There’s nothing in this world that devours self-esteem quite as efficiently as a full body mirror and a set of fluorescent lights.  And yet, there I was in a Nordstrom’s dressing room, 7 months of post grad completed, grabbing my hips, my thighs, and my arms, attempting to squeeze a fresh layer of ‘life’ weight off every inch of my body.  Well, as you can probably imagine, my mission was ultimately unsuccessful, and what I hadn’t lost in mass I let out in a nostalgic dose of teenage angst over the course of a 3-hour phone call with a close friend from college.

What began as a moment of bodily despair slowly grew into a tireless cycle of self-loathing.  I would wake up each morning grabbing and pinching all over again.  Any surface that showed some semblance of a reflection served as a portable mirror, and the clothes I had once enjoyed sporting on campus transformed, seemingly overnight, into a demeaning army of Regina George arch nemeses.

In a recent poll, statistics showed that over 80% of women are unhappy with their bodies.  And for years, I have been one of them.

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Throughout college I definitely had my fair share of body image conundrums.  However, my diet and health were supported by an easily accessible exercise facility and what I now understand to be an extensive salad bar.  Not to mention the fact that my walking schedule consisted of far more than excusing myself from a cubicle for three strategically planned bathroom breaks throughout the workday.

So why is the pessimistic girl with a misunderstanding of proper weight-loss strategy writing an article about loving her body?

In a world where learning to ‘love yourself’ is as simple as a trip to Barnes & Noble and a payment of $19.99, there exists a fallacy that loving our bodies, as women, consists of some kind of pre-established recipe - that in attaining a set of base ingredients (diet, exercise, weight) we are then capable of obtaining this quintessential balance of self confidence and social acceptance. As an avid believer in cure-alls and quick fixes, I have continually found myself at odds with an ability to reach that weight or that size, far too often abruptly parting ways with crash diets and extreme sports, feeling defeated and unsuccessful.

After much contemplation I realized that a fresh perspective on the matter might do me some good. What I quickly discovered was that loving my body was perhaps one of the longest and unfortunately least loyal relationships I had ever endured in my short twenty-something life time.  Our relationship together has undergone its fair share of ebbs and flows, and like any other companionship requires consistent upkeep and attentiveness.  Just as relationships so often reflect life experience, my self-image is influenced by changes I experience at work, in my personal life, and in my relationships with others.  There are moments when I find myself madly in love with my body and others when I’d ‘rather not look.’  Nonetheless, every relationship, to a certain extent, is salvageable.  Seeing as though I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, I set out on a relationship quest of sorts, and along the way I found a few tricks that always seem to keep that flame burning:

1) Get tag savvy

No, not with cost, with fit.  Prior to rekindling said romance, tags were a major hindrance to getting just about anything done. I couldn’t get dressed in the morning because I hated the fact that I couldn’t fit into any of my go-to outfits (even the stash of loose fitting clothes I keep in the back of the closet).  I couldn’t buy new clothing because I was mortified that I had gone up not one, not two, but three dress sizes.  Coming to the conclusion that I would need to make the old clothes work or invest in a new wardrobe, I called my mother and she offered me a little trick that has saved me both time and sanity.  Go to the store of your choice, find whatever it may be —shirt, dress, pants etc,  - and pick up three sizes to take to the fitting room with you (one above the size you believe you are, one on point, and one below).  Try on from largest to smallest until you find a perfect fit (emphasis on the fit! Remember you’re not aiming for size).  Last but not least, purchase the item, take it home, and cut off the tag. Yes, release yourself of the tag shame and get going with your life…besides, don’t you have better things to do than compare Gap and Express size differences for 30 minutes each morning?

2) If Spanx make you feel good, WEAR THEM

As my size grew, so did my inability to accept that some battles just aren’t worth fighting. If you feel better in Spanx, just put them on!  I spent months thinking that a magical set of black spandex was a capitulation to my weight gain.  Truth be told, life’s too short. Accept the magic and release the self-doubt.  First, no one in your office knows you’re wearing spandex and second, if on the off chance a colleague was to approach you about wearing spandex, you’ve got far greater problems than perfect lines and flawless curves.

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Accept the big picture and love your body for the many journeys it has provided you and the many you have yet to discover.

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3) Take control of your shopping experience

Always keep in mind that shopping is a choice!  If you’re not in the mood, no one is begging you to stay and spend money.  Ultimately, shopping should be enjoyable, so cut corners ahead of time by anticipating any sure-fire mood killers.  After one or two discouraging attempts at pants shopping, I realized that the best way to maximize my shopping experience was to go after working out or after opting for a healthy lunch choice.  That and I've accepted I will never love the way a silk jumpsuit takes to my curves.  I stick to cuts I love and dresses that accentuate my body (at all sizes—gotta love that elastic waistline!), and make sure I'm in the right frame of mind before I embark on more “experimental” shopping.

4) Acknowledge the small wins

Simple but oh so true.  It’s all about acknowledging that while every day may not be perfect, there are definitely small gains here and there.  I’m not too fond of the Facebook waiting game (do they like me, do they like me not) so I opted for a Happy Body Journal instead.  At the end of each day, I write down something positive I’ve done to improve my health or a positive statement relating to my body: ‘I resisted the extra cookie!’ ‘I love my new A-line dress!’ ‘I took the stairs!’ You’ll feel like a cheeseball and pray that your co-workers never discover what’s actually inside of that little black book you take notes in all day. But isn’t that one of the perks of being in a relationship?  They don’t have to understand; in fact, there’s comfort in the fact that they don’t.

Not to state the obvious, but I don’t have all the answers.  I’m simply figuring it out as I go.  Like any partner in crime, from boyfriends to besties, relationships take work!  Ultimately once you get over the tough conversations and the pointless (but in the moment totally justified) tiffs, life’s pretty good on the other side. Accept the big picture and love your body for the many journeys it has provided you and the many you have yet to discover, because at the center of every solid relationship is a foundation of unconditional forgiveness, leeway to eat chocolate whenever you want, and hard-pressed acceptance. (So just eat the damn cookie, you probably deserve it!)

 

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