If that's what I need to do to get people to join the health-focused bandwagon, so be it!
I created this website to discuss holistic health: the idea that "health" is not only physical wellness. "Health" is not just the absence of disease, instead, it's a conglomerate function of many different human needs. The parts of health I like to focus on are relationships (interpersonal health), mental health, physical health, and spiritual clarity.
So what does that even mean?
Just because someone has an attractive physique does not mean they are necessarily "healthy"
One of the major issues in our modern society is the abundance of (often photoshopped) unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty. A quick Google search turns up thousands of examples of studies about how much pressure media puts on both men and women to look a certain way. The condition known as body dysmorphic disorder, or simply body dysmorphia, is a growing problem.
Body dysmorphia is experienced by both males and females starting at an early age and often continues into adulthood. A person experiencing body dysmorphia notices physical flaws that are minor and sometimes imagined, but typically obsesses over correcting that flaw. Workouts and diets are strictly monitored, and when slip-ups occur, they feel overwhelming guilt and punish themselves with negative self-talk and even stricter regiments. Someone with body dysmorphia may look absolutely amazing to everyone else, but to themselves, they will never reach their "ideal" physical standard.
Holistic health is important because we can change the way we think about our bodies and reduce the impact of our own harsh criticisms.
I remember my first experience with body dysmorphia in middle school. All of my friends were petite girls with blond hair, where I was only a slightly rounder brunette. I have never been overweight by any standards, but I felt like I was huge compared to these girls. One of my friends was a self-admitted anorexic, too. (Anorexia and bulimia are not the same class of condition as body dysmorphia, mostly because they are often tied to more serious mental conditions such as OCD, bipolar disorder, and severe depression).
Since then, I have had my ups and downs with liking my body. I never understood why boys thought I was pretty in high school - I always thought I had chunky thighs and my breasts were too small. Looking back, I was a swimmer, dancer, and weight-lifter who had gorgeous deltoid development and wonderfully lean legs. You could see my hamstrings!
In college, I started studying nutrition and started working out more regularly. I had come to recognize that my thighs were, in fact, not chunky at all! My breast size still bothered me more than it should have until I found a partner who praised by ability to lift weights (he's more of a leg/butt guy anyway).
I now realize that 1) breast size is nothing a person can control, but the ability to create muscle definition takes work and is something to be proud of; 2) breasts are typically smaller on women with more muscle and they have their own innate beauty; 3) there are people out there who don't give a flying fart about your breast size and actually see the person inside; 4) breasts are primarily for feeding your baby, which is a service mine provide perfectly!
I now experience body dysmorphia because I have a 7-month-old son, whom I carried for almost 41 weeks and that took a toll on my body. The skin on my stomach has lost some elasticity and I have visible stretch marks, the fat has not shed from my sides and love-handles, and my thighs are much larger than they ever have been in the past.
Here is what I am doing to overcome the mental negativity I feel toward my postpartum body:
1) Praise my body for what it can accomplish, not for how it looks
I lift weights and exercise regularly. I provide food for my son. I can chase around my soon-to-be
toddler and manage a busy life married to a Marine.
2) I allow myself to experience each emotion, both good and bad
There are good days where I feel great about my looks and there are days when I want to shame
myself into oblivion. I allow each emotion to pass and I reason with myself when I feel down.
3) Appreciate food for what it is: nourishment for the body and enjoyment for the palate
Every food I eat serves a purpose, whether it is for nourishment or pleasure. I try to keep the treats I eat as healthy as possible, but I do not allow shame for enjoying my guilty pleasures.
4) Move every day
I have planned workouts on certain days of the week and planned "rest" days. On those rest days, I still get outside and take a walk or play with my son. Sitting inside and being lazy has its time and place, too.
5) Stay positive and leave little affirmations where I will see them
I had affirmations for my all-natural birth and I have affirmations for self-love. I firmly believe in the power of positive thought, so I leave notes to myself around the house.
I hope that by sharing my story, I can reach out to even just a handful of readers who can relate. If what I talked about today resonates with you, feel free to leave a comment. Try to follow some of my daily self-devotionals and make your own! Spread the positivity and join me on an affirmation adventure. One of my favorite quotes from middle school broadcasting club was this:
Make it a great day, or not, the choice is yours
What will you do to make today great?