January is a hard month for people.
We face a lot of hype and marketing around fitness and weight and adjusting your lifestyle from the gluttonous Christmas season.
We’re bombarded with so many messages that we’re unfit, unhealthy, unworthy.
We internalize those messages and others like them.
When I was 234 pounds heavy, I went into a high-end clothing store in downtown Kamloops. I asked a customer service representative for help and she replied, “We don’t have anything in your size.”
She didn’t know whether I was there to buy something for myself or a gift.
She did get to affect the rest of my day, though.
I left feeling poorly about myself and, because I was already in a stage of self-flagellation, I went home and did what I knew could salve the wound.
What do you see in the mirror?
I lost 70 pounds. It took a lot of hard work and dedication.
I love the way I look and feel, and my body can do things that seemed daunting before. (I beat you, stairs!)
I am proud to have maintained my motivation and will power. I admit to setbacks but they are reminders on how to get back on track with nutrition and stress.
More importantly, I no longer let people like the uppity-clothes gal ruin my day.
As a stress-management and wellness coach, I advocate the importance of setting goals and appreciating life along the journey. I challenge myself to stand in front of my full-length mirror, wearing nothing but my birthday suit.
For a lot of people — even me — this is a difficult task.
We often fail to appreciate ourselves for what we have: strong arms or legs, curves, talent, intelligence, humour … the list goes on.
We are always hungry for more.
And we want to conform, fit in with the mainstream and what’s “acceptable” body standards.
When we stand naked in front of a mirror, we become vulnerable, like a soldier without armour. We peel back and shed each layer of clothing and, lo and behold, there are all our insecurities and self-doubts.
How to build personal acceptance
Can you appreciate what you see in front of you?
Can you celebrate what is working and what is going well in your life?
Can you love you for you can do, rather than for what you can’t?
In recent years, we’ve seen a growth in putting “real” women in ads. (Of course, I object to the term real woman. No body type renders you a fake woman!)
The Dove ads, featuring women of various shapes and sizes in their undies, inch in the right direction but Dove, a division of Unilever, is still just a major company making money off our insecurities.
At least they’re attempting to normalize that we come in different shapes and sizes.
Then there’s Penningtons’ ad.
The fashion store for plus-size women hired the amazing Dianne Bondy, contributing author to the Yoga and Body Image book.
Dianne isn’t typical of whom we see in yoga or health commercials. Although she says people like her make others around them uncomfortable, she’s inspiring and encouraging because she doesn’t fit the norm.
She is comfortable with who is, how her body looks and how her body moves.
Like Dianne, we have to take self-acceptance to a new level and stop beating ourselves up over what we see in the mirror.
Let’s chat about our health
Every month, I host a get-together called Conversations In Health at the Caffe Motivo in downtown Kamloops.
On February 2, starting at 6:30 p.m., we’ll be talking about Body Shaming: A Journey to Self-Love.
I’ve gathered three smart-as-hell women and each one has faced her own battle with body image:
- Petrina Dumais, recovering bulemic who hopes to inspire you with her full understanding of every aspect of weight, diet and body image and how loving yourself is the key to joy that will give you honest, complete happiness from within
- Tammy Caza, diagnosed with “starvation obesity” and wants to show you what self-love means to her
- Melinda Stittle, a recovering self-shamer and owner of Intentional Wellness with Melinda Stittle
These women have developed a sense of self-worth in a world where they have been told they are unworthy because of how they look.
They’ve learned that loving yourself is going against what the mainstream tells them and they’ve changed the way they talk about themselves and their bodies.
When you stand in front of the mirror, are you only seeing negative things about your body?
Are you overwhelmed by the imperfections, insecurities and flaws? Or do you stand with pride, confidence and love the reflection staring back at you?
[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#bodyimage #selfesteem”]If we are ripping ourselves apart, we are stressing ourselves out.[/tweetthis]
If we’re nicer to ourselves, we’re managing our stress better and we:
- Live longer
- Are less likely to suffer from depression
- Face lower levels of distress
- Have a better immune system and resist the common cold
- Have a better psychological and physical well-being
- Build better coping skills for times of hardships and stress
We can pledge to lose weight, eat better and be more active but you’re still going to sabotage your self-esteem and remain unhappy if you don’t banish your negative self-talk, love yourself more and give yourself little high-fives along the way.
It’s important to have an end goal, but it’s also vital to appreciate what you have accomplished and recognize how you ended up where you are.
Embrace each moment and enjoy the journey.
I am Janice Otremba. I am a professional speaker, trainer and coach that specializes in stress management, health and wellness, personal growth and life balance. I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions, to determine how I can be of service to you. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of Ohmega1982 and africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net