By Beckie Lough
If you’re like me, you may have spent much of the past six months quieting your anxiety and dread with piles of pasta, an ever-flowing Bota Box, and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies at any time, day or night. If you’re like me, your body may have responded to these dietary changes, slowly or not-so-slowly, in entirely predictable ways.
Seeing your body change in ways you don’t want can bring on feelings of shame, frustration, failure. Failure of willpower, failure of control. These feelings can be painful and pervasive, stealing your joy the moment you pull on a pair of jeans. It’s like your own body bears witness to your lack of self-control and displays your over-indulgence to the world.
But here is the absolute truth: WHAT YOUR BODY LOOKS LIKE DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING ABOUT YOU.
The shape your body takes on any given day is NEVER an indicator of your value, worth, or beauty as a human being. Gaining weight is not a moral failing. And having cellulite does not mean you are unhealthy.
You are just a human, doing your best to make sure you and your loved ones come through these trying times healthy and safe. No one always makes perfect choices, even in the best of circumstances. Needlessly indulging in shame or regret will only make things more painful. It won’t make you skinnier, and it definitely won’t make you happier.
The thing is, we eat comfort food because it’s comforting. Spaghetti and garlic bread reminds me of Monday nights with my husband Keith’s family. Delicious baked goods make me think of my mom. Nourishing ourselves, heart and stomach can help us through dark times.
That doesn’t mean it’s in our best interest to drink a bottle of wine and eat an entire chocolate bar every night. There are diminishing returns in terms of the immediate pleasure they bring, and in the long run, they can cause pain or discomfort. I know I don’t feel great in my body or mind when I’m bloated and have a headache from what I ate and drank all weekend.
So what can we do?
As I am always preaching, the only way to have good feelings about your body is to think good thoughts about your body. It takes practice, but you can choose right now to banish hurtful self-talk from your inner monologue. Put the energy you might spend counting calories into paying attention to how you talk to yourself. Don’t let your inner critic steal your joy.
Let yourself be on your own side. Take time every day to be thankful for your health, thankful for the body that gets you where you want to go. Decide to treat yourself with kindness and love, and spend real time thinking about what that looks like for you. Does your body need more movement? Would you feel better if you drank more water and less whiskey? Maybe those extravagant home-cooked meals actually do make you feel safe, happy, and productive, and you can release any guilt you might otherwise feel for being indulgent.
Approaching your nutrition and exercise plan from a perspective of self-love, as opposed to restriction, can, I believe, make you more likely to make good choices in the long run. Removing the shame factor allows you to approach your lifestyle and habits from a practical standpoint, unburdened by painful emotion. And putting your focus on actually feeling good inside your body and your mind will help you get through tough times in strength and peace.
As always, feel good first!