This recipe was submitted by Richelle Ludwig, Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant, Cognitive Approach Practitioner, 200HR Yoga Teacher.

I learned at a young age, like many of us do, that my body was my worth. Society and the media portray this message loud and clear. Even family members who have been taught the same thing can pass this message on to us. This can lead down a slippery slope of seeking external validation from others, and the problem is we will never feel good enough until we accept ourselves first.

For as long as I can remember, I struggled with body image and always felt uncomfortable in my body. This is interesting as I was never even overweight growing up. But, I still didn’t fit societal ideals with a flat, lean stomach or slim legs. Thinking my body was my worth led to many years of using exercise and restricting food to try to control my body. Even before I developed anorexia at 18 years old, I had been restricting and lost my menstrual cycle.

That hollow feeling of hunger made me feel good. It gave me a sense of pride in some sort of twisted way. It was something I had control over. And with the weight loss, that did not need to happen, came the compliments and attention. This made me feel good, because I was receiving that validation about my body. I thought it made me worthy.

Then more changes happened in my life and I began struggling with binge eating. My body was so malnourished it was screaming for food. I had no control and as I slowly began to gain the weight I needed to gain, I also began to loathe my body. I hated myself even though I was still thinner than I am now. I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror and thought I was disgusting. I was the dreaded “fat” word. I grew up seeing others judge “fat” people and make fun of them. I had major body dysmorphia and didn’t see reality when I looked in the mirror.

This hatred over what my body looked like lead to me isolating myself.

I avoided dating for the most part, as I didn’t want anyone to see my naked body. I avoided going out and lost friends. I wore baggy clothes to hide my body. I was deeply impacted by others comments about my body. I continued to try to restrict and control my intake by counting calories and using exercise to burn them. I picked up distance running, as I read somewhere that running burned the most calories out of any other activity.

As I continued to restrict the binge eating only got worse. My weight yo-yoed up and down and never remained stable. The number on the scale began dictating whether I’d have a good or bad day.  My physical health suffered but even more so, my mental and spiritual health continued to get worse. One night I hit a rock bottom and this was the turning point in my life. I knew I needed to change my thinking and learn to love my body. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it changed my life.

I truly understand now that my body is not my worth and I want you to understand the same thing. Our bodies are miraculous and do so much for us on a daily basis. They are the vehicle in which we get to experience this life in. Even more so, they carry our beautiful soul, mind and heart. To me the way we think and live our lives is so much more important than how we look. How we treat others and the impact we make in the world is so much more important.

The saying, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is a very important one.  We are so quick to judge others by their physical appearance when truly we should get to know them on a soul level.  There’s another quote I love that says just that – “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies. How very different our ideals of beauty would be”.  You can choose to veto the diet industries messages that tell us we need to look a certain way to be worthy.

Your worth comes from within and only you can validate that. Seeking external validation will always lead to feelings of unworthiness.

When you truly know and understand that your body is not your worth and you break down the barriers that hide your true self inside, you will find freedom.  You will find peace and happiness when you let yourself be vulnerable and authentic. When you release perfectionism, any shame you have about what your body should or shouldn’t look like, will disappear. Like Brene Brown says, “When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying backseat driver”. Fear often looks like hate when it comes to our bodies.

When we release perfectionism we can remove shame and hatred, which opens us up for the possibility of first accepting our bodies and then loving them.

 

And please, please, please do not tell me that I am brave for sharing these pictures. No one would ever tell a women who has societies ideal body that she is brave for doing the same thing. This shouldn’t be an act of bravery, but I understand for many it may feel that way. This just means we still have a lot of work to do on the messages about worth and our physical bodies.

Brave to me is a child fighting cancer, or anyone for that matter. Brave to me is someone joining the army and going across seas to fight in war. Bravery to me is a rape victim speaking out and sharing her story so that she can help others. Sharing pictures of  a woman comfortable in her skin, should not be considered brave.

Because of the way society as a whole feels about bodies and worth, it is vulnerable. I think it’s really important to expose yourself to bodies of all shapes and sizes. The media portrays one body type for the most part, which feeds into the message that we should look a certain way. I want to contribute to the variety, as I know for myself seeing other shapes and sizes helped me develop a normal view of what healthy bodies look like.

For some they may see fat and think it’s lazy and unhealthy. For myself and many others who’ve gone through the same thing, these pictures are me at my healthiest and happiest. I’ve been a good 45lbs smaller when I was anorexic and 20lbs heavier with much less muscle at my highest. I don’t have pictures of myself at either of those ends of my spectrum, as both times I avoided pictures. I can tell you though, that I was at my unhealthiest and struggling with different physical health issues. Even more, my mental health was at it’s worst with anxiety and depression.

Shifting my mindset around what my body should look like actually lead to me being able to eat nourishing foods consistently and with ease. I listen to what my body needs now and more often than not it wants whole foods, no willpower required. I’m also able to move my body consistently in healthy ways that support my health rather than being on either end of the spectrum with exercise.

 

Your body is not your worth.

 

Your worth comes from within and until you start to understand that you will continue to seek external validation. Join us in the EAT FROM LOVE private Facebook group.  This is a tribe of women who are done with dieting and ready to start to living. It’s a private group meaning no one else can see what goes on inside. I understand how vulnerable food and body image can be and wanted to make this a safe space to share and grow. I talk a lot about mindset and shifting thought patterns in this group, as this is what helped me heal my relationship with food, exercise and my body. I’d love to see you there!

 

Richelle Ludwig

Richelle Ludwig is passionate about empowering women to ditch the diet cycle and fall in love with body and life by changing their rigid thinking and awareness around food. She uses the Cognitive Approach to Problematic Eating to help women uncover the root cause of why they use food to cope. A soon to be yoga teacher she is also passionate about educating on how yoga can help women build mindfulness and connection with their bodies again.

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