“Speak a new language so the world will be a new world.” ~RUMI
I’ve worked in eating disorders treatment and the wellness world for a long time. I’m passionate about recovery from both personal and professional perspectives. True to my Gemini, middle-child nature however, I’ve always been a bit of a rebel even when it comes to this work.
One of many topics I go against the grain on is that of media and body image. Though I suffered horribly with painful body image the first half of my life, I’ve never been drawn to invest much energy into changing the media. At times, I’ve judged myself around this but through svadhyaya (self-study) I came to understand why.
It’s because my recovery began with the decision to make peace with my body no matter what the outside world told me about it. As a young athlete, trainers told me I’d ride better if I lost weight. Instead, I aligned with the intuition to nurture my body for mental clarity and strength. After all, what good was thin if I fell off the horse weak from dieting? Grounded in peace, I won two state championships on a horse no one else wanted because of the way HE looked!
It’s also because I don’t believe painful body image has all that much to do with the media. I believe the roots of such despair go deeper into the jiva (individual soul) journey. I believe in working from the inside out rather than waiting for the world to change.
This is the path of yoga. It’s our responsibility, and we have the power to create through healing our Selves.
Despite their dislike of mainstream media, many women unconsciously perpetuate the cultural craziness by the way they speak to and about their own flesh and bone. Fat talk is so common it seems normal and even harmless which makes it easy to shirk responsibility for “feeling FAT”.
Changing the conversation with our bodies is one of the first karmas (actions) we must practice to realize peace. Once I connected to our interdependence, I stopped selling myself out just to fit in. I no longer let my body be the butt of jokes (my behind was my biggest body image battle). I set boundaries with others that my body was none of their business. I reclaimed this sacred aspect of my Self as the private property of my soul.
In yoga, a great deal of attention is paid to the power of sound. Yoga philosophy holds that sound creates. Pause and reflect for a moment, do you feel FAT the more you say it? This applies not only to body image but to the relationship with food and movement too. “I hate to exercise,” becomes a sedentary lifestyle. “I can’t control myself around chocolate,” becomes bingeing.
A part of you may resist this info by getting angry OR perhaps you notice guilt and shame rising as you think, “It’s all my fault; I feel so bad.” Yeah! We’ve awakened something that needs healed. Study your sensations. Pause and breathe into them then read on.
We can work with the niyama, svadhyaya, and our throat chakra to heal and be free.
Take a few minutes now to list out what’s most unsettling for you about your body, food, and exercise experiences then honestly journal what you verbalize in relation to these. Notice what you say to friends and family, to yourself as you get dressed, and choose what to order off a menu. Identify what negative self-concepts you’re supporting out of habit.
Compassionately observe yourself. Instead of letting the mind get away with placing blame or instilling shame, revel in the reality that you can manifest a new body/food experience without dropping a pound (all though that may happen, if it’s meant to, as your body and soul are lovingly nurtured). Here are some ideas for turning around common PEACE sabotaging statements:
“I am FAT.” >>> “I am THAT (Atman-spark of Divinity)”
“I hate exercise.”>>> “I’m open to exploring movement I enjoy.”
“I can’t control my eating/I eat too much.”>>> “I eat in harmony with my body’s needs in the present moment.”
“I have to lose/gain weight.”>>> “I am patient with my body as it finds its balance.”
“My metabolism sucks.”>>> “My body runs perfectly.”
I realize the whole affirmation thing can be a stretch. Give it a try when you’re ready. Also refrain from vocalizing viciousness and resist joining in on body bashing banter with others. Silence speaks volumes. Here you’re practicing the yama ahimsa, non-violence. Ahimsa is the foundation of the PEACE Approach.
Lastly, I’ll share some inspiration from a little buddy of mine. At just 6 years old, she spoke these words of wisdom with a playmate who was grabbing at her own thighs stating, “I’m FAT, I have to lose weight!” Payten’s response, “McKenzie, that’s being mean to yourself. You can’t be mean to yourself, you have a heart.”
For more information on this article, check out Julie’s website: http://bodykarmahealing.com/ -American Woman Magazine