I am excited to be joining my Instagram friend Deanne Vincent as an ambassador for her My Empowered Body Campaign. She says that My Empowered Body is a movement of women who are owning their body story and reclaiming their power. Can I get a hell yes!!! When she asked me I jumped at the chance to participate.
From her website:
“As women, we’ve been taught that our worth is defined by our body. So when you struggle with health issues & body shame it feels so painful and shameful…
Not perfect = never enough.
We hide our body struggles + who we really are in order to feel loveable. All while we compare ourselves to others who are also silently not perfect either.
Then we feel even more ashamed and alone because of our body struggles.
But do you have any idea how ridiculously normal it is for women not to have a perfectly “normal” body?”
I understand the shame and the hiding. I understand the constant push to have the perfect body, which ironically caused all my physical health issues including amenorrhea, adrenal dysfunction, an underactive thyroid and digestive issues. In fact, at age 26 I was told I was in early menopause and would have to take synthetic estrogen for the rest of my life. All my sex hormones were low and I had no libido because I’d restricted food so much and then used excessive exercise like marathon training to burn calories.
My goal in life was to make myself smaller and smaller. I fought my body constantly and the number on the scale determined my mood and how I felt about myself. When that doctor told me I was in early menopause I cried. I had always wanted kids and I felt broken, like something was wrong with me. The doctor told me this just sometimes happens. After getting a second opinion, I started to shift my focus to health after I learned about the female athlete triad and adrenal dysfunction. I stopped running and starting practicing yoga. I shifted out of a vegetarian diet and started eating more good quality animal products.
I had been struggling with binge eating for the past 7 years at varying intensities and suddenly the binge eating hit me with a vengeance again. I lost control, or so I thought. I started to gain weight because I wasn’t exercising as much and hated my body again. I had been able to somewhat prevent myself from gaining too much weight before because of how much I worked out. Now my body image was getting worse because of the weight I was gaining. I kept thinking that I needed more willpower and that something was fundamentally wrong with me. I kept trying to control my food even more and the binge eating persisted.
I jumped back into exercising intensely and found Crossfit, leaving my yoga practice behind. I got addicted to the endorphins again as it was the only time I truly felt good. I continued to control my food for the sake of “health.” I was eating very little carbs at this point and Crossfitting 5 days a week. I was also taking bio-identical hormones to regain my menstrual cycle but after a year it hit me again that I was pushing too hard with the exercise. At this point I was feeling better about myself as I’d lost some of the weight I’d gained. I decided to stop Crossfit and take up yoga again. I did regain some weight but I stuck with it and worked on changing those thoughts in my head. I started to notice I felt good in my body during a yoga class. Breathing and connecting to my body without worrying about how it looked was new to me. Last time I’d tried yoga I was still very much up in my head about my body.
Within the first month of practicing yoga I regained my menstrual cycle and a couple years later I completely weaned myself off the bio-identical hormones and have maintained my cycle for the past few years. The biggest change in my body’s health and how I thought about it came when I realized it really had nothing to do with my body. When I realized that food wasn’t even the issue either. It came when I started to do the inner work. When I stopped looking for an external fix for an internal problem. Trying to control our body is another coping mechanism, just as food is. I realized that I was completely disconnected to my body and yoga was something that was helping me reconnect. I’ve been both smaller and bigger than I am now but I accept my body as it is. She feels the best she’s ever felt as I take care of her from a place of love and acceptance instead of trying to change her from that place of fear and control.
I truly understand now that my body isn’t my worth and that taking care of my mental, emotional and spiritual health is just as important as my physical health. I wasn’t broken, I didn’t need more control and there wasn’t something wrong with me. What was wrong are societal ideals and diet culture, as well as many of the fitness industry messages too. What I needed was more connection, trust and feeling. I needed to learn to stop, breath and just be with what was, instead of constantly trying to numb pain. We all experience pain and we can all develop different coping mechanisms whether it’s food, drugs, alcohol, social media, porn, gambling. All these serve to do is further disconnect us from our truth. I had to unlearn the conditioning society taught me about my body as a woman and doing that is damn empowering.