I haven’t covered mental health on Urbanity for quite some time, and that is fortunately because I’ve mostly been in a really good place and more focussed on fashion than ever. I’m at the point where my eating disorder very rarely affects my day-to-day life, and depression or anxiety only occasionally interfere. However, body image is one symptom of what I’ve been through that has been the hardest to shift, as it is not a specific behaviour or pattern of thoughts and feelings, but a perception of myself that is deeply ingrained. Lately though, I’ve been taking a much more active approach to body acceptance, and feel myself slowly getting to that point of true confidence in myself that I hope one day to achieve, so hat no longer my brain is consumed by the growing size of my thighs, whether I have a visible double chin, or my lack of six pack super model abs.
I think the first point I want to make is that how you feel about your body is not the same as the facts. One way I like to rationalise the frantic anxious thoughts about my appearance is to consider what I know to be true. I am mostly a UK size 10-12, which is the smaller side of average. I have a BMI of around 20 which is in the healthy weight, not overweight, I have maintained my weight for over a year now, so I do not look any different today than yesterday, and I do not need to drastically change my diet.
This technique of using logic and science to overcome inner turmoil is what helped me reach a turning point whilst in the depths of anorexia. I would remind myself again and again that I am which means I must eat more calories than many of my peers, that I was extremely underweight so could not possibly be perceived as fat, and that I had real, tangible and potentially fatal health problems that were directly caused by my insufficient diet. Once I remember all of these facts, I am able to ignore any bad thoughts and move on to the next stage after accepting my body, which is actually loving my body.
I want to repeat a quote which I’ve used so much but its still so relevant:
“If you are healthy, but you hate your body, its not your body that needs to change, its your mind”
The point is, in order to learn to love your body, you don’t need to lose weight or eat healthier or exercise more or get surgery, you just need to develop a new attitude. Before you know it, you’ll have the same body as before, but feel so very differently about it. I know this can seem like an even more daunting task than for example, going on a diet, but trust me in that it has long-term, lasting results and you will be so mch healthier and happier than any diet will ever make you. Read on to find out my top tips on how exactly to go about doing this.
Step One (which is the only step in this process by the way): Embrace Self Care
And no, by self care, I do not mean spending all your wages on sparkly lush bath bombs, getting manicures every week and basically using it as an excuse to go shopping. I’ve fallen in to that trap before, and retail therapy is definately not always the answer.
So what does self care mean? To me this means truly listening to my needs, and taking the time and effort to fulfill them, without excuse or distraction. So in some cases this could be ordering the meal that my body is calling out for, not the one that is the quickest, cheapest and lowest in calories on the menu, or going to the gym or a yoga class or even just a long walk because despite wanting to stay in bed watching netflix and feeling sorry for myself all day, it is not what I need.
Self-care in my case, also means literally caring for, loving and respecting myself like I was a friend or family member. Being kind to myself is key here. I would never tell someone I care about that they are worthess and failing and need to push themselves to the brink and stay up all night to succeed, so why do I tell myself that? I would never say to my boyfriend that he is looking chubbier this week and needs to cut out any and all junk food, so why do I restrict myself when all I really want is doughnuts? I would never force my flatmates to wear only long, oversized, baggy clothes becasue the short, tight ones are unflattering, so why would I take off the clothes I really want to wear because I’m afraid my stomach protrudes too much. Basically, once you begin to regard yourself as a loveable, respectable and worthy human being (which you are, even if you don’t see it yet), then you will see that the way you’ve been treating your body is wrong on so many levels.
My journey towards better mental health may be far from over yet, but I truly believe that by instigating these life-changing attitude shifts, I have finally been able to begin to see myself in the same way that others do.
To find out more about my recovery, check out the following blog posts:
On Therapy and Prozac
Reasons to Stay Alive
Embracing a Healthy Body
Reflections on Recovery
The Trouble with Transitions
The Trouble with Depression
My Eating Disorder Story
World Mental Health Day
Dress: Godiva Boutique
Watch: Olivia Burton
All photographs by the lovely Kirsty McLachlan.
Ruth @ Urbanity xxx