Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Body image starts in your head (Or: Getting over a fat day)

I'm off to Cape Town tomorrow.

Poor, poor me.
[Image source:]
This has made my life quite hectic recently: finalising work in the hospital, choosing wine farms to tour in Stellenbosch, planning beach outfits - I know, hellish days in Africa. And all this hustle and bustle has been interspersed with brief periods of absolute panic. Panic, dear reader, brought about by the sight of my thighs when exposed to raw sunlight. Over the last few weeks I have been feeling like a puffer fish under permanent attack, and its not going to do my mood, or my vacation, any favours.

A little puffer fish that won't deflate.
[Image source:]
Let's be honest. Fat days happen. I don't like the word "fat", but to be frank, some days you wake up and there, in the mirror, is Meat Loaf. With your eyes. It's alarming to say the least.

The facial expression is just about right too.
[Image source:]

Now, of course it's in your head. You know this already, I don't need to tell you that it is physically impossible to go up a dress size overnight. So you throw on your breeziest kaftan, tell yourself firmly that you're imagining things, and roll waft out the door to start your day.

The problem with it being "in your head" is that... it's in your head. And sugar, there ain't no escaping that head of yours. The way I see it, at this stage, you have three options: (1). Gently remove your head and leave it on your nightstand at home, (2). Drag yourself around like Eeyore, trying to avoid reflective surfaces,or (3). Sort your head out.

Poor Eeyore. All his problems are in his head.
[Image source:]

I don't know about you, but I'm all for option 3. I still haven't quite figured this one out, but here are some ideas from literature, personal experience, and stories from others.

1. Get naked.

This may seem counterintuitive on a day when all you want to do is wrap your burgeoning form in a tent. But many beg to differ. Not only are there hundreds of websites and personal accounts of how spending more time nude helped their body image, but there is also a small body of research showing that people who get naked more often tend have better body acceptance. Just think about shows like "How to Look Good Naked", where a huge part of the healing process is posing for a naked photo shoot.

Become friends with your body.
[Image source: Victoria Janashvilli/]
You can't be friends with someone you never spend time with. You can't accept something you don't know. How are you going to love your body when you keep running away from it? Simply getting naked and giving your body some mirror time to become familiar can make a huge difference to how you feel about it.

2.  Get pretty:

Put on your favourite shoes. Take out your best jewellery. Use that body cream that you only save for special occasions. Get a manicure. Now is the time to feel special, beautiful, and expensive. Accentuate your assets. You are more than your thigh circumference.

The right shoes can change everything.
[Image source:]

  3. Get meditating:

Now I'm no expert on  meditation. To be honest, the minute I close my eyes and try to channel inner peace, my tummy grumbles and I start to wonder what I did with my car keys. But the two times (yes, I confess, I've only got it right twice) I managed to clear my mind for about five minutes, it was pretty great. It shuts off the stream of negativity in your mind, relaxes your muscles, and yes, as clich├ęd as it sounds, fills you with a feeling of peace.

Unreasonably green lawn: optional.
[Image source:]
Due to my lack of expertise on this topic, I'm going to leave to you to figure out what works for you. I use Martha Beck's "body whisperer meditation", which I talk about here, from her book The 4-Day Win. There are some amazing meditations out there, just ask Google.

4. Get distracted:

We all have that one activity that makes time disappear. Maybe you take out your scrapbooking in the afternoon, and whoosh! You look up and its midnight. Maybe you start to potter around your garden and bam! Where did four hours go? I'm not talking activities like watching DVDs or browsing the internet. It needs to be an activity at the end of which you can look back and be proud of something you accomplished. Cooking, painting, going for a walk in nature. Find what it is that makes you forget the world around you.

Accomplish something.
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 5. Get moving:

A cocktail of home-made endorphins may be just what you need to perk up about your body. Add that to the feeling of pride and accomplishment you normally get after exercise, and you're golden.

Be a happier blur.
[Image source:]
It is by no means an exhaustive list, and it is possible that none of the ideas will work for you. Let me know if there's an amazing tactic I've never tried.

See you in 2 weeks!

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