When we were children we were trained to look, act and think a certain way. Our parent’s beliefs became our beliefs. The adults in our lives shaped and molded us into what their vision of perfect was.
We were allowed to be our own person – but only if it fell into the invisible guidelines that had been set for us.
As a child I was trained to think and act a certain way. The gymnast way. Growing up a gymnast, then a dancer I was always pressured by my coaches – and even my family (even though they unknowingly were pressuring me the same way…if not more).
There was always talk about diets – what you can and can not eat if you want to make weight. “Oh, Kelly ate pizza the other night?…that’s it, everyone drop and give me 100 pushups.” “You look like you’ve gained weight – maybe you should stop eating so much.”
It was embedded into my brain that all of the foods that taste good were the enemy. This eventually led to all food becoming the enemy.
Food was no longer my friend. If everyone was allowed to be in control of me – I was going to get back at them by being in even greater control of myself.
I was in control.
BUT I was in the wrong kind of control. I used food to get back at my coaches – my parents – everyone that has wronged me in my life. When in reality…I was only hurting myself.
I became such an ugly person. Not on the outside – but on the inside. I became nasty and cruel to everyone around me. All while killing myself from the inside out.
Something had to give. I needed to make a change. I needed to regain control of my life – this time in a healthy way.
This change came through many different practices throughout my life…but the practices I’ve implemented through Gratitude are the ones that have stuck with me. These are the practices that keep me motivated to wake up each day and choose to have a good relationship with food & more importantly with my body.
Here are some of the practices that I implemented into my daily routine. These practices are not necessarily perfect – but they’re practical for me. I hope that they can be for you too.
Simply being grateful. Every morning as part of my journaling I write “I am grateful for the body and the life I’ve been given.” This allows me to truly start the day off on a positive note.
Before every meal I will say to myself “I am grateful for this food and how it will help nourish my body” always reminding myself that without food – I would not be alive today.
Daily Affirmations. Every morning I take the time to look at myself in the mirror and I say to myself “I am beautiful” – “I am strong” – I am love!” I repeat this three times out-loud with so much power and conviction.
Education. At least once a day I set aside time to research one food item and its nutritional value. What does it do for my body? How can I benefit from this food? This allows me to make a connection on a deeper level with the food I decide to eat.
I eat as healthy as I can (with a few exceptions) and this helps me understand the importance of food for the body.
Self-Awareness. Through the practice of being self-aware I have learned ways to really connect with my body on a level I never thought imaginable.
This practice shows me how to listen to what my body needs & how to know when something is off. By simply being aware of how a food item makes me feel physically – I can in turn figure out what food makes me feel good & healthy.
Implementing These Practices
I won’t sugar coat it for you – implementing practices of gratitude when directly related to body image is not an easy task. It is something that will always need to be molded and re-perfected time and time again. The practices discussed today and so many more will forever be evolving – these practices change to fit our needs at any given time.
Some days you will find that it’s hard to bring yourself to say that you’re grateful for food – because you may not truly mean it. Other days you will be so entirely grateful for food but not your body. This practice involves a lot of give and take – but in the end it will be worth it.
The more we focus on being grateful for how beautiful we are internally, the more we will see this gratitude reflect externally when we look in the mirror. Struggles with body image can become easier – I’m living proof of that – but this struggle does not just happen with gratitude alone.
I urge you to please seek any additional help you may need to cope and battle with your struggles. Know that you are not alone in this fight – you have many brothers and sisters by your side that can help guide you along the way. You have brothers and sisters that see how beautiful you truly are.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder – please do not be afraid to seek help. The National Eating Disorder Association has a help line (800) 931-2237 that you can call for information on treatment services.