What nobody talks about: self love and body image
Listen in as Abbie shares her struggles with self love, body image and her fight through cancer. She explains how working with Amy, one of our Well-Being Specialists, helped her battle these tough times and find compassion within herself in her inspiring story back to health. You won't want to miss this one!
Can't watch or listen? Read her story here:
Having been overweight all my life, I have tried so many different diet plans and exercise plans. I have lost and re-gained hundreds of pounds and always gained the weight back, usually ending up heavier than when I started. Throughout my life I felt like I wasn’t good enough, that my body wasn’t good enough; I have spent my life time hating my body and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Dieting was punishment for being bad and not having self-control, exercise was punishment for being overweight and not being attractive.
After leaving a relationship, I joined the DAHLC to focus on living my life and be true to myself. I realized I had been putting myself last for far too long and now was the best time to start living and taking care of me. I signed up for a free class at the DAHLC called Achieve Results, and I started working out on my own and with a woman from the class. I found myself tracking all of my food intake by the gram (wouldn’t want to eat too many vegetables) and tracked all my exercise minutes; if I was hungry I checked MyFitnessPal to see if I was allowed to eat. I realized that I wasn’t in a good place mentally or emotionally and reached out to a Well-Being Specialist to see if Wellness Coaching might be able to help me learn to hate myself less.
During my first package of Wellness Coaching I worked with my coach to find ways to hate my body less. I was at such a low point I couldn’t even say that I wanted to feel better about my body. As a librarian and a reader, I have read a lot of self-help books over the years and tried all sorts of programs. For years I have been writing down positive affirmations and trying to change my frame of mind but it never worked. Amy, my wellness coach, realized that while I needed to flip the switch I couldn’t “lie” to myself, so she asked me what was the least negative thing I could say. I decided that instead of thinking “I hate my body” that I could repeat to myself “I really dislike my body”. I didn’t think anything would come of this but somehow by the end of the week I was thinking “I dislike my body”. You might not think that is impressive, but I was shifting over 30 years of negative thinking. Eventually I got to a state where my thinking about my body was neutral and looking in the mirror didn’t hurt any more. I stayed there for months before trying to step it up and venture into positive thinking. Amy and I worked on a number of strategies to get me to reframe my experiences and thinking, and at the end of 12 weeks I felt like a new person.
A month after finishing Wellness Coaching I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, and it really tested my new found sense of peace. Having never had good body image I was afraid what losing my hair and what having a unilateral mastectomy was going to do to my very fragile body image (I didn’t think it was going to improve it). I was also exhausted trying to work full time and go to chemo and take care of myself. While I had seen great improvement in how I felt about my body, I still was suffering from all or nothing thinking. I realized that that type of thinking wasn’t going to serve me if I was going to get through cancer. I reached out to Amy to see if she thought she might be able to help me battle my all or nothing thinking.
Amy helped me to figure out how to set goals that didn’t allow for all or nothing thinking. We figured out the all and the nothing and then set reasonable small, medium, and large goals. My goal was to do the medium every week. And she taught me the art of “grey living”, if you only have the energy to vacuum 1 room, vacuum 1 room and do the rest another day. I kept up with my less negative, almost positive affirmations and celebrated my successes at grey living in my journal. As we finished up this round of Wellness Coaching I had my mastectomy and had a month to recuperate before I began radiation. While recuperating, I decided I need to change my mind about clothing and went shopping for my new body. I only bought things that made me feel good. No longer am I allowed to buy clothes just because “they fit” or because they “make do”. If I don’t feel great in an article of clothing I am not buying it!
After radiation I reached out to Amy again. My body had taken a beating and I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Throughout treatment my only exercise had been walking and with the passing of my dog I wasn’t even doing that. Amy helped me to come up with a variety of ideas to increase my physical activity and create goals centered around meeting new people and trying new things in an effort to get me out living life, we worked on seeing the possibilities. After not being willing to go back to strength training for fear of hurting myself and being self-conscious about my mastectomy, I signed up for a small group training. With the support of other women in the group and our coach, I found myself enjoying the gym again.
I also got a puppy, puppies definitely up your physical activity 🙂
Because of cancer (and the unwavering support of the DAHLC- everyone from the front desk team to coaches and other members) I am finally able to stop punishing myself. Because of cancer I allowed myself to honor my body and exercise because it felt good, to eat when I was hungry and to eat what I truly wanted (and not just because it was what I was supposed to eat). Because of cancer I have compassion for my body—it’s been through the ringer between chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries.
The services at the DAHLC have supported me on this wellness journey and have allowed me to live life. For the first time in my life my weight has been stable, higher than I like - but stable. Not only am I alive, but for the first time in my life I am able to enjoy my life and body (double mastectomy scars and all). Going forward I see endless possibilities.
Tags: achieve results, Amy, group training, Member Success, member success stories, Member Success Story, member success story, Program, Small Group Training, Staff, Staff, Uncategorized, well-being, wellness coaching