Body Acceptance and Letting Go

Letting Go of Thinness

In college, I was surrounded with quite a lot of people with eating disorders. I didn’t really know what that was or what that looked like until I moved to Chapel Hill but I found myself getting caught up in the dieting culture of restricting my intake of food only to crack and binge on enormous amounts of peanut M&Ms later on. I spent a lot of time worrying about how I looked, following fad diets that may or not still be in style (has anyone done the half a grapefruit for breakfast thing?!) Like many teenage girls, I was concerned with my appearance and took a very punitive approach to eating. I was blessed with an hourglass figure but back I was ashamed of my curves. (It boggles my mind that teenage girls are doing squats like crazy to get that “fat ass” kind of look when I spent most of my young adult life trying to get rid of that. But don’t worry, that never happened because that’s not what is natural and healthy for my body). Anyway, in college, I fat-talked myself constantly. I looked at parts of my body with scorn. This may not seem related to my herbal awakening and my holistic journey more broadly but it IS.

Working with herbs, understanding what my body needs, giving it what it needs, under the guidance of a naturopath for 3 years…and the thing I had been bullying myself into for years happened instantly: I lost excess weight in the blink of an eye. I wasn’t even trying or thinking about it—  I just noticed dropping a size in pants because everything I was wearing was getting too loose. I didn’t lose much (5lbs at the most) but it looked like a lot because –and this is going to sound funny–I depuffed! It’s like all this excess air just got sucked out as my body started operating more efficiently and happily. My digestion was no longer sluggish. My body could do its job perfectly well again. I learned a HUGE lesson in this process. This became my mantra: Don’t overthink it, don’t stress about it, live your life and make the choices you want to make because you love your body not because you’re punishing your body. 

May 2020. I’m experimenting with style and comfort now more than ever. As Beyonce said, “if you don’t jump to put your jeans on then you don’t feel my pain.” I’ve never felt more seen!! But I’m so done wearing tight things– it’s too uncomfortable. It’s nice to buy pants that are just comfy to inhabit. These are the Rec Pants from Outdoor Voices.

Love your body, don’t fret about weight

I don’t usually like talking about weight stuff because the message I’m trying to send is make choices that are kind to your body and your physical body will be happy. But we live in a diet culture where the ideal for female-looking bodies is to conform to unrealistic ideals, which entails beating ourselves up to look like something that is most likely not our body’s happy and optimal place. Weight loss and gain should be contingent on striving to feel your best as opposed to conforming to some ideal that makes no sense.

This was me in my senior year at UNC-Chapel Hill. I love my young self and consistently revisit younger Steph to tell her: you have so much growth and discovery ahead of you. You will come into power and bloom!

For the last few years, I been working on fostering a relationship of trust with my body. This commitment began in fall 2017. I have developed sign posts for my body’s health that are completely separate from the way my body looks esthetically. Inflammation, digestion, sinus, sleep, pms, feeling sluggish, brain fog, — these are my signposts now (I’ll go into that more don’t worry). Am I sleeping well? am I breathing well? Am I digesting well? If Yes —  then it doesn’t matter if I’m a few pounds over than usual. It the answer to one of these is No—then I have to investigate and figure out what’s causing the sluggishness. Sometimes it’s easy to find the answer and other times it’s a little harder. I am happy to walk you through my process of investigation.  But for now, I want to leave you on the thought that part of my holistic journey is letting go of an attachment to weight loss.

Focus on feeling well instead of looking a certain way

My priority is to ensure that my body continues to work well. I have become more attuned to my body’s cues and signals that are there to let me know if something is off and needs to be attended to. These cues have nothing to do with the way I look or my pants size, and everything to do with how I feel.

Prioritizing how I feel versus how I am perceived has been one of the most important lessons of self-love I could have acquired from this holistic journey.

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