Perception and Body Image

I used to have a painting of an old beach house hanging in my bedroom. The focus of the painting was the front door with two large windows to the left and a surfboard leaning on the house to the right. I often gazed at this picture in the morning when drinking a cup of coffee. It made me feel peaceful, at ease.

One day, I took the picture down to pack it for our move to a new house.  I set it on the floor, leaning it against the wall, and stood back to have one last look before it got wrapped up. Something seemed different so I kneeled down to examine it and saw something I had never seen before… sitting on the windowsill inside the house was a statue of an angel. And it wasn’t miniscule, it was an integral part of the painting.

This startled me because in the five years of looking at this painting every day, I never noticed the angel painted in the window. In fact, when I purchased the print, I considered myself an atheist and wouldn’t have wanted a picture of an angel or anything resembling a religious theme in my house.

By the time I was taking the picture down to move, I had recovered my lost Christian faith. My first thought was that this was a divine event whereby the angel was watching over me all the time I was an unbeliever. And while this may be true in some respect, my perception of the painting was skewed because of my beliefs.  In my atheistic mindset, I didn’t perceive the angel.  And since I thought I knew what the picture was about, I never saw the angel until I looked at it from a different viewpoint.

We perceive ourselves and the world based on our mindset and beliefs. When I was in the throes of an eating disorder, I perceived my body as being bigger than it was. In the mirror, I saw a much larger me than reality.  If someone pointed out that my perception was inaccurate, I was convinced they were the ones with the skewed perspective, not me.

My perception of myself was not based on truth, it was based on a feeling. And that feeling came from a deep-seated belief that I was not good enough. It manifested itself in the thought that I had to be thin to be a good person, to be acceptable to society. I chose to see my chubbiness as the critical defect in my being.

Of course, all these beliefs came from somewhere, maybe some traumatic experience in my childhood or being teased because of my weight. But to me, it doesn’t really matter how I got the beliefs. What matters is how I changed them.

When I began this binge free journey, my expectation was that I would stop bingeing and overeating which would result in weight loss.  But the further I get into this journey, the more I appreciate my body for what it is.  Not struggling with food has given me a new awareness of what it means to be healthy. I don’t have to be “thin” to be healthy or good looking. It’s a relief to go through a day and not fret about my body size. That doesn’t mean I am as thin as I always wanted to be. It means I am more accepting of my body the way it is.  

One way I came to terms with my body was to make a list of all the awesome things it can do -like walking, showering, riding a bike, swimming, gardening, laughing, talking,…even breathing.  All these things may seem mundane, but they are all miracles of physics, chemistry and biology.  And we don’t have to understand any complicated science to walk down the street or jump in a pool.

Here are some things I do to help me accept my body.

-Look in the mirror -at every part of your body- with kindness not disdain.  Smile while doing this.  I didn’t feel like smiling at first, but after a while it was easy.

-Take pictures of yourself having fun with others (not just selfies). And when someone else takes a picture of  you ask them to send it to you.  I look at those pictures with kindness and appreciate that I am having fun. I don’t criticize my body or tell myself that I need to change anything.

-Don’t make jokes about your body size or belittle yourself.  Its easy to jokingly belittle yourself to be the funny one in a group or to bond with someone. But this doesn’t help your sense of respect for yourself or others. So when I find myself doing this, I don’t chastise myself, I just stop the negative talk and go on.

-Don’t judge others based on their body size.  Just because someone is thin, doesn’t mean they are healthier, happier or more important than a person who has a bigger body. And the converse is also true, just because a person has a bigger body doesn’t mean they are any less important, valuable, or happy.

 Remember –No matter your size, you are a valuable person.  Thin, fat, tall, short, whatever, it doesn’t matter.  If we base our value on our body size, we are missing out on the best part of life. Take a chance. Be honest.  See that the value you hold isn’t related to your size or what you look like. Your value is innate. When you look for this and are open to it, you will perceive it. And when you look at yourself with love and compassion, your life will change and then the real journey can begin.

If I can do this you can too!

Ready to start your binge free journey?  Start here. Bingefree first steps