With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I’m sharing a story about my path to body love and deep self-acceptance. Especially my relationship with my belly, the part of my body that used to bear the brunt of my self-criticism and that I know many other women are dissatisfied with at some point or another. It’s a story of the path to unconditional self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance.
This winter, I was laying on the massage table, face up, with my masseuse Beth’s fingers working away at the tension between my hip and stomach when I got transported back. As she hit a certain depth, I flashed to a moment that was defining in terms of becoming friendly with my belly – after years of pain.
Remembering this moment not just intellectually but in my muscles was such a beautiful reminder that some of my richest, most healing moments came out of incredible challenges.
The particular moment I flashed back to was during an otherwise ordinary yoga class years before in which a tide turned. It was a dark, brisk evening and towards the end of class, our teacher Marti asked us to lay on our stomachs, rolling up a bath towel to place on the inside of our hips – right where Beth was working.
“Slowly rock back and forth to flush the toxins out of your liver,” Marti said.
It seemed easy enough.
“Now, as you’re working, ask what this area of your body would say to you,” she continued. “What would it say if it could talk?”
Almost before I understood what was happening, the words “you’re so mean to me” came from my belly.
“You’re so mean to me,” over and over again. “You’re so mean to me.”
Tears started spilling out of my eyes and all over my yoga mat. But they weren’t tears of despair, with a heavy, difficult feeling. They were release and relief. Catharsis.
Finally, after years of scrutinizing my belly, looking at it in the mirror and always trying to make it smaller, I could hear what needed to be said to feel free. After years of overinvesting in outside wisdom, like how many calories and macronutrients to eat, and then letting go of rigidity in search of a routine I could do forever… I could feel exactly where I stood with my body. After trying to criticize my way into loving my belly for so long, I could see why my negative self-talk wasn’t working or creating the life I wanted. Perhaps more importantly, after releasing so much emotion, finding solutions felt like the easy part.
I walked out of the yoga studio into the darkness that night about 100 pounds lighter. And in the following months, I diligently worked to nurture that relationship with my body. Little by little, a small bit of confidence and growth had become a lot. It was novel – the most me I’d felt.
Here’s what I did (and still do!) that helped:
Regular yoga practice: I continued showing up on my mat regularly, eager to know myself better and better. Yoga helped me learn to relate to myself in a new, gentler way than other forms of movement. I think everyone can get something out of yoga, including a more peaceful relationship with their bodies.
Journaling: I’d sit down each night to journal and reflect on the successes from the day – and identify a solution for the challenges going forward. Research shows journaling can help you process emotions, which can decrease stress and help you form new, more loving patterns.
Digital detoxing: This was a big move, but I deleted my social media accounts to reconnect with my own opinions rather than those I was absorbing and mistaking for fact. For you, this might mean putting your phone on airplane mode on the weekend, deleting social apps off your phone, or installing a temporary social media blocker to spend less time on social.
Letting go of what wasn’t meant for me to make space for what was: I broke up with someone who wasn’t showing me respect in a (hopefully!) straightforward, yet loving way. This left me with more mental space and energy for other things that nourished me more, like new friendships and writing.
Proactive research: I studied a lot about the areas of my life I thought needed work. I spent dedicated time – a few hours a week, at least – seeking answers and knowledge. Healing takes time, learning, and effort.
Bringing love back into the kitchen: Instead of cooking in a distracted way, I slowed way down – chopping, stirring, and plating as an act of of love. It may sound small, but making your cooking time meditative and joyful shouldn’t be underestimated.
We’re all on our different paths, so our routes to body love will all have unique twists and turns, challenges, and joys. It can be so hard to remind ourselves that beauty has nothing to do with what our tummies or bodies look like and everything to do with what we define as beautiful. It’s an experience worth fighting for, and one that I only encountered in adulthood, because we all deserve to feel at home in our bodies and comfortable in our skin.
Sending you all lots of love this week and always 💓