How I Woke Up One Day and Suddenly Loved My Body
It was magic. Boom! Abracadabra! End of post.
Damn, how I wish it was that easy. But as with most things in life, getting to this point was painfully difficult, frustrating as all hell, but so incredibly worth it.
It was just barely 3 months ago when I woke up, looked in the mirror, and instead of pointing out flaws as I had done for nearly every morning of the past 20+ years, I loved the way my body felt. I couldn’t explain it even if I tried. I, the girl who spent a decade suffering from an eating disorder, loved their body? It wasn’t tolerance, acceptance, nor like, it was full on love I felt for the reflection staring back at me.
And for every day since then, that love has not faded. I’m sort of waiting for it to fade; waiting for the other shoe to drop. I mean come on?! How does authentic body love “just happen?”
Well, it doesn’t. And it wasn’t until yesterday I realized that this was no miracle. No voodoo magic. But rather, the incredible result of neuroplasticity.
- the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.
In other words, our brains have the ability to re-wire themselves- entirely changing the ways thought patterns, emotions, and memories are processed in order to best serve us as humans. So, approximately 5 years ago when I recognized/was told that hating my body was damaging to me, my brain geared itself up for potential change. And specifically, 3 major areas of my brain were ready to shine.
The hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus. Sensations, emotions, and memories; respectively. I grew up feeling uncomfortable and experiencing severe depression and anxiety related to my body, all as a result of countless negative memories in said body. The hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus all inhabit the same region of the brain, so the pros and cons of those wires of body sensations, emotions, and memories intersecting so closely, become evident as I unraveled the how and why I began to love my body.
Pros: Getting to a place of body love was in fact possible. Cons: Reshaping 20+ years of body hate was going to be mentally exhausting.
As I think back to all of the therapy I have done, body positive media I’ve consumed, and the “faking it till I start making it” attitude I have had since recognizing hating my body was no longer serving me, I no longer have to wonder how I got here. I was working hard, but my brain, those 3 tiny pieces of my brain, were working harder. For all those moments when I doubted the work was going to ever be worth it, my brain was still working to better serve the person I wanted to become. The person who is typing this post. The person who loves their body.
So, cheers to my hippocampus for absorbing every positive memory I have had within my body- every hug I received, every finish line I crossed, and every yoga flow I practiced. And to the hypothalamus that recognized those re-wired “good memory” signals from the hippocampus and made me physically feel safer within my skin. And let us not forget the amygdala that took those new memories, feelings, and hard work and turned them into the positive emotions I feel as I look in the mirror today.
For those of you stuck in the “this will never happen to me” mindset, and you’re looking for a sign to keep going, this is it. Make those new memories, challenge your thinking, and lean into new emotions. And for as long as you put in the effort and don’t give up on the good fight to love your body, your brain will do the rest.