Improving My Body Image By Living Without A Mirror Or A Scale

low-self-esteem.jpgI have a client right now who has an eating disorder.

After years of over-exercising and under-eating, she has extreme adrenal fatigue, and she’s now struggling with my assignments to eat more and exercise less. Don’t get me wrong: this girl is a determined bad-ass and so far she’s doing what I’ve suggested, but it’s hard for her.

She’s boxed herself into her body by her scale and the size of her clothes, and if either of those increases, her self-worth and happiness take a hit. However, she’s struggling with MAJOR fatigue right now, so she knows she needs to change. It’s a serious conundrum having to choose between your health and your “happiness”.

Corresponding with her is requiring me to think about my own body image issues.

It’s much easier to give advice when you’ve lived in someone’s shoes, and I’ve definitely felt a lot of the things she’s feeling right now, on her way up the scale: fearful, out of control, worried about what people would think if I gained weight, disappointment about “letting myself go”, and other irrational things.

I compare that to how I am now, which is much more accepting of my body as it is. I think as a result of being a part of an airbrushed society that has some seriously unrealistic expectations about women’s bodies, I’ll always have feelings of inadequacy. Let’s face it: compared with the photoshopped, anorexic models in Elle Magazine or even the Athleta catalogue, I AM inadequate. I could go into why that is, but why bother?

It’s too much of a pain in the ass for me to try to keep up with that anymore.

It’s too stressful weighing in every day and either being elated or destroyed upon seeing the number on the scale. It’s too uncomfortable NOT eating when I’m hungry. I hate being fatigued, and not eating enough is a recipe for being tired and grumpy. It’s just not worth it to torture myself to fit some fictional ideal.

Plus, living in the van now, I don’t have a scale, so I don’t even have the option of keeping tabs on myself like I used to.

No scale, and I only have a small hand-held mirror, so I have no idea what my body looks like or how much I weigh.

It’s a little disconcerting, but it’s mostly really freeing.

Gone are the days when I would scrutinize my ass on the way out of the bathroom, lamenting my lack of time to work out, or my overeating of tapioca crepes. Gone are the days when I’d step on the scale and wither a little inside.

But also, gone are the days when I’d look in the mirror and think, ‘Lookin’ GOOD today, Neely! Where’d those abs come from?!’

Which, really, is equally distracting to my ego.

Now, I look in the mirror only at my face and only on the days when I put on make-up, and that’s ONLY to make sure I don’t get eyeliner all over my cheeks (I was doing it without a mirror for a while – not a good idea). I judge my appearance by whether or not my husband tells me I look hot that day, and whether or not I can literally fit into my clothing.

Is this a good thing? A terrible thing? I think there’s a little of both in there.

On the one hand, I feel like right now my life is fuller and more exciting, so I don’t have as much time to think about my body. Nor do I care to as much, probably because I don’t have a constant reminder of what I look like in my “house”. On the other hand, I have some rock climbing goals this year, and I’d like to be lean, so I’m just hoping I don’t gain like 30 pounds and chalk it up to my clothes shrinking (I did that in college, so I wouldn’t put it past myself.)

Here’s the take home of all this. Just like I suggest for avid coffee drinkers… if you’re a tad bit overly attached to your scale and mirrors, maybe give yourself a break from them for a while. Give your scale to a friend for safe keeping, and cover up your big body-length mirror with a blanket for a week or two and see how you feel. You may be surprised to find that you feel a little freer.

I mean, you can pretty much tell yourself whatever you want to think about your body without the distraction of your mirror and scale. Like, for instance, “I look beautiful today.” :)