home to myself. And you, my friend, deserve to come home to yourself too.

 

x
Em

 

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