I rarely hear a woman who hasn’t had some childhood or teenager stories about relatives, friends or teachers making comments about their body shape and weight. I also hear men making sarcastic jokes about their bellies and love handles which probably indicates they feel the same pressure when it comes to body image!
I am like you. I was 16 years old when my tennis coach told me “You should lose a couple of kilos to be more agile on the court”. He doesn’t know that his comment hit me at my core. I felt fat and inadequate. From that day, I started eating exclusively apples and salad; nothing else. The first thing I would do in the morning was to wake up and check my profile in the mirror.
It took me over 20 years to love my body as it is. Occasionally, I still check my bum in the mirror before going out.
Rewriting the beliefs about what size you’re supposed to wear, what’s your ideal weight and how flat your belly should be, takes time, courage and a big dose of compassion.
STEP 1: SELF-LOVE TAKES TIME
It takes time to notice the amount of toxic & disempowering messages we get from the media we consume, the unrealistic diets or fitness programmes which promise miracles, the fake tan / nails / eyelashes which promise everlasting beauty. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to exercise, eat well and take care of your body but, what’s the intention behind your actions?
Are you eating salad for lunch because you enjoy the freshness and crispiness of the lettuce or because you want to fit in your skinny jeans?
When it comes to your emotional and mental wellbeing, the intention behind your actions counts!
There was a time in my life when I browsed the menu, mentally counting calories of all dishes and choosing the one with less calories rather than what I really wanted. Controlling my food intake was giving me the illusion to be in control of my image and health. In reality, I was a slave of my own thoughts.
Self-awareness takes time (and age!) to build, but it comes a day when you start questioning those socially accepted models of beauty and say “wait a minute, is this true?”, “Are carbs really so bad if I eat them in moderation?”
STEP 2: SELF-LOVE TAKES COURAGE
Once you become aware of the socially-accepted-toxic beliefs which are all around us, it takes a lot of courage to do things differently. As humans, we’re wired to belong to a tribe, because in the cavemen age that was the only way to survive. Subconsciously, “fitting in” makes us feel safe, so we hide our curves under a Spanx because we want to feel safe and accepted.
After trying all sorts of diets in my late 20’s - early 30’s, I realised that my body needs some animal proteins especially when I’m approaching my menstrual cycle. At first, I felt guilty. I was telling myself “I’m a yoga & wellness expert, I should be vegan”. It took me a while to make the choice to free myself from what I was “supposed” to eat and follow what my body was asking, which is a flexible diet.
Doing things differently is scary at first, but loving yourself is a process and you can take incremental baby steps.
STEP 3: SELF-LOVE TAKES COMPASSION
Your journey to self-love requires compassion. Personal development is not a linear process. When you think you’ve made a substantial change in your habits, beliefs, mental & emotional patterns, you will probably relapse. Without realising it, you fall back to that unhealthy behaviour.
When you notice you relapsed, you need a big dose of self compassion because the temptation to criticise yourself will be high. In those moments, it’s crucial to have a framework to slow down, to lower the volume of the external distractions so you can forgive yourself and take the next best step.
My go-to for reminding myself to be kind and compassionate to myself is Cacao. When I stir the Cacao on the stove and the aroma fills up the room, I feel grounded. My mind slows down and I intuitively know all will be well. This storm of emotions and the judgemental thoughts will melt away - as they usually do - after tasting the first few sips.
Loving yourself takes time, courage and compassion. Play around, experiment in creating your own rituals, those simple, soul-nourishing actions which remind you to come back to yourself over and over again.
You are safe. You are loved. You belong.
Thanks for reading until the end! If you live in London and you’re curious to try a Cacao, I wholeheartedly invite you to join me for one of my upcoming Cacao Ceremonies in West London (Hammersmith):
With love & gratitude,