A friend recently asked me how I made the shift towards a more positive body image.
And I froze.
Despite writing about this often and thinking about it even more, an answer didn't easily spring to mind. I think that's because it's a monolithic question in a lot of ways, and I've done SO many different things that it's hard to narrow it down.
After shaking off my initial brain freeze, I did the next best thing I could think of: spout off some platitudes—therapy, journaling, blah, blah, blah.
Now, those things aren't blah blah to me—not at all. They're actually two of my most important tools that I use on a regular basis. But they were blah blah to her at the time because I knew she'd heard it all before, and she was struggling. She wanted to hear something different, and I knew I wasn't being as real as I wanted to be.
One More Layer
There were a few other friends in the room, so the conversation continued for a bit without me. I listened to them with one ear and to myself with the other—asking myself, "What has REALLY made a difference to me?"
And then it hit me.
As soon as I could, I jumped back into the conversation and told my friend, "One of the biggest things I did was completely change my environment."
That got her attention.
Creating My Life
From there, I went into further detail. First up, I let go of toxic friendships—the ones that drained me of energy because they were all one-sided. But also the ones where all we talked about was how much we hated our bodies and needed to go on a diet. Now, I didn't just call up these people and break-up with them in one day; my process wasn't that quick. But over time, as I saw our relationships more deeply (or, rather, saw their lack of depth), I had less desire to spend time with these people. And we gradually drifted apart—no passive-aggressive melodrama necessary.
Second, I also changed my home. I got rid of all the clothes I was hanging onto for the hopes of fitting into one day. I couldn't believe the shift that created for me energetically. I quite literally felt freer after unburdening myself of the expectations infused in those clothes. I also hid my scale from myself. Of course, I knew it was still there, but more often than not I didn't think about it when it wasn't the first thing I saw every morning. Again, over time, as I fell out of the routine of weighing myself two-three times a week, I missed it less and less.
The Myth of Giving Up
As I read through this list, my inner critic thinks, "You didn't change your environment. You gave up!"
And, my, isn't that a pervasive myth? We even have jokes about it—how people get older, married, in a busy job, have kids or whatever (it really doesn't matter the reason, does it?)—and they "give up." In this scenario, giving up is meant to mean on the way they look. What a sad social construct.
First of all, I think this is ridiculous, offensive, and designed solely to support the diet and beauty industries. Second, you know what looks better on people than a smaller pair of pants? Not hating themselves.
Truly, don't we all know those people whose bodies don't fit the standard beauty norms but who everyone thinks is radiant and gorgeous? I know I do. And it's not because of their clothes or makeup. It's because they have a light within, and they shine it out with confidence.
Where Yoga Comes In
Another thing I did to make a body image shift is commit to my yoga practice—for real. Up until that point I'd had an on again/off again relationship with it, but as I realized how yoga taught me to connect with my body on the mat, I quickly saw how it was supporting me in the same way off the mat. So I set about finding a way to practice every day, even if some days that looked like one deep breath with mindfulness.
The more I talk with people about how yoga affects their body image, the more inspired I am by how it creates a positive shift for so many types of people in different ways. Although yoga culture these days can sometimes contribute less positively to body image issues, the actual practice of yoga reconnects people with their bodies and gives them a way to relate to them that might otherwise be difficult or even in accessible.
Making the Shift
I know it can sounds like a lot, perhaps even too much, to change your environment. And I can hear the reasons as to why you could never cut that person out of your life. And that's probably true; it is for me. I still have people in my life who aren't 100% supportive of my body lovin' journey who I choose not to cut out (primarily because they're family members). So what I do with them is shift the conversation as much as possible, redirecting the topic when it shifts to bodies, calories, and dieting, as it often does.
You'll also notice that with everything I did, I said "over time" or "slowly." This didn't happen overnight?not by a long shot. So if there are things you might like to change in your life, figure out your own pace and method.
And start making the shift.