Body Acceptance (and how I embraced mine)

If you live in Texas or anywhere else that is enduring the 85-degree and up heat waves, seeing people in shorts and crop tops become part of the norm around here. As a young adult it can be difficult to not be self-conscious or up hold body perfection standards when wearing this type of clothing during Houston nightlife and daytime fun in the sun.

Since all the body image trends tend to spring up during the summer time like being able to see your collarbone, hip bone, thigh gaps, thigh brows, etc. I’ve been thinking about how women (and men, too) perceive their bodies and accept themselves. I could even go as far as to how men and women do anything to change what we look like in order to become more attractive or what we think is better for ourselves. I also can’t help but reflect on how far I’ve come in my own body image journey.  

At 17 years old I suffered from poor body image and fell into disordered eating that eventually led to a 5-year battle of anorexia and bulimia. As a young Latina runner with goals of being competitive at the collegiate level, I constantly compared my body and athleticism to other female runners who were better than I was. I felt that if my body looked just like theirs I would be a much faster runner. It also did not help that Latinas are underrepresented in collegiate athletics, so it was even harder for me to find a relatable female running role model.

With lots of family and team support, counseling, self-education on eating disorders, and a desire to overcome mine I eventually embraced recovery. This summer I am happily celebrating 4 years of recovery from the eating disorder. It hasn’t been the easiest path, but I’d like to think it's definitely the most beautiful self-discovering journey.

Everyday I accept and invite more things about myself than I ever have in my life.  I also take care of myself in ways that I never allowed myself to do in the past, because I felt that I didn’t deserve them when I was sick.  A few ways I take care of myself now are through sleep, drinking water, exercising, eating well, going out with friends, buying myself gifts, skin care, and laughing.  Even though, these are what I consider basic self-loving practices, the most healing practice has been everyday body-acceptance.

In light of my 4 year recovery/survivorship, here are few things I did to find body acceptance:

1.    Nurtured my body

When I stopped dieting and restricting foods, I was able to invite more foods into my diet that I had forgotten I once enjoyed. By putting these negative behaviors aside provided more room to focus on doing things that gave me more self-awareness and satisfaction. I also now had room for making meals that made my family/friends and I happy, sleeping in on weekends instead of waking up for my scheduled run and breakfast time, and allow myself to really be in tune with what my body needed that day.

Not everything I did was solely focused on my body anymore, but on doing things that I enjoyed so that when I did feed and treat my body right, I appreciated myself so much more than dieting ever provided me.

 

2.    Built a support network

I was very lucky to have an incredible family, friends, and teammates that were always willing to help me try foods again and feed me positive messages even when it was hard for myself to believe them.  They never once commented on how thin, tired, or lifeless I looked.

Your network should be people that will uplift you and want to see you unselfishly improve in life. Spend time with people who love you no matter what you look like and minimize time with those that criticize your appearance.  

 

3.    Stopped comparing

Once I realized how much I was missing out on in my own life, I stopped comparing myself to female athletes that I was never going to be like. Over time, I stopped comparing my running times, my weekly mileage, the way I looked, my weight, what I ate, how much faster others were, etc. When I had let go of the comparisons, I loved running so much more and continue to run with deep satisfaction of where I am in my training.

Learning to filter through the media was also another huge thing that catalyzed my body acceptance journey. Realize that what the media portrays is unrealistic and does not define your self–worth, image, potential, and most importantly how beautiful you really are.

 

4.    Focused on strengths

Embrace non-physical characteristics you like about yourself.  Think about the things you are most proud to say about yourself. For myself, I know that I am kind, loving, loyal, a good friend, and a hard working person.

Practice looking at the things that truly make you who are and what kind of person you want to be 10, 20, 30 years down the road.

Inevitably, it is hard to ignore our appearances, so again try looking at what your body represents and what it does for you rather than what it looks like. I now look at my body as a representation of my Latino culture. My hair, eyes, hips, and skin color all remind me of my Mexican-Indian roots. I also take enjoyment in that I am the spitting image of my mother when she was my age.

I love my body and what it does for me now. My legs, lungs, and heart allow me to run and push myself to be faster. My stomach/midsection help keep my body centered when I walk or run, hold nourishing food, and protects important female organ systems. My hips and butt remind me of how beautiful it is to be a real Hispanic woman and how much I now take pride in not having a little girl's body anymore.

This has probably been the hardest post to write for my blog. I wanted to share with my followers and readers a little bit of why I am so interested in wellness, and particularly emotional/mental health topics.

One of the goals for my blog is to be a gateway for people in understanding what their body needs and how the things we feed our bodies (food-wise and psychologically) impact us in more ways than we are aware of. I had not shared my experience with many people and written about it in my blog earlier, because I do not want my blog to be about my eating disorder recovery or for my past eating disorder to define me anymore. The things I learned from my experience influence the way I view overall wellness and how important it is to have balance in all areas in our lives.

Should anybody feel the need to reach out to me about their own eating disorder and would like  assistance in finding a counselor or registered dietitian that specializes in this line of work, I would be more than happy to provide you with information to services in the Houston or Rio Grande Valley area so that you can find your path to recovery.

 

Let’s Shine,

Starla