Mary E. Pritchard Ph.D.

Diet is a 4-Letter Word

Learning to Love My Body—All of It

If I can do it, so can you.

Posted Aug 04, 2016

As many of you know, I struggled with my own eating disorder for over two decades, but have fortunately healed myself over the past few years. A Psychology Today reader recently reached out to me and asked me what some of my turning points were along the way: how did I realize I had a problem and how did I transform my body loathing into body love. I am going to touch on part of that journey today.

One of my biggest ‘aha’ moments came a few years ago when I signed up for a 2-week long ecourse on feeling sexy and sanguine in your body. Having just gotten divorced, admitted I had an eating disorder, and finally gotten out of a cast that I had been in for nearly 6 months, I wasn’t feeling sexy or even that good about my body at that point in my life. One of my legs was half the size of the other (thanks to not being able to bear weight on my left heel for 6 months), and I was feeling downright frumpy. I figured this little ecourse would be just what I needed to get out of my rut. When I signed up for the course, I knew we would be receiving daily prompts and lessons. We were warned to have a journal, pen, and a camera ready. For some reason, I envisioned answering journal prompts and taking pictures of things that inspired us. I was wrong.

On day 1 of the course I realized that we needed a camera so we could take pictures of ourselves. We were then supposed to post our selfies on social media to show the world how sexy we felt and how alive and in love with our bodies we were.  My response? Uh no. Not happening. So I ignored those daily emails, letting them pile up in my inbox. Until the last day of the course—Day 14.

I don’t know what it was about that particular day, but that’s when it hit me. By refusing to take pictures of myself, I was refusing me at my very core.

I’ve never been one for getting my picture taken. I’m certainly not a selfie girl. It’s not that I don’t like what I look like; it’s that I don’t think I’m very photogenic. So what I see in the mirror and what comes out on camera seem like two totally different things to me. I seem to always end up disappointed when I see pictures of myself. But this was the first time that I realized that this disappointment was a problem.

I knew that if I was going to preach body love, I actually had to practice it! What did I do? Three things. 1) I started that challenged—and I finished it. I didn’t enjoy taking pictures of myself and posting them on social media, but it got me focusing on the aspects of my body that I loved and I even started to love some of the parts I formerly loathed. 2) I started looking at myself in the mirror every day and saying,
“I love you.” I also started drawing a heart on the palm of my hand every day as a reminder of the journey I was undertaking and how far I had come. 3) I started a daily self-love practice. I wrote a vow and a pledge to myself that I would start practice more loving kindness when it came to my own body. I also wrote a love letter to my body (you can get that vow, pledge, and love letter I wrote to my body here). I began to recite these 3 things to myself while looking in the mirror every single day. Knowing that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 40 to cement it, I started with 30 days. But I ended up doing it for far longer than that. I didn’t even believe my own words at first. I certainly couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. But, over time, it got easier. What’s more: I began to believe it. That’s how I truly started to transform my relationship with myself and my body.  

If you are where I was several years ago—knowing you need to do something to improve your relationship with your body and yourself, wishing you felt sexy or at least “good enough,” I give you these words of advice: start where you are. Start doing something every day that makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin, more beautiful, more sexy, more [insert whatever you are trying to achieve]. Yes, it may be difficult at first, but it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Draw a heart on your hand or recite an affirmation (even if you don’t fully believe it) if that’s all you can do at first.  Then as you continue—and persistence is the key here—challenge yourself a little more. Write a love letter to your body. Take a pledge. Sign up for an e-course. Take active measures to heal your body dissatisfaction and I promise that over time, it will get easier. If I can transform my relationship with food, my body, and myself, if I can learn to feel sexy and sanguine, if I can learn to love my body and heal myself out of an eating disorder, you can too.