Last week I shared a blog post about food & body shame: why you don’t need permission to eat pie (and all of the things). A few weeks prior, I wrote a compelling case for eating Halloween candy. If you haven’t noticed, I tend to be a bit of a rebel in my line of work. Other fitness professionals might be giving you tips for how to “eat clean” during festive occasions or how to “burn it off” when you don’t. I really value body image and mental health as a part of the bigger picture of a person’s total health. As a result, I can get a little spicy with my opinions at times. I often speak out against diet culture in the same way I’d speak out against a bully. I may appear as though I have it all together in terms of my own body image. That I feel awesome about myself at all times, have accepted my flaws unconditionally, and am on my way to enlightenment or something.
NOPE. I still question my food choices & get critical of my appearance sometimes too.
Why am I telling you this? Because THIS $HIT IS HARD. And I want you to know that it’s ok if you think so too. Last night I was at a party with some yoga friends. The spread was incredible. Yogis are some of the best cooks around! We also tend to be very in-tune with our bodies, and as a result, have a heightened (almost obsessive) awareness of how certain foods make us feel. Because of this, everyone was quick to point out if their recipe was vegan, or gluten-free, or made from non-GMO whatever. As we were chatting about the food, I pointed out that I have the stomach of a goat. No joke. I could probably eat a pair of pants and have no digestive issues. So in spite of the fact that dairy and gluten and sugar are supposed to be the “root of all health problems”, I went for the homemade bread. And some brie. Also fresh baked chocolate dipped biscotti. And washed it all down with a Moscow Mule for good measure.
And then the self-inflicted food shame set in.
Maybe it was the second Moscow Mule talking. Or maybe it was all the subtle little triggers that come up when you are in a room full of yoga teachers standing around a table of delicious food. But I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and immediately my thoughts started spiraling out of control. It was like the negative voice in my head (I call her B!tch Jenna) was having it out with the part of me that knows better.
“Ughhh. My face looks puffy. It’s because I’ve been eating bread again. It’s inflammation, I know it. This was a bad idea. I feel full. Am I too full? This isn’t supposed to happen if I’m eating intuitively. NO. IT’S NOT ABOUT THAT. I’m healthier now because I don’t go home and make myself throw up anymore. IT’S ONE NIGHT. But what if the holidays are full of nights like this?! I’ll gain so much weight. YOUR WEIGHT IS A STUPID NUMBER. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT NUMBER IS ANYMORE ANYWAY. But what if I go to the doctor and find out by accident? WHO TF CARES? Just go home and go to bed. GO TO BED.”
So that’s what I did. I woke up this morning with a much clearer head. No digestive issues either! Just the knowledge that today was a new day, and that I was going to have to get through it in spite of all the $hit that came up last night. I shared all those TMI feelings with you, because I know how easy it is to backslide when you are trying to work on your body image. If you ever have those kinds of thoughts, know that you are NOT alone.
So how do you bounce back from it?
In a former life, I would have decided to eat nothing but vegetables for a whole day. Or not eaten at all the next day until at least 3pm. I’d have doubled or tripled up on workouts. Or worn my tightest jeans as a reminder of how “bad” I had been. Maybe I’d have started a 30 day elimination diet. Or signed up for a fitness challenge with 6am workouts every day even though I HATE the morning. Instead of making me feel better, all these things really did was make me hangry, tired AF, and wearing really out of style jeans. So how do you cope with the self-inflicted food and body shame when it comes up? This is what I’m doing today.
Wake Up at a normal time
It’s much easier to deal with difficult emotions when you are well rested. If you can, let yourself wake up naturally without an alarm. Or if you have to work, then you know, wake up at your normal time for that.
Notice how you feel without judging it
As much as I like to neutralize all foods from a moral standpoint, I know that not all foods make everyone feel their best. Observe how you feel and make a mental note-to-self (without judging yourself), so you can use that information in the future. For example: Hmmm when I eat a lot of tortilla chips I wake up with a super dry mouth. Good to know. Next time I’ll try to drink more water, pick a different snack, or be prepared to wake up very thirsty.
Eat breakfast (or don’T)
If you are hungry when you wake up, let yourself eat breakfast! If you aren’t feeling it then wait awhile. Sometimes when you’ve “overdone it” at one meal, your body will naturally take a little longer to get hungry again. It’s kind of cool when you let it happen instead of imposing it on yourself.
Wear your favorite outfit
You’ll feel better about yourself if you are wearing something that you love. That could be something that fits well, is comfortable, or is your favorite color. You get to decide!
Avoid mirrors and other triggers
All of us have certain things that cause us to have negative thoughts about ourselves. That could be spending too much time in front of a mirror. Or social media. Or even certain people. Know your triggers and stear clear of them for today.
Do your thing
Life goes on! Do all the things you had planned for the day, and be fully present in each of them. Try to stay as focused on the task at hand whether that is your job, or housework, or something fun.
Choose movement that you enjoy
If you are going to work out today, choose something that you actually enjoy. After a night of eating and drinking, it can be tempting to pick your least favorite or most challenging exercise as punishment, but don’t! Treat yourself to an activity that you love, and focus on how good it makes you feel. Know that it’s cool to take the day off too!
Reframe the shame
Our first instinct is often to go into a workout with the intent of burning calories. If this is where your mind goes first, reframe it instead of fighting it. Athletes often intentionally fuel up on carbs the night before a big event so that they have the glycogen stores to power through it and perform well. If you identify as athletic, think of last night’s cookies as a positive–they might be just what you needed to fuel your best run ever, or lead to a new PR at the gym.
Throw yourself into something that inspires you
It’s hard to shame yourself when you’re doing something that lights you up. You’ve got gifts and talents that have NOTHING to do with your appearance, or even your physical health. Take some time to explore those things today. (For me, it’s blogging!)
Talk to a friend who makes you feel good
There are people in your life who think the world of you. Talk to them today! Even if you don’t like to talk about your feelings, meaningful conversations about anything are the best!
Help someone else
The one thing that I’m constantly reminding myself is that everyone has a story. Or better yet, everyone has $hit to deal with. Maybe today you just listen to someone else who needs an ear. Or if you don’t feel like people-ing, four-legged friends are awesome company too.
TReat yourself well
Take some time for self-care today. You can still treat yourself well even if you aren’t quite on board with “loving your body” today.
Food and body shame is hard to avoid.
Know that if you are dealing with any of that today, it’s okay. Even if you think you’re supposed to know better. If you find yourself on the struggle bus with this stuff, give some of my ideas a try. And if you have any of your own to add, comment below!