5 Things I Do When I’m Struggling With Bad Body Image

For5 Things I Do When I'm Struggling With Body Image | Life Healthfully Lived some reason this weekend, I was having a tough time with my body.  Every piece of clothing I put on felt awkward, I didn’t like the way I looked, and I felt like everyone was just staring at all of my flaws.  It was not a very fun weekend to say the least.

As much as I would love to always be proud of my body and never struggle with these insecurities, I know that I will probably always have to work on body image.  When I was younger, I would let these negative thoughts consume me.  I literally thought that my body was ugly and all the problems I saw in the mirror were the only things that other people could see.   These thoughts would rule my day, my mood, and how I viewed my worth.  They dictated what I would say and think, whether I would speak up in class or if I would volunteer for something where people had to look at me.  It was rough and I never thought much of myself.  I just wanted to fade in the background and for the most part, I did.

With a lot of time and work, I have pushed past that younger version of myself.  No one gets to determine my worth based on my looks, not even myself.  I understand so much more about my body and know that just because I see something in the mirror doesn’t mean it’s true in real life.

But there are still days when the struggle is real.  Days when I want to go back to hiding in my shell.  Days when no matter what, the reflection I see does not match what is actually there.  I’m sure every once in awhile, you have those days too.  Days when you doubt whether you are beautiful, capable, or even worthy.  What you do on those days can make you stronger or keep tearing you down.  So here are five things I do when I struggle with bad body image.  Hopefully, these can help you or give you some motivation to find ways to move past the lies you might be telling yourself about your own body.

1.  I realize they are lies5 Things I Do When I'm Struggling With Body Image | Life Healthfully Lived

Most often, the reason I have a “bad body” day  is that I feel like I have gained a ridiculous amount of weight.  The logical part of my brain knows this isn’t true.  There is no way that one meal can make you gain 10 pounds and you don’t wake up one day suddenly overweight.  But the logical part of my brain doesn’t always rule my day.  While I might feel overweight and insecure, I tell myself that it is a lie.  What I see in the mirror isn’t true.  My habits are overall healthy and I won’t suddenly just backslide.  I might not believe this at first, but actually physically telling myself that it is a lie helps to get me back on track.

2. I try something new5 Things I Do When I'm Struggling With Body Image | Life Healthfully Lived

This might sound weird, but trying something new really helps me get out of my funk.  Usually, I try a new yoga pose that I haven’t been able to do before or an exercise that I struggle with.  By doing something new, I get my mind off the woe is me/I’m ugly mentality.  Many times I end up surprising myself by doing something that I didn’t think I could do.  Even if I can’t get into a new pose or still struggle with that tough exercise, the fact that I tried and tried to improve myself helps me feel more confident with my body.

3.  Look at where I started5 Things I Do When I'm Struggling With Body Image | Life Healthfully Lived

I have come a long way from Jr. high/high school Katie.  Looking back at that time, I realize that I am a completely different and better person.  On the days when it feels like I am right back where I started, just taking out pictures from that time proves me completely wrong.  I know I have done a lot of work to get to this point and reminding myself of that helps me see how strong and capable I have become.

4.   I talk about it5 Things I Do When I'm Struggling With Body Image | Life Healthfully Lived

I am a private person and I tend to keep things bottled up inside.  I let my negative thoughts eat away at me and they never fail to bring me down.  While it’s still hard for me to open up and share, talking about it helps let that negativity out.  Sharing things with someone you trust gets things off your chest and shows you that some of those things just aren’t true.  Even writing this post helps me push past my doubt and uncertainty and stops negative talk in it’s tracks.

5.   I understand it will pass5 Things I Do When I'm Struggling With Body Image | Life Healthfully Lived

I won’t let my negative thoughts persist anymore.  They might have ruled my life before, but I refuse to let that happen again.  I know that this bad day is one day and it will pass.  There will be good days again, days where I see how strong I am, how capable I have become, and how beautiful I truly am.  I can’t dwell on these insecure thoughts or else they will take over.  I acknowledge that I have had a bad day and now it is over and I will do my best to move on.  It isn’t always easy, but I know I can do it.5 Things I Do When I'm Struggling With Body Image | Life Healthfully Lived

Next time you are faced with body image issues, try a few of these things.  Or find something that works for you.  The most important advice I can give you is to not let these issues consume you.  Don’t let them take over.  You are better and stronger than they are and you can and will get to a place where you see your beauty and worth!

Ode To My Body

Thank you for allowing me to run as many miles as you have.  They have made me realize I can endure anything both on the trail and in life.

RunKeeper Monday Miles

Thank you for allowing me to try new poses in yoga.  They have made me realize I am flexible, both on the mat and in my day to day routine.

Mermaid Pose

Thank you for allowing me to lift heavy weights.  They have made me realize I am strong, both under the bar and under pressure.

Crossfit Workout

Thank you for allowing me to walk everywhere.  They have made me realize I can use my own to feet to go anywhere, both in my neighborhood and with my goals.

Chicago Skyline

I’m sorry for all the harsh things I have said to you over the years.  You were doing the best you could in each situation and I couldn’t see that at the time.

Body Image Quote

I’m sorry for comparing you to other bodies out there.  You aren’t meant to be like any other bodies and to compare made you feel unworthy of all the unique talents you have.

Comparison Quote

I’m sorry for punishing you when you did nothing wrong.  It was my insecurities and skewed views that thought I should fix things that weren’t even wrong.

Exercise Quote

I’m sorry for the years of hating you and wishing you would change just to fit what I thought was perfect.  I missed so much of what was good by focusing only on the bad.

Hating your body quote

I can’t say that I will always be good to you.  There will probably be some times that I struggle to be kind but know that I’m working on it.  I’m trying to change my stubborn ways because you deserve that.

I promise to praise you for all that you can do, encourage you to work towards what you are trying to do, and not criticize you for what you can’t do.

You’ve carried me through a lot of tough times and I promise that I will reward you for all the hard work you’ve accomplished.

Love your body

Thank you.

Along Lake Michigan

Your Body Isn’t A Mannequin

v4-mannequin-for-poser

I have spent a lot of my life not liking the way I look.  Many of my younger years were full of low self-esteem and poor body image.  Like many girls, and boys for that matter, I felt that I didn’t measure up to the standard of beauty.

As I’ve gotten older I have gotten better but I still have my days/weeks where I feel like I don’t look like I want.  My stomach is too flabby, my thighs have seemingly gotten bigger overnight, and my arms aren’t as strong as last week.  What I see in the mirror doesn’t match up to the image in my head.  I’ve had one of those weeks this past week and I’ve learned something.

My body does change from day to day and week to week.

My body is not going to stay exactly the same every minute of every day.

My body isn’t meant to be like a robot or mannequin and never change.

And this is ok.

There are so many factors that go into how our bodies look from day to day.  What we eat or drink, what workout we have done, what the weather is like, what clothes we wear.  With so many variables there is no way that we can keep our bodies exactly the same.

18b80bac5af93797b3fe1b6c061ad57a

For someone who has struggled with body image issues, this can be a tough lesson to deal with.  I sometimes get into the horrible habit of looking at pictures of models/athletes and longing to have their perfect bodies.  What I often forget is that the image I look at is just picture of one point in time.  That is how they looked at that minute, it isn’t how they look every single day.  I shouldn’t compare myself to those moments in time, especially since they have been styled and edited to look perfect at those particular moments in time.

Don’t get frustrated if it seems like your body isn’t consistent with what you think it should look like.

Are you eating real and whole foods that give you energy and nourish you?

Are you moving your body in some way each day?

Are you working to improve other areas of your life not just your body?

Then you should be proud of your body for allowing you to do all those things.

 

I’ll leave you with this thought.  A few months back I was at my parents house for some family event  I was in the kitchen with my mom, dad, and husband.  Somehow we got onto the topic of body image and I said that girls sometimes just have “bad-body days”, days where we just aren’t happy with what we see.  My mom nodded in agreement, but my dad and Adam kind of just looked at me confused.  I asked my dad, “Don’t you ever have a day where you look in the mirror and you don’t like your body?”  He answered with, “Sure, but I don’t let it control my day.  I just move on and work to improve it.”  I asked Adam the same thing and he agreed with my dad.

2f301e1a2407362b62b48205510289e3

I had never realized it could be as simple as that.  Yes, there is a big difference between men and women when it comes to body image but I think we can all benefit from adopting my dad’s mindset.

Don’t let your body control your day.  Work to improve it and move on.

My Story

I think it is about time that you all hear my story.  I have shared a few insights into my health journey in some of my posts but I haven’t given you the full spiel.  It was brought to my attention that readers might not relate to me because I seem to have it all together health-wise (trust me I’m still learning and growing on that front) and I want you to realize I have been in some of the same situations that you might find yourselves.  My story probably starts  a lot like yours….

I was a pretty normal kid (I use normal very loosely here, I am a bit quirky!).  I didn’t have any major health problems and I was the same as most kids in my class.  I had no issues with my appearance and I had no reason to have any issues.  I was your average American kid.

Yes normal children sing for their Grandma in their bathing suit...

Yes normal children sing for their Grandma in their bathing suit…

Then I entered fifth grade and puberty hit, which is totally normal, but I started puberty before all of my friends.  That is when a lot of my issues started.  I couldn’t understand why suddenly I was developing hips and boobs and my thighs were getting bigger and hair was sprouting places, yet my friends were still skinny and flat-chested and seemingly hair-less.  I’m a naturally shy person and all these changes made me feel awkward and ugly and made me retreat even more from public situations.  I didn’t want anyone seeing me or focusing any type of attention on me.  This is also when I started to hate my body and when I started to go on diets to try and look like what I thought was normal.  The diets would work for a little while, I would lose weight, feel good about myself, go off the diet and, you guessed it, gain the weight back.

Pretty sure this is fifth grade, I'm the one with the glasses flexing a non-existent muscle

Pretty sure this is fifth grade, I’m the one with the glasses flexing a non-existent muscle

Quite the attractive face, I think I was going for "I'm cool" ? Either way it didn't work

Quite the attractive face, I think I was going for “I’m cool” ? Either way it didn’t work

High school wasn’t much different than junior high.  I came from a small parochial school, so public school was a bit of a shock for me.  I had never been around so many kids at once.  My graduating 8th grade class was 21 kids and suddenly I was in a class of over 500.  This made shy Katie nervous and panicky.  Luckily, I got involved in the marching band and made amazing friends and had amazing experiences.  I excelled in band and was a squad leader by my sophomore year and a section leader my junior and senior year.  As cheesy and nerdy as it may sound, I really believe that marching band saved me during my high school years.

I believe this was my senior year? I wasn't a big fan of pictures

I believe this was my senior year? I wasn’t a big fan of pictures

But, high school was also a really hard time for my body, especially my self-image.  Now that I was in high school I had more freedom over my food choices, and not knowing anything helpful about nutrition, I made HORRIBLE food choices.  Our cafeteria was full of fat and calorie laden food, and I was drawn to those choices.  I would eat bread bowls full of cream of broccoli soup, drink tons of soda (diet is fine right?), get candy as a snack from the vending machine, munch on bacon potato skin chips dipped in cream cheese (yes, it is as gross as it sounds).  Of course I would also make sure I got “healthy” food like bottled smoothies (fruit is good for you, even when it is in liquid sugar form, right?), and baked potato chips.

Told you I was quirky

Told you I was quirky

Needless to say I gained weight.  While I might never have been considered obese, I was definitely overweight.  The added weight did nothing to help my self-image, which I already struggled with, and I started to crash diet, in the most unhealthy way possible.  I would skip meals and at one point even tried weight loss pills, anything to try and make myself skinny and pretty.  Of course, none of these things worked and I was miserable.  I hated my body and felt that I was so ugly that no one else could ever love me.  It was a very difficult time for me.  But things did look up my junior year when I got my first boyfriend.  I was elated that someone of the opposite sex actually thought I was worthy enough to date  Trust me, I know how sad and pathetic that sounds, but when you have such a low opinion of yourself, you look for anything to validate your worth, even a boy.

Freshman year of college

Freshman year of college

By the time that I got to college, I had had a few boyfriends.  Sadly, having a boyfriend made me feel like I was worth something.  I felt that if someone else other than my friends and family thought I was good enough, then I really was good enough.  I entered college feeling both petrified and excited.  Petrified because I was leaving home and my comfort zone and stepping into a world that I knew nothing about.  Excited because I was finally going to become a little more independent and adult like.  I decided one of my new major goals in college was to become healthier and finally lose weight for good and be happy with the way I looked.  Great goals, but I still went about them in the wrong way.  For the first year or so of college I was a vegetarian, partly because my boyfriend at the time was and partly because I thought it would help me lose weight.  But you can still eat junk food while being a vegetarian (hello mac n’ cheese!) and having a prepaid meal plan where you can get all the food you want can be dangerous.  But I was determined not to gain the freshmen 15, and in fact I actually lost weight.  This was because I started to work out on a regular basis.  I had free access to the Rec center at my college and made working out a part of my routine.  While I had never been totally sedentary before and had worked out in spurts in junior high and high school, I had never had an established routine.  Being able to go to the Rec center for free was great because it got me started on a great habit.

But I still ate some not-so-great foods and I still had self-esteem problems.  I had hoped that once I lost weight I would magically be transformed into this happy, self assured person.  At the time I didn’t realize that I needed to work on more than just my body, I needed to work on my mind and my relationship with myself.  I never gave myself the chance to do that though because I was always relying on other people to make me feel better about myself, mainly my boyfriends.

And then something happened that really changed everything for me.  The summer before my last year of college, I worked as a trainer with my dad.  My dad is a kinesiotherapist (specialized area of medicine in which exercise and movement are used as the primary form of rehabilitation), and we would work with all different kinds of people, from athletes to the elderly, to make them stronger or faster or better in whatever they did.  I got to create exercise programs for people and then work with them one on one to help them improve.  That summer my dad also had another intern working with him, also my age and a friend I had known for awhile.  It was a great summer, I got to step outside of my box and do something I didn’t think I was good at and I actually did fairly well.  I also got to interact with my dad and become better friends with his other intern.  It was that friendship that really turned things around for me.  And the one thing that he did that pretty much changed everything for me?  Encouraged me to sign up for a 5k race through our church.  Yup, that was my big epiphany moment.  At the time, I hated running.  I thought it was pointless and stupid and I dreaded the thought of running.  But my friend convinced me to give it a shot and we even trained a little together at work.  I’ll admit, it wasn’t very fun and I was just doing this to make him happy.  I figured I would get through this one race and never have to run again.  Boy, was I wrong.  The day of the race arrived, and I was a nervous wreck.  There was no way I was going to be able to run 3.1 miles and I was about to make a huge fool of myself.  But I didn’t, I ran really well.  I never stopped or gave up and I didn’t die.  I crossed that finish line and I felt amazing.  Finishing that race made me realize I could do things that I never thought I could do.  I was a stronger person than I thought possible.

524800_10150773195704134_1547032485_n

Running became my therapy.  Each time I laced up and went for my run, I proved to myself how strong and amazing my body was no matter what it looked like.  I could do things that I was always too shy or scared to try.  I started to love myself on my runs and started the long process of healing years of self-hatred.  Yes, this all sounds spiritual and hippie-dippie, but running really changed my life and opened so many doors for me.  Before running, I would never go up and talk to a person I barely knew.  After running, I finally got the nerve to actually talk to a boy without him approaching me first.  Good thing too or else I would have never met my husband.  Before running, I would never have picked up nutrition books or health books or researched about eating right.  After running, I completely overhauled the way I ate and learned as much as possible about being the healthiest me I could be.  And you know what?  I finally found that happy person I longed for ever since fifth grade.  Yes, I lost weight along the way (about 45 lbs over a course of 7 years), but for the first time in a long time I didn’t care about the weight.  I cared about how I felt on the inside. I cared about treating my body with exercise and good, wholesome food.  I finally believed myself that I was worthy enough.

250923_10100730974154039_1446924835_n

I’ve been in dark places in my past health-wise.  Please believe me when I say I know how you feel.  While I might not have the EXACT same story as you, I know what it’s like to go through rough times.  Do I have my whole life together now and never struggle? Heck no.  I still have my moments.  I still struggle with self-image and self-esteem and have to work on it daily.  I will probably have to work on it daily for the rest of my life, but I am in a MUCH better place than before.  Life is so much more than how much you weigh or what you look like and sadly we (me included) get so wrapped up in trying to meet other people’s standards.  But we can change that.  Let’s work on setting our own standards and move towards a healthy life.  Realize that getting to your happy place may look very different than how I reach my happy place.  Not everyone is going to run a race and change their life.  You do have to go out there and WORK at what will change your life for the better.

581941_10100759114056449_1092879512_n

I hope that my story gave some of you inspiration.  It is hard to share some of these personal moments with the whole world as well as make sure that I am sending a message of hope and encouragement as well.  Remember, I’m here to help you find your way to a healthier life.  Because I know how hard it can be along the way and how amazing it is once you see the light at the end of the tunnel!  Have a fabulous week everyone!

Happy!

Happy!