Forty days is a long time (or 46 days if we count the Sundays). Can't believe we're only half way through Lent. I'm wondering how all those people who've given up something for Lent - like chocolate for example - are getting along. I guess I think I'm doing pretty well with my Lent challenge of abstaining from negative thoughts about my body and appearance. I think the one that might need a bit more work is giving up the negative thoughts about my daily 'achievements'. But what's been so amazing about this Lent experiment and this blog has been discovering the array of women and men who are engaged, in whatever way, in this whole body image debate and in a campaign for more self-love and self-acceptance. I've linked to many of them in the past 20 days and there are so many more to mention.
Today I came across this piece on CNN Living: "Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect". It was posted late last year, I think, but I found it moving to read - it touched a nerve, I guess. I stumbled on it thanks to a lovely South African friend of mine, Heather Costaras, who founded the Beautiful Life Project. There are so many things to say about Heather and her amazing work that I'll have to come back to her in another post but do check out the link. I really can't do Heather and her work justice with the limited time I have today!
In the meantime, here's another great initiative: the Stop Self Hate Paper - an online collection of articles, blog posts (including this one - thank you for featuring it!), self-help tips etc - created just a few weeks ago by Kendra Sebelius, an eating disorder and body image awareness advocate. Kendra explains in this video why she started the stop self hate movement on Twitter (#StopSelfHate or @StopSelfHate). Kendra also runs Voice in Recovery, which advocates awareness about eating disorders, body image struggles, mental health issues, substance abuse and self-harm. For all the latest research, tips, articles on these topics, check out the website or follow ViR on Twitter @VoiceinRecovery.
So, I've been pondering yesterday's post about the work of Stephanie Heart and that great little prop Stephanie uses: the red rectangle marked on a glass pane with bust, waist and hip measurements and the words "One size does not fit all." In the interests of honesty and full disclosure, I felt the need to say that I'm definitely at the smaller end of the UK dress size scale these days. But I haven't always been. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I used to be larger, and only initially managed to lose the weight through an unhealthy cocktail of over-exercising, diet pills, under-eating and various other behaviours. Today, I just about maintain my shape and size through moderate eating (most of the time - I admit I don't always get it right and can slip back into old behaviours) and moderate exercise. But as I've also endeavoured to point out in this blog, for me the body was never really the problem - it was and is my mind. It never mattered how large or small I was. It was the idea that my appearance, shape or size was never ever good enough that kept me trapped in my own head. So that's what this Lent challenge is about - accepting that my body and I are good enough. I should also add that I have nothing against women who are naturally the size of your average model. It would be very unfair to hold their natural slimness against them - although I'm sure I've done it in the past!
So I've just been for a swim - the third one this week, which is pretty good for me. I've needed it. I've been doing some pretty intense desk work and if I don't have variety and some form of exercise in my day - even if it's just a walk around the park - I go a bit nuts. Exercise is good for my mind, body and soul and there's something very freeing about swimming. I'm fortunate to me a member of a nice gym where someone very clever designed the pool and spa area. At the end of the pool, there's a huge photograph of a beautiful sandy beach and crystal clear water. Every time I swim I'm reminded of the freedom I feel when I'm on a beach or swimming in the sea. I was born near water - even if it was the River Mersey in Liverpool (it's hardly St Tropez) - and feel more free and at peace near the sea than anywhere else. In the spa area of the gym, there's a giant jacuzzi where you can sit and relax in the bubbles and another area where cascades of water pour down onto your head and shoulders. So I sit under those cascades, close my eyes and remember sitting under the waterfalls in Canaima National Park in Venezuela or in Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park in Goiana, central Brazil, or jumping into the cenotes on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. I've been very fortunate. I am very fortunate.