Body Image–Shifting Negative to Positve, part 2

Last week I wrote my thoughts on the WW weekly topic relating to Body Image.  A tough topic.  Not one most want to talk about.  And it doesn’t matter our age, our weight, or our gender.  Many have negative thoughts about our bodies or parts of our bodies.  And those thoughts are so ingrained in our psyches, influenced by people in our lives or the many media forms, print and online. 

I spent a lot of time this past week thinking about the body image topic and working on shifting my thoughts about my own body.  I even went to a second workshop. 

That second workshop made me think.  The coach asked questions of us that were meant to get us thinking.

And I asked those questions of myself too.

How do those negative thoughts/beliefs/words impact our day?  What would change if we said/thought/believed something positive?  What impact would focusing on just the positive have on our journey, our day? 

And why is it so important to shift from negative to positive? 

How does one shift a mindset or shift the negative beliefs to positive ones? 

THAT is the question.  THAT is the difficulty.  If it was easy to change our beliefs, our thoughts, our immediate reactions, then we would never have a negative thought.  But it is NOT easy! 

Yet, it is so important.  Changing those negatives changes how we see ourselves and how we treat ourselves.  Getting rid of negative thoughts and changing them to positive thoughts changes our relationship with us and changes our relationship with the world around us including our relationship with food.  Yes, shifting a negative mindset will change everything! 

Think about it for a minute— if you started your day looking in the mirror and only seeing what you perceived as “wrong” with you, only saying negative things (“my hair is so frizzy and I hate that” or “ugh!  How disgusting!”  “I will never be pretty” “even sucking in my stomach doesn’t work” “my legs are to big so I cannot wear those shorts” or a host of other negative things!), how would those negative words impact your day?  How would you feel by starting your day that way?  What would your choices look like?  Would you choose the delicious healthy breakfast or go for the doughnuts?  Would you skip your workout?  Would you want to do anything to take care of you?  I wouldn’t….. 

Starting my day in a negative frame of mind, would set the tone for the entire day.  And it would not be a positive tone at all.  My choices reflect my thoughts.  They always have.  They always will.

But if you started your day looking in the mirror and seeing something beautiful, something positive, saying something that made you smile (“my eyes are shining today” “Hello beautiful” “Those stretchmarks, well they are proof of the miracle of life, those babies!” “Boy are my arms strong”  “Look at those strong legs that carry me everywhere I need to go” “Today I woke up and that is worth celebrating” or a myriad of other upbeat and positive things) how would those positives impact your mindset, your choices, your day?  Would you want that healthy meal?  Would you want to go for that walk with your friend or get in the pool for some activity?  Would you want to do things that take care of you?  I would……

So, with all of these questions and thoughts going through my head this past week after attending the second workshop, I set out to find a way to shift my mindset and my thoughts. 

How?  How do you stop negatives that have been with you for a lifetime?  How do you get rid of the voice in your head from long ago, telling you how ugly you are… telling you all that is wrong with you?  How do you let go of the images that are EVERYWHERE in our society that show us what a “perfect” body looks like (and an unrealistic body since most of those images are highly photoshopped/edited)?  I can tell you it is NOT easy.  It is hard!  But NOT IMPOSSIBLE! 

It starts with recognition.  It starts with HEARING your words and knowing they are not helping.  Only then can you begin to change those thoughts and shift your mindset.  Then it takes INTENTIONALLY saying something positive.  INTENTIONALLY focusing on the positive.  Every. Single. Day.  Making it a habit.  And that takes time, sometimes a lot of time.  And it requires COMMITMENT.  When we first say that positive thing in place of the negative, well we may not believe it….not that first time, maybe not the second time, maybe not until he 100th time.  Commitment to intentionally focusing on the positive means we keep doing it even when we don’t quite believe it, because eventually we will believe it.  Eventually we will automatically go to that positive place.  And that is when we know that we have shifted our mindset, we have made a habit change. 

To that end, I decided to do something I had started a while ago, but to take it up a notch.  I had gotten in the habit of writing positive affirmations on the mirror above my bathroom sink, using dry erase markers.  Those positive affirmations made me smile.  So, if they worked on my mind in a positive way, then maybe writing positive thoughts about the parts of my body I didn’t like would help too.  But the mirror above my sink wasn’t the best place to write those, because, it wasn’t across from the shower… I could avoid that mirror until I was clothed (I know TMI). 

But…. The mirror on the backside of the barn-door that covered the entry to my bathroom, THAT mirror I couldn’t avoid.  That mirror was the one that I hated.  That mirror was where I needed to write my positive thoughts.  And I did just that this week.  “Hello Beautiful” at the top.  Positives about my arms.  Positives about my abs/stomach.  Positives about me.  Yes, my arms are strong and can hug my loved ones.  Yes, my stretchmarks prove the miracle of life, that I had two beautiful boys.  Yes, I am strong. 

Seeing those words every morning and every night is changing something in my mind.  Changing my attitude.  Changing my view of the world around me and my view of me.  Those words start my day on the right note, a positive note.  And that positive start helps me to deal with stresses differently.  And the little things don’t seem to bother me as much as they had before.  My whole outlook is a little brighter and more positive (and I tend to be a pretty positive person anyway, except when it comes to critiques about myself).  And those positives at night, well it just ends the day in a brighter way for me.

Shifting negative body image thoughts to positive ones, does not mean we are choosing to stay where we are at in this moment.  I still want to lose more weight.  That is a goal of mine.  I want to be healthier, stronger and live longer.  So, changing to a positive body image does not mean I am giving up on my goals and accepting this is where I am supposed to be.  No.  It is about being happy and finding the positives now, where I am at now and still working toward my goals. Happy people make healthier choices.  And I said above that my choices reflect my thoughts.  By being positive, thinking positive, loving me where I am at right now, I am helping myself to move forward toward my goals.  Because, when I am in a positive mindset, I make better choices when it comes to food, activity and taking care of me.  That is why this topic is so important right now.  Loving our bodies in every stage, finding something positive about us and our bodies, actually helps us get to our goals.  What do you think?  Do your choices reflect your thoughts, too?   

With all of that in mind, how can you start to change your views about you?  How can you start to change your thoughts and make them more positive?  What would that do for your day?  How would that impact your choices?  What one thing can you do today that will help you to take a step forward in changing your negative thoughts to positive?

You can do it!  I can do it!  We just have to take that first step….

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Swimsuit Shopping… Ugh!!

It finally happened.  My favorite swimsuit, died.  I have had that swimsuit for 10 years.  I wore it a lot!  And this week, I wore it for the last time.  When pool season started a couple of months ago, I noticed that my swimsuit was getting thin…REALLY thin.  Uh Oh! 

And this week I put it on to jump in my pool and the skirt hung down to my knees.  The material had separated.  It was done.  Time to throw it away and move on.

But THAT meant a trip to the store to buy another swimsuit. 

THAT was terrifying.  Trying on clothes in stores, looking at my reflection in the mirror, has never been my favorite thing to do.  Not when I was at my heaviest.  And not when I was at my thinnest.  Those mirrors are not flattering.  And looking at my flaws was discouraging. 

We are our worst critics and it is easier to see the flaws….. those things we don’t like about our bodies tend to stand out, making us notice them first.  I know…. It is a mindset thing…..  

So, the thought of trying on a swimsuit was just a bit stressful.  But I had to do it.  It would be far worse to buy the swimsuit that I had not tried on first and have it not fit or not cover certain parts of my body.  And I know that would be far worse, because I have purchased swimsuits, more than once or twice in my lifetime, that I did not try on first.  And those NEVER worked out!

I headed to the store and found a few suits to try on, in a size I thought would work and styles I felt would cover what I wanted covered and colors that would make me smile.  I was trying to see the positive. 

And then I stepped into the dressing room….. Ugh!  Those mirrors!  Swimsuit shopping is far worse than any clothes shopping trip.  At least with shirts, I could find layers to cover the parts I was ashamed of, the extra weight I was carrying….layers creating the illusion that it wasn’t there, that I was thinner than I thought.  Layers would hide the flaws.

A swimsuit though, hid nothing.  Yes, a skirted swimsuit would help to hide the hips, but the rest, well it was all there for anyone and everyone to see.  A swimsuit hid none of the flaws.

That is HARD to see.  REALLY HARD! Especially for a person who is hard on themselves.  There is so much body shaming in our world, so many faked and photo-shopped photos of how a woman’s body “should” look, that it is often difficult to see beyond those flaws, to see the positives, to love our bodies and celebrate what they can do.  And standing in that dressing room, reminded me just how hard it is and that I still have work to do, myself.

Because, if all I see or look for is the flaws or the negatives, well THAT is absolutely ALL I will see.  And I will NEVER see the positives or the beauty and strength.  I have worked long and hard on this.  I have struggled to change the mindset, sometimes successfully, sometimes failing.  I have done the exercises talked about in WW workshops, where I look in the mirror and find the things I love about my body, the strengths I have.

Standing in that dressing room, yesterday, trying on quite a few swimsuits, I realized that, yes I still have work to do.  I don’t know that I will ever fully switch my mindset, but I can be more aware and mindful of my thoughts and the words I say to myself.  And thanks to my journey with WW, I have the tools to help me change my mindset and the tools that help me to be mindful of what I am saying to myself and HOW those words affect me. 

Yes, I was stressed.  Yes, I was dreading the mirror.  Yes, I was dreading all the flaws that the swimsuit would highlight.  But I still went swimsuit shopping.  I faced the mirror.  I faced the criticism running through my mind.  I confronted the words of my dad, that I still hear, all these many years later.  And I tried on swimsuits.  Oh, some were awful!  Just awful.  But I found two swimsuits that didn’t make me completely cringe….. actually, they made me smile because they were filled with color, LOTS of bright colors rather than the solid black I usually picked. 

I faced my dread and shut down the negative thoughts as I stood there in that dressing room.  Okay, I may not be where I want to be.  I may not have that thin waste, and I may see too much loose skin.  But, there are positives and THAT is where my focus needs to be, something I have learned to look for and notice through my journey with WW (Weight Watchers).  And it is the lessons learned and aha moments  in workshops that helped me switch what I was thinking while standing in front of the dressing room mirror in a flaw-revealing swimsuit.  I could see some positives– I have legs I love.  My legs are strong.  I tan easily in the summer sun.  My smile brightens my eyes.  And my eyes come from my birth mom.  THOSE are the positives I will focus on for now.  Those are the images that will keep me going as I work toward my goals and toward becoming my best self. 

Changing my mindset.  Thinking differently.  Choosing differently.  THAT is a part of this journey I am on.  I may be my own worst critic.  I may not love everything about my outward appearance.  BUT if I stop looking for, purposely looking for, those negative flaws and instead CHOOSE to see the positives, well then I WILL reach my goals.  Because our choices reflect our thoughts. 

CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS AND YOU WILL CHANGE YOUR WORLD!

I am doing that now. I am refocusing on the positives, thanks to the death of my favorite swimsuit!

A Powerful Question

I was on Facebook this morning when I happened to see a post from a friend, she was sharing a post from a marathon runner website and my friend shared her thoughts as well.  And she asked a question.  A powerful question.  One that made me stop and think…. And think….

What am I doing today to get me closer to my goal?

Wow!  I have been asking myself this question all day. 

I have my goals —

  • To get back to my official WW goal weight
  • To then lose more to get to my personal goal (one I never reached) of losing 100 lbs. 
  • To finish my fastest 5k EVER in January 2020 at the She Power 5k
  • To be my healthiest and fittest self by my 55th birthday in January.

These are my goals.  They have been my goals for a long time.  And I have struggled.  But I am determined to get myself there.  I am determined to NOT give up.  I am determined to see what that version of “me” looks and feels like!

There are a lot of things I can do to get myself to those goals.  I can…. Yes, a lot I can.  But will I do them?  Will I do the work necessary?  Will I create the habits needed?  Will I make the healthy choices?  Will I shift my mindset?  Will I change how I think about exercise and sweat?  Will I believe in my abilities? 

Every WW workshop has an activity to work on for the week, relating to activity, food and/or mindset.  As a coach I would present the weekly topic and then lead members in a discussion about the weekly topic.  At the end of the workshop I would present to them the thing to work on for that week and I would end the workshop with two questions to my members-  Can you?  Will you? 

Yes, we can.  Yes, I can.  But the real question is Will I?  Will You? 

“Will you?” has always been a powerful question.  One that made me think and made me commit. 

But this question my friend posted today, for me, is even more powerful. 

What am I doing today to get me closer to my goals?

Well, it was NOT the small packet of mini-doughnuts or the bag of Doritos that I had for breakfast.  I didn’t plan to eat those.  I didn’t plan to buy them.  I had my plan in place for a healthy breakfast of eggs and bacon.  I could have had that healthy breakfast.  I was willing to have that healthy breakfast….But sometimes life happens. I was awake extra early this morning, taking my husband to work (before 6am) and running my son to an early clinic appointment with a stop after for something he needed. And the plan went out the window!  I picked up the mini-doughnuts and the bag of Doritos.  And I ate them when I got home.  UGH!

No, that definitely was not getting me closer to my goals!

I know what I am doing that is keeping me from reaching my goals. 

So, what am I doing today to get me closer to my goals?

Forgiving myself.  Being kind to myself.  Not letting the slip derail my plans.  I tracked my breakfast (40 smartpoints!  Oh my!  Good thing I have all those weekly extras!  They were needed today!) And then I moved on.  A healthy lunch and a healthy dinner planned and prepped.  That is what I am doing today that is getting me closer to my goals. 

This journey is not perfect.  I am human.  I slip up.  But being kind to me is one of the things that gets me back on track.  No more beating myself up…. That would defeat my efforts. 

The question posed by my friend got me back on track today.  The question kept me from throwing in the towel and going down that hole. 

That question is powerful. 

What am I doing today that will get me closer to my goals? 

Not what I will to do tomorrow?  Not what can I do next week?  Not what happened yesterday? 

That question puts the focus on TODAY.  This moment.  Right now.  It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or earlier in the day and it doesn’t matter what tomorrow will bring or what my plans are.  It is all about THIS MOMENT.  And the ONE thing I am doing right NOW, today, that will get me just a step closer to my goal.  And if each day, I do one more thing, just one, that gets me another step closer, then before I know it I will reach my goals! 

One-step-at-a-time.  One-day-at-a-time.  One-moment-at-a-time.

I am going to ask myself this powerful question.  Every. Single. Day.  What am I doing today to get me closer to my goals? 

What are you doing today that is getting you just a step closer to your goals? 

I Am Worth It!

This week’s topic “Ease Emotions without food” really talks to what I have written about a couple of times already.  And it applies to my journey and my AHA moment on my journey to goal and lifetime.  I am an emotional eater, but you already know that.  So, I wanted to share my story, my beginning with you to let you know where I come from on my journey. 

I joined Weight Watchers for the 5th time in March 2006, after having tried many different methods/programs to lose my weight.  I had tried meetings 4 times before and I never reached my goal….. I never lost more than 20 lbs on Weight Watchers.  But I needed to do something.

My doctor had suggested that I lose just 20 lbs.  I had back issues that would land me in the hospital every couple of years, in immense pain and unable to walk much.  He thought that losing “just 20 lbs” would help take some of the pressure off my back, and hopefully would help me get to a point of not having to have back surgery, something I was adamantly against. 

While the suggestion from my doctor had me thinking about joining Weight Watchers again, it was what happened the night before I joined that really got me through the door.

I was in the kitchen, standing in front of the sink with an open bag of Oreo cookies in one hand and tears flowing down my cheeks.  I was shoveling those cookies in my mouth, eating them without tasting them.  And talking to myself, out loud.  I was hurt and angry and not being kind to me at that moment. 

And then I said the words, out loud, that made me stop dead in my tracks—“Terri, you are killing yourself…… and I DON’T care, no one does, and no one will care when I am gone”.

Talk about a smack upside the head and a moment that made me hold my breath.  Did I really think that?  Did I really not care that my overeating was killing me?  That one day this unhealthy way of living would be the end of me?   Saying those words out loud, actually hearing myself say them, well it scared me.  I HAD to do something.

And I did.  The next morning, I walked into that Weight Watchers meeting.  I was scared, nervous and ashamed.  I had been to that meeting before and I didn’t want to see anyone I had seen before.  I was at my highest weight, ever!  And I was embarrassed.  Something had to change.

I sat through the meetings that first year, which was the longest I had stuck with Weight Watchers.  I learned to track my food, to eat the right portions and to make healthier choices.  I was making friends in my meeting and I felt safe.  I also loved my leader, she inspired me each week and she cared about me and the other members.  And that made a huge difference for me. 

I lost 20 lbs that first year.  The most I had ever lost on my attempts with Weight Watchers.  But I was struggling and I couldn’t seem to push past that 20 lbs.  I still had over 50 lbs to go.  I was feeling frustrated and was on the verge of giving up.

It was at that point that my leader gave me a popsicle stick…. She said it was to remind me to stick to it.  I took it home and taped the popsicle stick to my pantry door, where my comfort foods waited for me to eat them.  Later that same day I got a phone call from a family member.  That phone call upset me and when I hung up the phone the first thing I did was walk straight to the pantry.  I wanted… NEEDED… the peanut butter, chips, cookies…. anything that I could eat that would stuff those emotions all back deep inside me.

And then I saw it…. The popsicle stick.  I stopped.  I did not open the pantry door.  Instead I turned around and sat down on the couch.  And then it hit me!  I am a food addict.  Food was my answer to anything in my life and food was the answer to how I felt about myself and how I dealt with the pain of my abusive childhood. 

That AHA moment changed everything for me.  I realized in that moment that I did not think I was worth it.  I was not worth the effort it would take to lose the weight and get healthy.  I spent my young years and teen years being told just how worthless I was, and I realized in that moment that I believed I WAS worthless.

I knew I needed to change something or I would never succeed at this journey… or at anything in my life.  I sat there and cried.  And then I grabbed my laptop and I began to write what was to become my weight loss journal.  And I titled it “Stop Eating Your Emotions”.  It was while I was writing that I decided I needed to start each morning looking in the mirror and saying 4 words.  Those 4 words are the most empowering words I have EVER said to myself:

I AM WORHT IT!

I started saying those words the next morning.  And I did not believe it.  But I kept saying those 4 words, every morning.  I did not believe them that first week, or the next.  It was a couple of months of saying those 4 very empowering words before I started to believe them.

I am worth it!

I am worth more than that jar of peanut butter.  I am worth more than the chips, cookies, cake, ice cream and candy.  I am worth it to go to my meeting every week and I am worth taking care of.

Those 4 words changed EVERYTHING for me.

It took me another 10 months to lose my last 52 lbs.  I lost 72 lbs to reach my goal weight.  I felt amazing!  I liked myself and I believed I was worth it.

I reached my goal weight on January 10, 2008 and lifetime 6 weeks late on February 14, 2008.  I had done it! 

And while I am now 23 lbs over my goal (I weighed in today and lost another 1 lb for a total of 2.4 lbs in 2 weeks), I KNOW I will NOT go back to the girl I was before Weight Watchers changed my life.  While I forget some days, especially during the difficult times I have had these past few years, that I am worth it, it is easier for me to get back to that mindset, easier to remember that I am worth it! 

I am not that little girl any longer, the girl filled with pain and wanting to stuff the uncomfortable feelings deep inside.  I am not the girl who didn’t care that I was killing myself, slowly.  When tough days come, I remember how far I have come.  The weight has gone up a little, but because of the confidence and self-worth I gained on my journey to goal and because of the tools I keep in my back pocket, I can stop the gain before I lose too much control.  And that is the difference between the “me” of today, and the “me” before Weight Watchers.

I am worth it! 

No matter how imperfect.  No matter how many slips I may have.  I am worth it!  And this journey is worth it! 

I still have the popsicle stick that my leader gave me all those years ago.  It is now tucked away in a keepsake box…. maybe it is time to bring it back out and tape it onto my pantry door…. A gentle reminder that I can do this and that I am worth it!