Like many women, my body size fluctuates. A lifelong emotional eater, I’ve been learning how to meet my needs without food. Sometimes I am more successful with this than others, which explains why my weight can fluctuate by a size.
For years, I was very, very critical of myself for this pattern, beating myself up and feeling terrible for my expanding girth. Of course, then I would feel confident, almost cocky, when I’d dropped the extra pounds. I was frustrated by my inconsistency – why couldn’t I just be a healthy size and stay there?
And then I had an insight. What if the problem isn’t my fluctuating weight but my resistance to it? What if I accepted it, understanding that my fluctuations are perfectly normal and appropriate, given my challenges with food? How would my life be different?
What I found was tremendous relief. I don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, to be sexy, or to love my body. I could accept that sometimes my body was at 65 or 75%, a C instead of an A or a B. I could accept my growth process without damaging my self-esteem.
When we hold too tightly to our expectations, we create a very narrow space where we can feel good about our bodies. So if we only feel good about ourselves when we’re at our “perfect” weight, then every time we’re not there, we feel angry (jealous of other women), disappointed in ourselves, frustrated or even hateful (self-loathing.) Not fun. If your ideal image of your body is so close to perfection that you are constantly striving to get there, never able to attain it (or hold onto it for long), you are guaranteeing that you will almost always feel as if you can’t measure up. The gap between your expectations (your dream of the perfect body) and your reality becomes a chronic source of pain and self-abuse.
Instead, try loosening your expectations. Lower them so that the gap narrows, shortening the distance between your ideal body and the one you have today. I am not saying that you have to give up your expectations altogether. You can honor your need to have a healthy, beautiful, fit body without venturing into either extreme (neglect on one end; perfectionism on the other.)
In my life, I relaxed my expectations by accepting my weight fluctuations. Instead of spending all my energy resisting my heavier body, or feeling frustrated that I weigh more than I’d like to, I spent my time loving and caring for my physical self. I even worked at appreciating my heavier body: How could I enjoy it now, as is, instead of looking towards some future time when I looked my “best?”
The irony, of course, is that as I stopped fighting myself, I gathered the courage to go deeper into my food issues and work towards greater healing. I felt empowered to make healthier choices, not out of some sense of disgust about my heavier body, but out of a deep, abiding love: I love you so much, I am going to take good care of you.