If someone told you they believe they’re fat, ugly, undeserving of food or even undeserving of love, what would you say to them? An immediate response would be ‘Don’t say that!’. You would console them, soothe their anxiety, wipe away any tears, and tell them that they’re beautiful and worthy, right?
Why can’t we do this for ourselves?
For years, I thought that in order to be beautiful, worthy, and valuable to society, I needed to be skinny. As you can imagine, this created an intense feeling of anxiety and fear resulting in aggressive over-training, under-eating, incessant negative self-talk and it completely monopolised my life.
Looking back to that time, I was incredibly skinny and the fittest I had ever been. Even though I had achieved all of these things, I wasn't completely happy. And realisation hit me, the issue wasn’t what my eyes saw in the mirror, the issue was my anxious and negative thoughts taking over, regardless of what I saw.
I finally had enough.
In 2020, I willingly gained weight not only to test my physical capabilities, but to face head-on the anxious thoughts, thinking I needed to be skinny to be valued. The start of that saga was a painful experience. I responded emotionally and negatively to the unwanted aesthetic changes to my body.
Be Open About Your Experience
What helped with this process was the understanding that I was not alone. Friends, family and people I've just met sharing their personal self-love journies, validating my experiences and opening my eyes to a new perspective. The anxious thoughts of; "You’re fat, ugly, worthless" were not true.
Here I am now, years later, with the ability to eat bread and not cry from guilt like I used to. Where eating healthy and exercise is no longer a punishment.
Everyone's Experience Is Different
The biggest lesson learned through my self-love journey, was that the way in which people handle their body-image is allowed to be different, whether it be through Body Positivity, Body Neutrality or Body Acceptance.
The terminology around body-image is ever-changing but I found that in recent times, Body Positivity has taken a back seat due to its lack of sensitivity and consideration to people’s current state. Body positivity encourages people to be unconditionally thrilled with their body at all times, even if they genuinely don’t feel that way. I can strongly say that that did not work for me. Feeling bad about my body and then forcing my thoughts to tell myself I love myself when I don’t was incredibly unhelpful. Instead I practiced the following:
- Body Neutrality: encouraging people to have a neutral relationship with their body by gently separating their body from good or bad emotions. It helps to normalise the body and recognise that the way you look is, and should be, the least valuable thing about you.
- Body Acceptance: recognising that there will be days where you feel sh*t about your body, but knowing that it’s normal and ok! That way you’re honouring and validating your feelings, but not letting yourself be consumed by them.
- What works for someone else might not work for you, and that’s absolutely fine!
- Recognise that if you want change, only you can make it happen, even if it might feel uncomfortable. Your mental health is worth it.
- Don’t give up on yourself so easily. Change can't be seen overnight.
- You’re stronger than you think.
Your mental health IS your physical health. At Virgin Active, you'll find that this is our top priority, to make you feel good on the inside first. Try one of our many extraordinary classes today and experience if yourself.