Measure Your Value Only in Love: Yoga Girl's Guide to Loving Your Body
I get a gazillion emails per day. A lot of it is business related, but many of the emails I get daily are from regular people, people like you and me, asking questions.
The questions range from everything regarding yoga, yoga poses, alignment, pain, fitness, weight loss, travel, dogs, health, beauty, you name it. I wish I had time to answer every single inquiry from you guys, but I'd have to clone myself. Twice. This has been weighing on my shoulders for some time - I wish I could spend my days only connecting with you and not doing any of the boring administrational stuff that keeps our business running!
What I meant to say was, if you've sent me a personal email (or Facebook message, or Instagram comment) recently but haven't heard back, please don't think I'm some stuck-up yoga girl who doesn't care about your problems. I do care. I am not ignoring you, I promise. I just don't have time to answer everything I receive! It's that simple.
For today, I have chosen to answer an email that I received months and months ago, something that moved me so much. We were on a plane going to Hawaii when I read this, and it was the fifth email I'd gotten in a short time on the same topic. I realized I could perhaps address this publicly and give my advice to more people in the same space. I asked the young girl who sent me this if I could use it for a public post (without her name, of course) and she said absolutely!
I cannot believe it took me months to get around to this, but better late than never. Love, if you're reading this (I hope you are!), I'm sorry it took a while. I love you.
First off, I consider you an internet role-model. I don't know you personally but I so, so, respect the message that you put forth. Thank you for inspiring me!
I am 19. I have struggled with severe anorexia since I was about 12. I have been at a healthy body weight for a few years now and have found the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have good days and bad days, just like everyone else.
I was prescribed Prozac four years ago to combat depression and overwhelming OCD, but I stopped taking it about three months ago, wanting to find a more natural and long-term solution.
Three months ago, I began my yoga practice and I have found it to be a powerful tool for me to use. I love it! That being said, since going off my medication I have experienced the resurfacing of some seriously poisonous thoughts. Mostly extreme negativity about my appearance and body. I know that I cannot live my whole life with these toxic ideas in my head about how ugly/fat/unworthy I am, and I am currently trying to utilize every resource I can to correct them.
I know you are not a therapist, but you are someone I look up to, so tell me: what would you suggest? How do you think I can 1) learn to love my body and feel beautiful in my skin and 2) move away from the idea that my physical appearance is so important?
Thank you, Namaste.
The first thing you need to know is this: you are not alone. Here are some interesting, and very scary facts on the subject:
80% of the women in the US are dissatisfied with their appearance.
95% of people with an eating disorder are between 12 and 25 years old.
A survey of women in college showed that 91% had been on or currently were on a diet to lose weight.
The body type portrayed in advertising as "the ideal" is only possessed by 5% of American females.
81% of ten-year old are afraid of being fat.
This is so terrifying I have no words.
81% of ten-year olds are afraid of being fat? Ten-year olds??
We are talking about young, young children here. Ten-year olds should be busy building tree houses, riding bikes, watching Spongebob Squarepants. Not worrying about being fat. They've barely started growing yet!
Another terrifying fact is that 80% of women in the US are unhappy with the way they look? That's pretty much every person we know! Look around you. Think of the women in your life. How much time is being spent thinking of, worrying about and obsessing over our appearance?
Women (and men, but mostly women) are counting calories, yoyo-dieting, running on treadmills, getting surgery, avoiding dessert, over exercising, under eating and pretty much beating themselves up daily over numbers on a scale.
Let me repeat: NUMBERS ON A SCALE.
When did we let this all go so far? Yes, we want to be healthy. Of course! We should be. But healthy does not mean obsessing over every single thing you put in your mouth. Healthy does not mean feeling guilty about what you eat. Healthy does not mean exercising for the sole purpose of changing the way you look. Healthy means being happy. Healthy is, loving yourself for who you are.
No matter what the numbers on the scale say.
Even if you were one of the 5% of women who actually possess the "ideal body" that so many strive for, would this make you a better person? Would it make you more worthy? Would you love yourself more? The answer is, no.
Being skinny does not make you a happier person.
Happy people are truly happy because of the joy they put into their lives, not because of weather or not their ass looks good in a size 6. Or a size 0 - there is actually a SIZE ZERO now. The fact that there is such a thing is proof alone that this society has gone completely mad and we need a change. If we get down to the root of all of this, why is it that we so badly want to be thin? Why do we work so hard to shape our bodies to fit the mold media (not real women - media) has decided we need to fit in to?
We want to be happy. It’s that simple. We want to be loved. In the depth beneath "I want to look thin" lies "I want to be accepted". The fact of the matter is, we are daily being told that we are not good enough. We are not accepted the way we are. Actresses and models, TV ads and movie scenes set the standard for what is "beautiful", and this is what our society strives for.
Never mind that the women walking the runways these days have the same weight as the undeveloped ten-year olds who in turn worry about getting fat. Never mind that this ideal is so ridiculous 95% of women will never, ever look anything remotely like this. Never mind that the standards are set in magazines, a place I like to call Bullshit Land, where images and ideals have absolutely nothing to do with real life.
There is a beautiful, healthy ideal for us all. Know what it is? IT'S WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT IT TO BE.
The most important thing is, the loving change you want to create needs to happen n o w. Not in the faraway world of tomorrow. If you only listen to your ego you will be tricked into believing silly things like "when I've lost 10 pounds I'll be happy", "when I'm fit I'll look good in that skirt and then I'll find a boyfriend and then I'll be happy" "when I look like this or that I will finally be happy with who I am and life will be great" - all things and thoughts concerning the future and how things will be better then.
You need to know that your life is happening now.
Right now. Not later. Not in three months, when you may or may not have lost the weight you're looking to lose. Not in a year when you've accomplished this or that. Life is happening now, and by obsessing over ridiculous things like the ice cream you had last night, life will pass you by! Negative though patterns like these, guilt, obsession with fitting into a certain mold, prohibits you from truly living the life you are meant to live.
So why is it so difficult to stay healthy? Why is it that at the same time that the statistics above show a horrifying truth about our body image, obesity is at an all-time high? Why are the majority of the questions I get about how to lose weight?
The answer is: we don't love ourselves enough.
If we loved ourselves enough, we wouldn't sit on the couch for hours on end watching bad TV stuffing Oreo's down our throat (we've all been there). If we loved ourselves enough, we wouldn't go to the gym, staring at ourselves in the mirror, jaw clenched tightly, busting our ass to burn off another 100 calories off the binge fest we had the night before (we've all been there, too).
If we loved ourselves enough, we wouldn't beat ourselves up about the way we look, seeing only flaws and forgetting the gorgeous parts of who we are. If we loved ourselves enough, we wouldn't focus on our shortcomings but see our strengths instead.
When we love ourselves, when we can find true appreciation for who we are as beings, not bodies, it's easy to care for your own health!
When you love yourself, good decisions come naturally. We like to care for what we love. When we love who we are, our body is a vessel for love and we want it to be strong! We want it to be healthy, pain free. We want it to feel good.
If you don't love yourself enough to see the marvelous, beautiful creature that you are, it won't change if all you do is change your outside. Your mind will continue finding things that are not good enough about who you are. There will always be "the next thing" you need to change. To find true happiness, and a healthy body at that, you need to change your starting point.
Don't change your body thinking you will love it later. Love your body now, and healthy change will come.
Like I said, happiness comes from the joy you put in your life. Working in a field that fulfills you. Spending time with family. Taking care of your loved ones. Finding your true passion. Moving your body because it wants to move, not because you think it should lose a couple of pounds. Playing. Singing, dancing, painting, talking, doing whatever makes our heart sing!
All of these things, the things that put joy into our lives, never have a thing to do with what your body looks like or what those numbers on the scale happen to say today. Joy is only concerned with your heart. Your heart does not give a rat’s ass about what you weigh. Your heart only wants love. If all you focus on is the size of your jeans, you'll miss it.
Focus on doing things that bring you joy. Go where happiness is.
Every time you catch yourself with a destructive thought, come back to that joy. Take deep breaths and remember: life is not as serious as your mind makes it out to be. Do your best to see what your body can do for you, not what it looks like in the mirror. For Christ's sake, get rid of your scale! Measure your value only in love and know that it's always overflowing.