Two years ago, my besties and I planned an epic girls’ adventure in Brazil. The itinerary was perfection: eight days of relaxation and recklessness (the best combo!) in Rio and Salvador de Bahia. But instead of perfecting my Samba moves, researching the best Caipirinhas on Instagram, or practicing my Portuguese, my mind fixated on how I’d look in my bikini on Copacabana Beach.
The feelings had taken root in a Manhattan boutique. Swimsuits surrounding me, I glared at my reflection in the mirror of the changing room. Self-defeating statements swirled through my mind: My stomach was bloated. My thighs were too wide. I didn’t have enough definition in my biceps. I dug my fingers into my hips, pinching my love handles and wrinkling my nose in disgust.
When I left the boutique, I had a plan: I banned carbs and ran five miles every single day for the next fourteen days. By the time I boarded the plane to Rio, I had lost seven pounds and you could grate cheese on my collarbone. I was also physically and mentally drained. And, oh yeah, I still didn’t like the way I looked.
I know. This is madness. What is it with the relationship so many of us have with our bodies? We’re pressured by mass media, and then we pile on self-critique to the point of abuse. If the lack of thigh gap isn’t getting us down, we’re obsessing over the size of our posterior or the cinch of our waist. Minimizing ourselves has become a mantra; comparing ourselves to unrealistic body ideals a way of life.
Awareness helps, but it’s not a cure. After all, I think we can all agree that the concept of being “bikini ready” for a trip, or anything else, is just silly. But knowing that doesn’t change the way we feel when we’re confronted with a mirror and two tiny pieces of fabric. While I’d like to say I’ve realized the error of my ways since the Brazilian trip, I still struggle with body image on a semi-regular basis.
I worked myself sick for this body—and no, this picture wasn’t worth it.
I’ve also realized that loving your body is a process. Here are the steps I’m taking to get there:
I’m healing my heart
I’ve gone batty over the cellulite on the back of my thighs while barely paying attention to the healthiness of the heart beating blood to the area of my body I’m fixating on. How we nurture the internal matters. For me, that means eating more whole foods and drinking more water to help my body glow from the inside out.
I’m loving the textures of me
Instead of obsessing over my body’s size and shape, I’m focusing on the texture. This gal has been investing on expensive creams and luxurious bubble baths—the emollients make my skin supple and oh-so-touchable. Yep, I’m treasuring my shell and appreciating all its dimples!
I’m hanging out in my undies
Easier said than done, sure, but proclaiming it is the first step to owning it. How, you may ask? Here’s what I’ve been doing: Whenever I’m home, I’m hanging out in underwear only. Being able to actually see the lines and curves of my body—instead of covering them up—has helped me understand, accept, and love them.
Yep, the road to loving yourself is a rocky one. But it’s so worth the journey.