Last night I had the privilege of attending a lecture Making Peace with Your Body, The Transformational Power of Self-Love featuring yoga teacher and author Christina Sell. The event was put on by JMU University Health Center’s Student Wellness and Outreach as a part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Month in February.
Christina Sell has written two books, Yoga From the Inside Out: Making Peace with Your Body Through Yoga and My Body is a Temple: Yoga as a Path to Wholeness about her journey to self-love through her yoga practice. Last night she spoke about her childhood in a hypercritical household, being active in gymnastics, and her eventual turn to bingeing and purging, or bulimia, at the age of 16, of which she spent many years in treatment for. She mentioned that eating disorders are usually just a smoke screen of a bigger emotional issue beneath the surface. One must identify the true heart of the problem in order to work to change it.
She encouraged finding a deeper loving relationship within ourselves. I couldn’t catch who originally quoted this but it speaks volumes about how important appreciating our bodies is:
“You are the only one going all the way with you.”
Our lives are constantly changing. New friends. Family. Jobs. Environments. But we will be there the whole time. We need to love ourselves enough to make it though and enjoy the journey.
Her transition from bulimic teenager to renowned yoga teacher was not an instantaneous one but she mentioned her path along the way with time spent competing in triathlons and then competitive body building, submitting her body to rigorous diets and hard exercise. I couldn’t help but smile as it reminded me a bit of myself. These past few years I’ve competed in 7 triathlons and a number of running races and this year am enjoying weight lifting six days of the week and have cleaned up my diet, avoiding sugar and processed foods.
Are my efforts ultimately hurting my long-term health and body image?
I think this question is completely individualized yet encourages healthy conversation within ourselves. Do I think every triathlete and body builder has negative self-image and destructive behaviors? No. Definitely not. However, I do think there are times when my athletic endeavors negatively impact my physical body and self-image. I can be incredibly hard on myself, pushing myself to athletic goals and beauty standards. I don’t take enough time to appreciate what my body can do, how beautiful it is, and how hard it works.
I’m not going to give up triathlons, running, or weight lifting by any means. But, I want to be sure I am doing all these things for the right reason and avoid being hypercritical of myself. I want to focus on the following:
I will enjoy the journey of training and racing.
I will push myself to reach goals but only within a healthy limit.
I will listen to my body if its tired, needs a break, or a change.
I will love my body for all its hard work.
Already today I am making some strides. The past two days I have been feeling a bit more run-down than usual and have that swollen feeling in my throat and puffy feeling in my sinuses. Perhaps a cold or flu coming on? Instead of hitting up the gym and doing weights as I’d planned, I decided to take the day off and give my body a rest. Sure, it is not earth-shattering action, but it is a big step for me as you know I am a stickler for working out and training.
As I continue to reflect on making peace with my body, I encourage you to do the same as “you are the only one going all the way with yourself.”
So tell me one thing you love about yourself today?!
I have not faced an eating disorder but if you or anyone you know is, please seek help www.http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.