by Jan Shepherd
What are you afraid of? Chances are, it's what we're all afraid of: not being loved, not being accepted, not being pretty enough, or smart enough, or desirable enough - the list is too long to ever be Enough!
What's beautiful enough? Perfect enough? Dreamgirl enough?
Let me ask you this: Who are you comparing yourself with? A movie star? A top model? We see their perfect bodies - bodies to die for - and want to look like that. No one talks much about the hours of personal (and expensive) training that go into those bodies; or the diet pills; the enormous pressure to look perfect. We become painfully aware of the high price of wanting to be someone other than ourselves when someone like Britney Spears or Anna Nicole Smith break down and, in the sad case of Anna, die.
Yes - bodies to die for. Some of us have come close. I am a survivor. I have survived both sides of an eating disorder and lived to help myself and others live a healthy life.
I am a mother, a grandmother and someone who has had anorexic patterns as well as a binge eating disorder weighed over 340 pounds in her 40's. I got rid of 200 of those pounds and kept them off. How did I do it?
I decided to love and accept myself as I was. Sounds easy? Not so. First step was to believe that change was possible and that I was a valuable enough person to invest in - and, boy, that took a lot of work! I made myself look in a mirror every day and tell myself, "I love you" even when I didn't believe that at all.
I treated myself as you would treat someone you love (even a pet): with respect, with tenderness, with admiration. Tenderness was something I was used to giving to other people, but not to myself. I was surprised at how cruel my actions and self-talk were.
I began watching what I told myself and started being nicer to myself both in what I said to myself, and how I treated myself. I focused on health and loving -- not weight -- and I began walking, one step at a time.
I walked one block; then two, working up to one mile, and, finally three miles every day. While I built up my stamina, my body was changing.
I focused on health - including eating nourishing foods.
Given my hard-won knowledge, what do I want all our daughters to know?
1. Diets don't work. If I had focused on health rather than on diets, I could have avoided years of pain. It's an established fact that diets cause eating disorders, and disordered eating. It's been proven over and over again that the yo-yo-ing of deprivation only causes more ups-and-downs with our weight than a merry-go-round. I should know. Once I lost and gained 110 pounds in one year.
2. The hunger you're feeling is emotional. There is a black hole inside that you want to fill up. Don't stop reading when I tell you that the way to start is with your own self love and acceptance.
3. Accept and love those parts of you that feel lonely, sad, depressed and angry. Trust yourself. It's okay to feel afraid. We all do and we all feel vulnerable too. (Honest, even those perfect celebrities.) We all feel out of control and we all feel a sense of shame. You are not alone. Far from it!
4. The truth is, you can be ANYTHING you have a gift or flair for being. Do not mistake this for EVERYTHING. No one can be everything. When you try to be all things to all people that's how you lose yourself.
5. We are each different - like fingerprints or snowflakes. We cannot all have hourglass figures or perfect hair or flawless skin. In terms of percentages, very few women do.
6. I want you to know that perfection is an illusion. It exists only in the movies and in magazines and interviews. The very people who are telling the world, "Oh I'm so happy!" are the same people whose heartbreak and divorces and breakdowns we read about. Life is messy! Don't be afraid to make mistakes. That is how we learn and grow.
7. You will never feel truly beautiful on the outside until you start to feel beautiful on the inside. So do those things that make your inner beauty shine. Nourish yourself with good thoughts, good friends, nourishing self-care
8. Look in that mirror starting today. "I love you", say to it. It doesn't matter if you feel like a hypocrite. Say it anyway. Say it again tomorrow. The same day you nourish yourself with healthy food, ideas and friends.
9. Forget perfection. Forget comparisons. Watch "Ugly Betty" one of these Thursday nights. She isn't anybody's idea of a beauty. Except she's so confident and lovable, she's a gem.
10. Henry Ford once said "Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't--you are right." so keep your focus positive. Count your blessings, go be of service to someone less fortunate than yourself, come from your abundance and joy..It's amazing what happens when the emotional baggage we lose starts to melt away like unwanted pounds and unhealthy skin.
You are loved, dear daughter. I promise you this.