I remember when I started training to be a Beyond Chocolate facilitator (we were actually known as Chocolate Fairies!)) and the concept of Own Your Body was first presented to me by Sophie and Audrey Boss.
The other principles had burst upon me with all the clarity of a heavenly revelation – yes! I needed to Tune InTune In Tracker! Yes! I could Eat Whatever I Wanted! Yes! It would be much better for me to Put food on a Plate, Sit down with it and really Focus on eating! And so on, but, ‘Own My Body’?! Really? The whole focus of the previous 25 years of my life had been on avoiding the sight of my body, except for the few weeks when I reached my target weight on my latest diet and was therefore slim and acceptable to myself.
But as I thought back on those rare moments, I realised that I hadn’t been happy with my body even then. Standing nearly 6 feet tall, I was never petite and dinky like other women when they lost weight. I was still large, still occupying lots of space, still wearing big clothes, simply because there was so much of me. I have never, for example, been able to shop at Top Shop – not even when I was a skinny teenager. Even at my lowest weight, I had to buy large clothes, often to get the length I needed.
So, owning my body simply wasn’t possible. Was it?
I remember Sophie and Audrey asking us what we did to reconnect positively with our body and I stood up and showed how I did a wiggle in front of the mirror and said in a fake American accent, ‘Lookin’ goooood!’ This made everyone laugh a lot and embarrassed me enormously – but it is what I used to do. In fact, I still do, only now I am closer to believing it than I have ever been before. Although I was saying positive things to myself in the mirror, I didn’t really believe them – it was just preferable to what I had been doing, which was to look in the mirror and sigh with disappointment that I hadn’t magically deflated in the night to something sylph-like. Even at my most body-critical I had somehow realised that starting the day with misery and disappointment in the way my body looked was not helpful. And it isn’t helpful – no matter how much we hate our body, it isn’t going to magically change or disappear. Surely it has to be better to ‘Own’ what we have and work on transforming our relationship with our body?
The Beyond Chocolate principle, ‘Own Your Body’ has been my Nemesis, my Rubicon, my Final Frontier for all the years I have been working with The Psychology of Weight Loss.
I remember when I went on a Beyond Chocolate Body Image workshop and one of the exercises was to get a partner to draw around us on a long sheet of paper and then we had to label each part of ourselves with what we thought of that bit. And I actually struggled to be critical of many parts of my body – my boobs are the right sort of size for me, I like the length and shape of my legs, I have elegant hands and fingers and so on. Of course my stomach was (and still is!) a lost cause, but I was surprised by how much of my body I had come to ‘own’ and actually like in the years since I had first encountered Beyond Chocolate.
This gradual owing of my body has translated into positive action too – almost unnoticed by me. The changes have been slow and incremental, but they have happened. Catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror or window no longer causes me to rush past with a backward grimace of horror. I have been wearing clothes which I feel good in and walking proud. I no longer make excuses not to go out because I hate the way I look in all my clothes except my pyjamas – instead I choose something I feel comfortable and confident in and I go out and forget about how I look and just have a great time instead. People don’t scream in horror and point in disgust when I pass them; they never did and it’s time I really accepted that and stopped limiting myself.
I have noticed that I am no longer covering myself up in extra layers in an attempt to disguise myself. I used to always wear a jacket or a coat or a gilet or something loose over whatever else I was wearing, so that my shape was obscured. I no longer do that unless the weather dictates those items are needed.
So, I believe that I have, finally earned the rosette with the words, ‘Checked yourself out in the mirror and thought, ‘Daaamn!”
Own Your Body can be a difficult Principle to engage with – after all, as women we are told that our bodies aren’t acceptable in their current format and that we need to diminish and shrink them in order to be as small as possible in order to be acceptable. We are bombarded with dieting advice and articles telling us that we have to look a certain way before we can go to the beach, for example. It may seem like an impossible task but learning how to accept what we have right now and being proud of what our body can do for us, is a great step forward towards learning how to ‘Own Our Body’.