The road to body acceptance doesn’t really have a destination. In fact, it’s, arguably, never-ending. I know because not only do I help my clients on that journey every day, I’m on that journey myself. And sometimes life has a way of reminding you of what’s important when you least expect it. Let me explain…
I’ve wanted to share, but it felt too scary. Like saying it all out loud would be too much “reality,” or make things too real. However, recently I was listening to Glennon Doyle’s Podcast, We Can Do Hard Things, and she was talking about her recent diagnosis of anorexia. She spoke about how we are expected to share things after we have learned the lesson or overcome the challenge, but we are not always open to sharing the “messy middle.”
And that resonated with me. I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I didn’t challenge those fears and share with you candidly. I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t share my messy middle.
It might not seem like a big deal, but for some reason, I have been holding these diagnoses close to my heart for a while now. And the truth is, keeping them to myself has only been a disservice to you…and to me. Because above all, I have always prioritized honestly and openly sharing my story. And I share my story because it creates more space for all of us to share our stories, feel less alone, and be more empowered in our journeys.
Before I dive in, this blog post is exclusively my experience. In no way, shape, or form am I suggesting this is a universal experience. I am not a medical expert and am sharing this post as a personal anecdote. If you need support with body image and intuitive eating, I am well qualified to help and would love to; however, if you need support in a more medical or psychological capacity, I am happy to put you in touch with any professionals and resources that I have access to.
As you know (or maybe you don’t), my path to becoming a coach and an Intuitive Eating counselor began from my own healing journey. What started as a way of healing my relationship with food and my body became a passion and a mission.
I often tell my clients that everyone has a different way “in.” Some people start with body image, which leads them to heal their relationship with food. While other people heal their relationship with food, which leads them to address their relationship with their bodies. Or still, some people find their way through a mix of both. For me, I started with my relationship with food. I put in a lot of time with an Intuitive Eating Counselor, my therapist, and a lot of inner work and healing. But I eventually crossed a threshold and felt confident and comfortable in my relationship with food. And my relationship with my body became a natural extension of that.
As I began to focus more on my relationship with my body, I realized that a part of my journey would be getting to know myself. I don’t know if I ever liked my body enough to pay attention to it and care for it, so that’s where I started.
One of the first things I decided was that I wanted to try something different after being on the pill for birth control from a very young age. I felt as though I had never gotten to know my body it’s “natural” state. I had never known what it felt like to experience my cycle as an adult woman. I wanted to get to know my body at what felt like a base level to me.
Another side note here: I am fortunate to have always had access to birth control and the privilege to choose which birth control I wanted to be on.
I went from being on the pill to being on a non-hormonal IUD. Now for many, many reasons, I love being on an IUD. The transition was not easy, but I felt connected to my body once I adjusted. I loved tracking and learning my cycle. I felt like I finally began to understand what my body needs, when it needs it, and how to support it in a more tuned-in way.
But something else started to happen. I started noticing new symptoms that didn’t necessarily make sense to me.
Here’s where I think it’s essential that I tell you all this: One of the main things I began to experience was weight gain. Gaining weight is normal. Bodies changing is normal. But so often, those things are looked at as failures. The truth is gaining weight is not a bad thing. Sometimes it can be the key to reconnecting with your body.
I cannot express the relief I had (and still have) that I was well into my journey of Intuitive Eating and healing my body image. Because I never judged my body for the weight it was gaining. I never felt like I was wrong. I never questioned that my body was going through something, and I always chose to listen without judgment. Weight gain wasn’t a bad thing. It was my body communicating with me. I knew something was changing, and I didn’t guilt myself, blame myself, or feel unworthy because of it. I just knew that my body was telling me something, so I must listen.
If I had been on this journey five years ago, my reaction would not have been the same. I would have been horrified. I would have restricted and controlled. I would have manipulated my body. I would have punished it and punished myself. I would have thought I was wrong, which would’ve been incredibly painful. But I am fortunate. In those critical moments after learning about these diagnoses, I didn’t judge my body and was past the point of caring if other people thought it.
So without getting into the minute details, after several different doctor visits, appointments, and tests, I was diagnosed with PCOS and Hypothyroidism. All those years on hormonal birth control had masked most of the symptoms I was experiencing now that I was on non-hormonal birth control.
Although my body has changed significantly, I still exist in a straight-sized body. Meaning I still hold body privilege in our society. So, while I did have doctor’s appointments that were incredibly triggering, harmful, and unhelpful, I also had doctors and care providers who helped me, heard what I was going through, and who were able to give me the care that I needed. A part of what I attribute that to is this amazing community I am a part of. As a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and a member of the Association for Size Diversity and Health, I leaned heavily on the community and resources I have access to in order to find care providers that were aligned and interested in helping me beyond weight and appearance.
These two diagnoses of PCOS and hypothyroidism were filled with mixed emotions. It felt like a relief to finally have some answers that made sense regarding what was going on in my body. But it was scary, too. I knew almost nothing about these two conditions, and what I didn’t know terrified me.
I wasn’t sure what this new reality meant for me or my body. So, I did what I do best: I learned. First on my own and then with the help of trusted professionals. And I begin to understand my body better and what I need to do to support it.
I learned that there is no normal. All of our bodies are different. Each of us functions differently, needs different things, and operates differently. My body is not wrong for having PCOS and Hypothyroidism. It just is a part of my makeup as a human being. So, instead of punishing myself or trying to change my body, I decided to work with it. To figure out what I could do to support it better, care for it, and ultimately help it to thrive. Thus, allowing me to thrive too.
And that didn’t make it easy. There’s still a lot about this journey that is unknown and scary to me. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women, and I hope to have kids. But I’m grateful to know these things about my body now and to be learning how to support it so when that day comes, I will be doing all that I can, and I will find people who can help me continue to learn and better support my body each step of the way.
Everyone’s journey is different because everyone is different. There is nothing wrong with having differences. Those differences make us human, and it’s better to care for yourself than to punish yourself for being human….because we can’t be anything else!
Yes, I feel like a walking pharmacy sometimes with all the supplements, vitamins, and medications I’m on for both PCOS and Hypothyroidism. But I also feel so empowered by what I know about my body and how that helps me better care for myself and thus be a better coach. Because how could I help people get to know, understand, and make peace with their bodies, if I wasn’t doing the same for my own?
Our bodies are ever-changing, and like I tell my clients, I will always learn and grow with my body. So, I apologize for not sharing with you openly, in real-time. I’m glad to be sharing now.
Above all, let this be a reminder to you as it was to me. You are not wrong, your body is not wrong, and the best thing you can do for yourself isn’t dieting, or losing weight, or going to extremes to change your “lifestyle.” The best thing you can do for yourself is to listen to your body, honor what it needs without judgment or criticism, and find ways to support and care for it.
If you need support or have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My metaphorical door is always open. Grab a coffee or tea, and let’s chat!