By Kat Wiranowski aka @trail_kat on Instagram
There are moments, even days when I crumble in a panic about the state of my body. I’m not going to lie, I’m deep in that panic as I write this and all I want to do is scream my frustration and loathing into the air in the hopes that the vibrations of my voice will carry this heavy burden from my hips and from my spirit. I feel the core of my being, that happy-go-lucky beam of light that just wants to laugh and play and have fun, being eroded by the caustic thoughts and feelings that I can’t seem to ignore.
My heart hurts. I am desperate to shed this burden of anxiety, self-loathing and fear that dampens my true spirit. I’ve been trying for what feels like my whole life only to find myself standing right where I started. But I still have to go out into the world with this gremlin on my back and act like I don’t want to jump out of my skin. Then I spiral… If the people around me like to be around me because I’m fun, then what will happen when I’m down – when I’m filled with self loathing? I will end up friendless and alone with only my demons by my side and literally die of a broken heart…. It would be hilarious if it didn’t feel so real. But the good news is that reality is an illusion. Maybe if I can flip the narrative, I can flip how I feel.
When I’m stressed about things that are overwhelming or feel out of my control, my go-to is to focus on something familiar that I can control – beating myself up. Humans have evolved to focus on the negative and it takes hard work to change our nature and the neural pathways in our brains. We have a finite amount of willpower, so when work or kids or relationships take up all of your bandwidth and you don’t have the energy to put towards redirecting those thoughts – which will happen – I’m offering some tactical tools that you can employ without that much brain power.
Poor body image is a plague and runs rampant even in people who seem to have no reason to feel this way – but those of us who suffer from it understand that it has nothing to do with what others think. We’ve been taught that no matter how great we are – and we are born great – that it’s never enough. Well, I don’t know how to rise above these feeling for good, but I do know how to grapple with them and below are some of the ways that I do this. It’s not a cure, but it might get you through the day so you can make progress in other areas of your life and focus on more positive things.
Live in denial
It sounds like a joke, but I mean it. Reality is an illusion that is created by the stories we tell ourselves. We create it. Here are some of the tactics I employ to keep my sanity level below orange and be an effective human on the daily.
I have not owned a full-length mirror for over a decade. The style mishaps are worth the reduction in time spent picking myself apart and decreased incidence of walking out into the world with my head hanging low.
Display acts of courage
You have those days where the clouds part and you feel pretty okay in your skin. Take advantage of them. I choose to wear my tighties to reinforce this feeling to send a message to my subconscious that says “I have the kind of body that I think one must have in order to wear these clothes”. Whether as an act of defiance or validation, it feels important. That being said, I have no idea if it works. Sometimes I just feel like people are looking at me in horror and disgust, so I’m not saying it won’t ever backfire.
Avoid triggering clothes!
Is there a pair of pants that used to fit a few months ago, but didn’t yesterday? Then why do you keep trying them on? Get rid of them. Quarantine them. It’s not worth it.
Is there a pair that technically fits but you hate yourself every time you wear them? Do you think you don’t have anything else so you just keep them in your rotation? Stop it! Go out and buy yourself a few pairs of dark, tight, stretchy jeans (I’ll never call them jeggings… nevarrrrr!!!) Make sure they’re ones that would be hard to tell if they fit looser or tighter and then wear them every day like a uniform. That’s what I did and while it may not do much for my already lacking fashion sense, it reduces the frequency with which I ruin my day and makes it faster to get out the door in the morning.
Put yourself in situations where you lose yourself
For me it’s trail running. Maybe for you it’s the same, maybe it’s swimming, crocheting, book clubbing or club clubbing. Just find something that makes you forget and do that… a LOT.
As someone who leans toward perfectionism, finding something that allows me to make micro-progress was really freeing. I’ve gotten out of the habit, but I feel the craving. Even doing it once a week made a big difference.
I tried my first float tank session this week and if you’re not familiar, I highly recommend looking into it. There’s so much more to it, but specifically in this context, you are floating in about 12″ of water with 600 lbs of epsom salt dissolved in it so you float effortlessly. You do this naked. There are no lights. The water is skin temperature, so there is nothing to make you feel fat. Nothing interacts with your skin to tell you it’s the wrong size or shape – you’re just floating in space, naked, and somehow it feels okay.
Be George Castanza
You can thank Nicole DeBoom – fearless leader of Skirt Sports for this one. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where George denied his instincts and did the opposite of every impulse he had? Do this with your thoughts. Play a game. Make it fun. Every time you have a negative thought about your body, say the complete opposite out loud. If you’ve ever tried to do this and take it seriously, you know how gross it feels to spout this untruth. But if you make it playful and funny, it becomes accessible and it just. might. work!
Maintain your body
Eat well, add in nutrient-dense foods, focus on nourishment over restriction. Exercise. It’s proven to be more effective than placebo for its antidepressant qualities. Do these things because they affect your mood, your thoughts, your stories. When I feel like a worthless piece of play-doh, I remember “you got 9th female at your first 50 miler”. Who cares that a delayed result made it tenth – the neural pathway has already been established!
Touch your body with love
Admittedly, this makes me want to puke sometimes. Somehow I’m comfortable angrily grabbing rolls of flesh, sending rage coursing through my veins, but a gentle stroke makes my skin crawl. I might recommend doing this when you’re leaning toward feeling good rather than when you’re at your worst for this reason. Touch your belly. Touch your thighs. Thank your body for always being there for you and for being the vehicle that allows you to live your life – you forget how valuable it is until it stops functioning.
Let’s talk about sex. I like it. I have it. But I don’t want to ruin it by spending the whole time preoccupied by being worried that the person who is already clearly physically attracted to me might be suddenly repulsed by what my contorted body might look like in any given moment. It helps to get it out there in order to get past it. So I say it – but only as a tool to get it off my mind – because let’s face it… mama’s gotta get her biscuits.
Remember how insignificant you are.
One trip to Moab and I felt this at the core of my being. It’s harder to keep top of mind when you’re not faced with rocks that are thousands of years old ascending thousands of feet into the sky, but you can remind yourself. Try googling images of the horse head nebula. Go to National Geographic’s website. We are specs of dust and the petty bullshit like work politics, your body fat percentage, what size your jeans are…. it doesn’t matter. Are you healthy? Can you move your body in a way that makes you feel alive and free? Then it doesn’t fucking matter. Find something bigger than you and remember that this illusion we’ve created is not real.
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