Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, But It Does Make It Easier
Hey friends, I am back today with Part 3 in the Body Image Series. If you haven’t yet read Part One and Part Two then you should definitely pause and go do that. Today is going to focus on the real changes I am making as I put into practice all of the shifts I’ve experienced with my body and body image. People often say that practice makes perfect, but that’s just not entirely true. Especially when it comes to body image struggles. But I can tell you that practice makes it easier to love my body, choose my body, and create habits that prioritize my best self (but it is definitely not perfect).
So what does it look like to actively choose myself, body and all, everyday?
Practically speaking it looks like:
–Eating three actual meals everyday– not kids leftovers or scraps, not a granola bar and calling it good, but three actual meals. I was always convinced I didn’t have time to make myself lunch so I would just grab whatever felt easy. And then I wondered why I was crashing at 2:00. Well, I hadn’t fueled my body and therefore couldn’t make it through the afternoon. That used to lead to me being incredibly frustrated with myself and my body. It felt like my body was keeping me from getting shit done because I was so tired. Turns out I was just really hungry.
-Moving my body everyday– I have been loving the Job1 workout series from BeachBody. They’re 20 minute workouts. Right now I am enjoying them and loving how they make me feel. As soon as that changes I’ll try a different type of movement. But I know keeping it to 30 minutes or less greatly increases the likelihood that I’ll be consistent with it. On days I don’t do a workout because I believe rest days are incredibly important, I’m still trying to go for a walk, dance with my kids, deep clean the house, etc. Just something that will help me get up and move. If there are days when I don’t feel well then I’m also giving myself the opportunity to opt out and rest. This is a huge shift for me because there have definitely been times in my life I was convinced taking a day off canceled out all of the other days I did choose to work out that week. It has always been an all or nothing approach for me, until recently.
-Soaking up some sunshine- I have started prioritizing getting outside everyday. On really busy days this may just be when I walk the kids to and from school. If that’s the case I try to make sure to keep my phone in my pocket and allow myself to feel the sunshine, hear the birds, etc. Some days it is sitting on the back patio to respond to emails or write a post. Other days this looks like taking the dog for a walk when I need an afternoon brain break. Turns out sunshine really is good for the soul.
-Drinking enough water– I am now that mom who totes around my 40oz Stanley cup everywhere. But I learned I drink water better when it is through a straw and this is one of the few ways I can get enough. Oddly enough, when I’m focusing on getting enough water I’m less likely to drink sugary drinks or snack when I’m not actually hungry.
-Getting enough sleep– I am in my bed around 9pm every single night because I get up early and I don’t want to feel like I need a midday nap. 9pm is my sweet spot. Dan knows that too. I used to feel so guilty going to bed before him but we both know this is what I need to feel my best.
I also want to tag on here- rest in general. I used to be all about the nap time hustle. It felt like the only time in my day that I could consistently rely on to get stuff done. There would be days Dan got home from work and I would realize I had not sat down a single time all day. About a year ago I shifted to making myself “rest” during the hour my kids had quiet time. I could read or write or nap or whatever but I wasn’t bouncing from task to task. I even set a reminder on my phone to go off at 1:00 everyday to remind me that quality rest wasn’t lazy and it wasn’t giving up. It shifted everything and made me so much calmer going through the second half of my day. Now that my kids are in school and we don’t have a nap time everyday I’m trying to find ways to continue building in rest.
You guys, that list is so annoying. When I was in the thick of my body struggles, if you would’ve asked me what I needed to do to feel better about myself I would’ve recited this list to you, “eat better, exercise, drink water, sleep…” and those were the exact things I wasn’t doing and didn’t feel capable of doing. When you’re in those dark places and being crushed by the weight of your struggle it feels impossible to choose a healthy meal. The thought of exercising would literally bring me to tears. I knew what I “needed to do” but it felt so far out of reach. Then the guilt would come into play because I did know what I needed but I wasn’t doing it. I spent so much time thinking something was wrong with me because I could not choose what I knew I needed. Who does that?! Why?!
What changed? I did. When I felt the worst about my body I did not believe I was worthy of the time or energy it would take to make better choices.
Is making a meal hard? Not actually, but it does take some time and effort. Is drinking water hard? Well, no, but you have to actively pay attention to it. Is getting outside hard? Also, no, but if you are convinced you’re too busy, too stressed, too tired, too anything then it kinda is. I was so twisted up about my body and drowning in so much negative self-talk that I did not think I deserved the effort it took to cook a healthy meal. I hated my body so much that I didn’t want to move it. I didn’t want to see myself in leggings or feel my body jiggle as I moved. So I stopped moving it. (This got extra complicated with my hip injury, surgery, and recovery but that’s for another time.) I was so consumed in self pity that I avoided the sunshine because there were times it was easier to keep on feeling like junk. My sleep was inconsistent. Not only could I not fall asleep but I couldn’t stay asleep. I would wake up feeling like junk just to do it all again. But when you hate your body and don’t think it deserves anything good and you grow accustomed to feeling like crap, it is really easy to convince yourself this is just how it’s going to be.
I would have streaks where I would be really good about eating “well,” exercising daily, etc. but the focus was always on my body and how I wanted to change it. I was eating better to lose weight or shrink, I was only exercising to tone areas I was self conscious about. I also habitually approached it with perfection in mind. I was eating 100% clean and I was working out everyday at 5am. Then when I would inevitably eat a sweet or miss a workout I would dive head first off that course and the cycle would start all over again. It was never about what I needed or how I felt. There was never any room for grace, or understanding, or life. And it for sure wasn’t out of respect for myself or my body.
Last Winter and early Spring my health took a hit. I was having a lot of stomach issues, migraines were happening more often and more intensely, sleep was hard to come by, etc. I felt terrible all the time. I got in to see my doctor but everything looked good on paper. My labs were great. I was healthy. Except I wasn’t and I knew it.
I remember looking in the mirror one day a few weeks later and just feeling something inside me crack wide open. I said out loud to myself, “I cannot feel like this anymore.” I was done. I reached back out to my doctor and we came up with a plan. That plan looked like: healthy foods, enough water, quality rest, sunshine, and easy movement.
I needed to get myself on board, and I needed accountability to take steps towards prioritizing myself. But now that I have, I cannot imagine going back. Once you figure out just how terrible you feel and how much better you could be feeling it is hard to sign yourself up for that. That doesn’t mean I’m not eating ice cream. It doesn’t mean I never stay up too late doom scrolling. But I’ve finally accepted that me and my body are in fact worth taking care of. And when I do I can take such better care of those around me. I have the energy and attention to be present with them which is a gift to all of us.
There are so many other little things that I’ve noticed have shifted too and I wanted to get into all of them today also but I’m quickly running out of the time and space on this post. We might need a bonus Part Four to get into how prioritizing the basics and actually caring for myself has shifted so much in my house: how I talk to my kids about food and what our bodies need, how our family views and prioritizes rest, how and when I try on clothes, etc.
For now I’ll end with this…there’s a good chance you know exactly what you need to feel better about yourself and your body. There’s a good chance you’ve known it for a very long time. If you’re not choosing those things it might be because you aren’t in a place where you’re ready to choose you. Start there. Sit with that feeling. Where is the disconnect that needs to be bridged so that choosing yourself does feel like an option? Then work on taking tiny steps and small actions to prove to yourself that you deserve these things. And know that if you’re not there yet, it’s ok. Don’t pick up that guilt right now. There are plenty of other things more worth your time and energy and attention. You’ll get there…as soon as you get out of your own way. And remember, we aren’t going for perfection. We’re just practicing.
With so much love and gratitude,
(As I share more and more of my day to day on Instagram this conversation seems to keep popping up! Join me over there so we can work through all of this together!)