By Susan Lee, Norfolk.
I have always had an ambivalent relationship with my body – I compared it and judged it against what I felt was the ideal shape and size as presented by the media, celebrities and the world around me. Even as a young girl I felt this dissatisfaction and was aware that my body was pear shaped and I was always wishing that my legs would miraculously change – and this was an underlying preoccupation that was always running just beneath the surface. I was deeply dissatisfied with myself and I am now realising that it was very painful to reject my own body in this way. At the time I had no idea how important my relationship with my body could be – or that in fact I could have an intimate and meaningful relationship with my body. I also felt that if I had ‘the perfect body shape’ then life and my relationships would likewise be ‘perfect’.
Later in my life I began to lose weight and change shape – my ‘pear’ was disappearing and I was delighted! I found it easier to buy clothes and felt more attractive and sexy. My diet had changed too as I was beginning to look at how I lived life and the effect that food had on my body and the way my body metabolised what I was eating. Looking back on this stage of my life it was more about control, so that I could look a certain way, than really feeling into what would support my body. I listened to the advice of others and did not trust myself to know what would support me to change the deep dissatisfaction I had about myself.
The consequence of not listening to my body.
The consequence of not truly listening to my own body was that I lost weight to the point that I felt that I did not like looking at my body; my clothes were just hanging off me and I would comment to myself when I saw myself in a mirror that if I didn’t know better, I would think I was anorexic. I was still eating quite regularly but I realised that the way I was living was not supporting my body. I held my body in constant tension and anxiety and so was burning off the calories at a higher rate than my intake. My metabolism was all over the place – and I felt powerless.
My past relationship with my body and food.
When I look back on the first three or so years of my life, I can feel the connection to this awesome child that embraced life and had a sense of wonder and love that was joy-full and vivacious – and yet could not quite understand what was going on, as the world around me was not confirming this. I became disillusioned and then gradually I found myself succumbing to all the ideals and beliefs that our current world and systems feed us, and gradually ‘my sense of self’ was undermined and it was at this point that I gave up and abandoned myself to food.
I was offered food by way of consolation for the lack of love that I knew was a natural way of life. Love was not openly expressed in my family and I recall as a child giving a member of my family a hug and it being shrugged off and I was told that ‘an ounce of work was worth a pound of pity’. I found this very confusing and painful.
As a family we were brought up to believe that you ‘live to eat’ and it became an element of family life that drew us together and was a common bond. It took on an importance that put everything out of perspective – and was also used as a reward at the end of a long hard day, or offered as a solace when you had emotional pains and hurts. At the time I had no conscious idea that I was using food as a comfort to dull down my senses and ignore everything that was taking place around me. It became a focus for me and took over from any true connection with what life was truly all about.
I began to realise that there was something fundamentally unhealthy about my relationship with food when I was about to undergo a procedure where I had to fast for 24 hours and realised how much of my day was taken up with all-consuming thoughts about food. This certainly felt very unhealthy.
Something else that felt true for me and was apparent as I grew up was that food is used to numb, dull, stimulate and distract us instead of having a true relationship with it – it can be a big diversion that allows us to become lost in a sentimental and rather emotional journey that is nothing but a diversion away from feeling what is truly taking place.
There is nothing wrong with food when we keep its importance in perspective – we need food to sustain us in our human life – but it does not feel healthy or rational when it becomes the whole meaning of our life.
I became very aware that my relationship with food was not healthy and not supporting me to evolve. I was also aware that when people discussed eating disorders I was relating to many of their behaviours and habits, such as secrecy and obsessive thoughts.
Seeking true support.
When I began to address my weight loss and my relationship with food, I went to see the doctor and a dietician. At the same time, I had great support from Esoteric Practitioners who supported me to change both my perception of myself and food. This is still an ongoing process as I am forever learning, expanding and developing.
Life continues to challenge and to change as I gradually open up to loving my body more – I have always had an aversion to my legs and the other day I looked at them and felt how beautiful they were, no longer wishing to change them but appreciating them for the way they support me – this feels quite awesome to have changed what seemed like a very ingrained dislike of my body.
It has been a long journey to learn to support my body to become more healthy and alive – and to find a way of living that is slowly but surely bringing more joy and fun. It also feels like a way of living that is more than just about my body – it’s about beginning to live a life that is more encompassing of all and aware of all the little details that add up and support us to live life more in harmony with and acceptance of ourselves, life and the world around us.
We each need to find our own unique and unfolding way where we begin to love ourselves and life and become more fully engaged and empowered, as it is certainly awesome when we begin to realise how truly precious and amazing we all are within beneath the surface, no matter what shape we are. Rather than seeking the ‘perfect body shape’ (which is a complete illusion) I now accept my body shape as perfectly beautiful just the way it is!