Focus on the breath, breath in through the nose and out through the mouth...
Let your thoughts just go, acknowledge them and then let them go on their way.
As an asthmatic I find the art of meditation extremely traumatic. I don't want to focus on the breath because focusing on the breath reminds me that I can't bloody breathe properly and now I'm having a panic attack. So thanks. Thanks for that. So look, don't be scared come back, I am not talking the kind of hippy self-love here but the really simple kind, the kind we eat.
I have not had a drink in two months, I decided to quit when I first went back on Citalopram whilst the side effects settled, which for me include dizziness, but then I found that I just didn't want to drink, so I haven't. And this has been the beginning of a realisation about my diet and my body image.
This morning I read this brilliant piece by Amy Jones about how she is caught between body image and a healthy lifestyle and it resonated with me, as I am sure it will resonate with a lot of people. I too have hated my body but not for the reasons I thought I did.
When I went through my big breakdown five years ago I stopped eating properly mainly due to a fear of the supermarket but that then turned into something more destructive. The lower I felt the more crap I ingested, be it food or alcohol. The more I hated what I saw in the mirror the more I ate the food responsible for the figure staring back at me.
Now I have to stress here that the weight I gained has bought me up to a size that most women would be happy with, a size that I wouldn't blink at on anyone else. In fact, I would think they were mad for thinking they needed to lose weight. Which meant on top of not liking what I see in the mirror I felt guilty for not liking it. I have never, ever looked at anyone in a swimming costume and thought they looked bad, but I have looked at myself and criticised every single part of my body. Why do we hold ourselves to standards we wouldn't dream of holding anyone else to?
As I found myself replacing alcohol with sparkling water and forcing myself to make three meals a day my body began to change and with it so did my attitude. In the past when I have quit alcohol it has been because I felt I should, or because I wanted to lose weight quick, it was never because I truly just didn't want to drink. So what has changed? What has made me not want to drink? It was a recognition that just happened one day that I was drinking destructively. Not in the, “quick call the AA way”, I am not an alcoholic, but in the "I feel shit, I'll have a drink" way, in the "I know I don't need this next drink but I don't care enough about myself to want to stop" way, in the "I feel fat so I am going to eat an entire big bar of dairy milk" way. I was eating and drinking with self-hate.
Every time I have tried to force abstinence on myself for 'external' reasons I have replaced alcohol with sugar or sugar with alcohol. But this time I just started thinking about why I was eating or drinking things. The new rule is that if I feel miserable I can't eat chocolate or sweets, except during my period, I'm not a monster. What I have discovered is that I don't crave sugar half as much when I am happy as I do when I am sad but when I do crave it when I am happy, I enjoy it more, I appreciate it and I can have one bar of chocolate and move on. Whereas when I am sad, one becomes two, becomes four, becomes who cares?
I have lost a bit of weight over the past two months but for the first time ever it isn't the motivating factor and it isn't the end goal. The end goal is to look in the mirror and see a person who cares about herself staring back, in whatever shape that naturally makes her. I can eat anything and when I want to drink again I will drink again, but I will only do it for pleasure, not to block out pain. I am beginning to like myself more simply because I am treating myself as someone who likes herself more. I have cellulite, my thighs still rub, there's still more weight on me than there was before my breakdown but I am learning to love whatever shape I am supposed to be naturally by being it through a healthy diet and not an unhealthy one. And by healthy diet I don't mean in the traditional sense of eat only 'good' things (whatever that means) but in the sense that I am learning to be healthy in my approach to why I eat.
So eat everything you like but acknowledge what actually makes you feel good. If I binge on sugar my mood crashes with it, if I know that, why do I do it, because I don’t care about myself. So when I do care and think about why I eat something I am still allowed sugar but not in the "fuck you World I'm going to eat all the candy and be miserable" way but in the "fucking hell chocolate, you are awesome, that was pleasant, it was good to taste you again, looking forward to our next date" way.
Look, the point of this post is not to say, aren’t I fantastic having not drank in two months and being all holier-than-love-myself-thou but just to acknowledge that maybe the reason we don’t like what we see in the mirror, and this is definitely true of me, is because we know we are looking at someone who isn’t looking after themselves. Not because they should look a certain way for it to mean they are but that maybe we can embrace whatever shape and size we naturally come in, and we all do come in different shapes and sizes, when we know that shape is got through self-love and not self-hate. If you are eating all the ice cream in the World with all the joy in the World then carry on. But if you are eating all the ice cream even though you’ve stopped enjoying it but because you don’t care how crap you feel afterwards, then maybe it’s time to stop and think about it.
We are all beautiful, all of us and if we could see ourselves the way those around us do then we might not be so critical of that reflection. Body image is about a lot more than just diet but diet can be a quick indicator of how we’re feeling. Your body shape doesn’t have to change for you to start to love it, only treating yourself as you would treat anyone else has to change. That might have nothing to do with food or alcohol, but could be in the way you criticise yourself for insert today’s issue here. It’s important to remember that you are you, in your body, that is only yours and made for you and if you can find the thing that unlocks in you how to be happy in it, then please let the rest of us know, in case it can help us too.