With the focus for Mental Health Awareness Week this year being Body Image it’s easy for the conversation to be about weight. I could easily write a blog on weight – how I have gained it and lost and repeated this pattern over most of my adult life. I have been everything from a size 10 to a size 18 and even at my lightest not been happy with the way I look.

What I have learned is that it isn’t about the weight. It’s about the feelings and emotions. How we think and feel about ourselves and what’s going on in our life is an indication of how we view ourselves and our body image.

Personally learning to like, love and think positively about myself and my body whilst experiencing the total nothingness and numbness of depression, anti-depressants and anxiety medication is one of the hardest things I have done in my life.

That may sound dramatic, but when you find you can only get through each day by sleeping away the hours to make it to the other side – devoid of any hope or desire, your thoughts not your own, you don’t see anyway out of that.

I think one the things nobody tells you about being on anti-depressants is the weight gain. Stepping on the scales in the doctors surgery and being informed by the doctor that I was obese, was another low moment, in a long succession of low moments. I didn’t really know who I was anymore. Where I belonged. I had to learn to like myself and start again, one step at a time.

Instead of this blog being about weight, what I will talk about instead is how I got from that place of nothingness to the place I am now. A work in progress – happy and healthy, every day is a learning day and anything is possible.

One of the most powerful things I have realised is how unkind I was to myself, how I thought, spoke and acted. That inner critic had nothing nice to say. How many of us look in the mirror and cannot see anything positive? We just notice the things we don’t like and obsess about them. We compare ourself to others and aspire to achieve some form of perfectionism. We believe this to be real because it’s what we have been told that positive body image is, a beautiful slim ideology on the front of a magazine, on our screens and on social media. We have learnt to only feel worthy of love when we have lost that ten pounds and waste time punishing ourselves when we don’t.

You know that saying: if you wouldn’t say it a friend, don’t say it to yourself? It is so true. You don’t look at your best friend and notice all their flaws and the bits you don’t like do you? Maybe you noticed them once, but don’t you love them anyway? You love and care for them and treat them kindly for all of the things you do like, for the way they make you feel and how they treat you!

That is the exact way you must learn to like, love and think about yourself – about your body about who you are. Let me ask you, you wouldn’t let anyone speak badly about your friend would you? You wouldn’t let anyone constantly berate them, talk about their weight, their skin, their hair, how they laugh or how shy they are. You also wouldn’t let your friend put themselves down, talk negatively and let them think they were worthless. So why do we do it to ourselves? Treat yourself with the same kindness and love you treat your best most precious friend. I promise you, there is nobody more precious than you.

I call it taking your power back. Treating yourself with kindness, compassion and love. Knowing what truly makes your heart sing – makes you feel good and do those things in abundance everyday.

Things that work for me:

• Exercise – notice what feels – just going for a walk with the dogs or a run in the fresh air, practising yoga

• Reading self-help and self-care books – especially Mel Wels “the Goddess revolution” – make peace with food, love your body and reclaim your life.

• Writing a journal, my ideas or notes to myself about how I am feeling but also my skills, strengths and little reminders. On a tough wobbly day reading something I wrote and thought about myself or an idea I had when I was feeling positive is a great reminder I do have good ideas and skills

• I think about how I will feel after I have done something, will it bring me all the feels – joy, happiness, fulfilment, pride

• Every day is a new day

• Not believe everything I think

Things I don’t do;

• Follow anyone that makes me feel rubbish on social media. On Instagram I stopped following the kardashians and women who appeared to have perfect lives and started following curvy women comfortable in their own skin, showing and celebrating real bodies. I also followed positivity pages, quotes, healthy lifestyle blogs.

• I don’t talk about my weight negatively to myself or anyone else

• I don’t talk about being good or bad or treating myself with food, I talk about making healthy choices

• I don’t weigh myself excessively

• Speak negatively about myself – I was always apologising, saying things like “that would only happen to me” and “I am so stupid”

Things I remind myself;

I exercise because I enjoy it, it makes me feel strong, healthy, happy and good about myself – not because I want to punish body or lose weight

I eat food that is delicious and satisfying whilst I am eating afterwards. Foods that will give me energy keep me sustained.

I repeat phrases to myself when I am having a wobble; I am bright and brilliant. I am capable and strong. I am worthy and I work hard.

I would love to hear from you, what works for you? Let’s support one another and build one another up.

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