What's This Blog All About Then?

I'm on a mission to roadtest ways of overcoming negative body image. For years I have struggled with feeling I don't look 'good enough', I'm too fat or flabby. Even when I was a UK Size 8! During each of my two pregnancies I fell back in love with my body, marvelling at the amazing things it was doing and at my feminine voluptuousness.

Now that my most recent baby has been outside of my body for a while, the mum tum and stretchmarks are starting to bug me. I have decided enough is enough. I want to feel proud of my body like I did when I was pregnant. I don't want to wait until I'm a certain weight or dress size to feel good about the way I look. I want to love my body just the way it is right now. And I want to help other women to love their imperfectly perfect bodies too.

Join me on my quest for a better body image. During my journey to (I hope) total body confidence, I'll be posting useful resources, tips and research on body image and self acceptance. There will also be posts from other people shedding light on how to feel comfortable in the skin you're in - maybe you'd like to send me an article? Contact me at annacolette(at)gmail(dot)com with 'Body Image' in the title.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Day 3 of The Yoga Cure Experiment

I'm really enjoying the Basic Yoga DVD. Day 3 of my yoga cure experiment and I'm amazed that so far I've wanted to do the full 'Daily Dozen' outlined in the DVD:

1. Cat
2. Mountain
3. Standing forward bend
4. Lunge
5. Tree
6. Standing side stretch
7. Downward facing dog
8. Cobra
9. Child's pose
10. Seated spinal twist
11. Seated forward bend
12. Relaxation pose (corpse)

I jotted down the poses yesterday while following the DVD so I tried them myself without the DVD today and it took 35 minutes. I didn't rush through them at all. In fact, I did extra breathing cycles (the DVD recommends six per posture).

I need to find some kind of moderation to The Lunge posture though - it really hurts my knee even with a cushion underneath it. Shame, as they show modifications for some of the other postures.

While I'm doing the yoga, I feel calm and connected to my body. I'm also impressed at how my body is responding - I can already stretch my heels much closer to the floor in Downward Dog and am finding the Seated Forward Bend easier too.

In some of the postures I'm thinking 'how does my body feel? How can I work with it to stretch a little more but not push it too hard?'. It feels as if I'm learning to work with my body and respect it's needs and limitations. At least for the half hour or so that I'm doing the yoga. I wonder if this attitude will carry over into the rest of my day at some point? Hope so.

I can vouch for the claim that yoga promotes inner stillness. Focusing on small actions and specific parts of the body somehow promotes an attitude of curiosity and inquistiveness.

I start tuning into what parts feel tight and sore (shoulders, hamstrings,buttocks) and what feels relaxed (arms, tummy, chest, mind. I'm finding my body interesting. I'm learning what it feels like, where it needs to unravel, where I need to let go.

It's a relief to give up the urge to 'whip myself into shape' as if there's something bad about me, something flawed that my flab is a manifestation of. To move from that subtle self hatred into an attitude of self care - exercising because it feels good in my body and my mind - is life-affirming and surely a boon to my self esteem.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Daily Yoga Cure

Yesterday I was feeling particularly achey and unfit due to a 'veg out day' spent indoors with hubby and baby.

I enjoyed chilling out, but it didn't do my self image any favours as I've been hugely inactive for weeks now (mainly due to the rubbish weather)and feeling bad about that. I'm all for loving myself as I am but I realise I need to care for my body in order to love it more.

When the most exercise you're getting is a five minute mooch around the local shops or an evening of lifting a glass of wine to your lips you know you're not loving your body like you could.

My back was seizing up so I decided to do a few yoga postures to ease it. I enjoyed the feeling of my muscles stretching, the paisn in my back easing and my body feeling energised. All this just in a few minutes of doing Cat, Downward Dog and a Seated Twist!

I then got to thinking about how exercise can improve your relationship with your body when it isn't solely about 'exercising to look good' but you're coming from a place of 'I'm doing this because I want to be kind to my body and this is what my body needs to function well. Oh, and it feels good and makes me happier!'.

The problem with most exercise regimes I have tried to follow in the past is that the goal was always to look better, so while I was exercising I was subtly punishing myself for not looking good enough now. Hardly a motivating frame of mind.

Can you imagine going to an exercise class where the instructor shouts at you 'come on, jelly belly, if you don't work harder at this you're doomed to a life of looking like a flabby freak'?! Compare that to one where the instructor softly encourages you to 'give your body what it needs, feel that stretch nourishing your body and helping it to feel strong and supple.'

So, I've dug out the DVD hubby bought me a while back: Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies which takes you through 12 postures they call the 'Daily Dozen'. Now I'd love to tell you how I'm going to do those Dozen every single day for a month and see how that affects my body, mind and self image. But I'm not sure I can go from couch potato to yoga devotee straight off.

So, I'll make a promise to you, and myself, that every day I'll do at least one yoga posture. I mean everyone can find three minutes in their day right? Even me, a lazy busy mum with a demanding baby..

The challenge will be for me to keep the right frame of mind i.e. to do daily yoga because my body loves it and it helps with my body image NOT in order to change or improve the way I look (although that may happen as a by product).

The word yoga means "union" in Sanskrit, that is the union of the body and the mind which results from regular yoga practice. When I was doing weekly antenatal yoga classes with Marie from Gently Strong yoga I began to feel more connected with my body, I was encouraged to listen to it, respect it and to enjoy moving it.

The weekly class became my meditation and my treat - to my mind and to my body. I wonder if it played a part in the profound sense of wellbeing and the positive body image I enjoyed throughout my pregnancy.

There's only one way to find out...

I'll keep you updated on my daily yoga practice for the next month as well as continuing to find you other news and views to shed light on negative body image and how to love yourself more.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Are We Inadvertently Teaching our Daughters to Hate Their Bodies?

Most young women in the UK are unhappy with their bodies. A survey on newwomanco.uk in 2001 found that just one per cent of young women are "completely happy" with the shape of their body. Over 3,000 women, with an average age of 25, responded to the survey.

A more recent survey by BLISS magazine found that 90% of teenaged girls who were unhappy with their own appearance also thought their own mother had "an insecure body image".

As mothers we have a huge responsibility to our daughters. We can inadvertently pass on our body insecurities to our daughters. After all, we are their first example of what it means to be female. It is vital that we learn to love ourselves, to feel comfortable in our own skin and so become the positive female role models we so desperately want to be.

More than half of the 2,000 girls questioned for the poll said “their mothers worried and moaned” about her own weight, which made them even more aware of how important being slim was to look and feel good.

Nearly a fifth (19%) said they were "already suffering from an eating disorder" such as anorexia or bulimia, and 26% of 14 year olds said they had considered having plastic surgery or taking diet pills.

Helen Johnston, editor of BLISS Magazine, has said: "Female body image obsession has grown year on year since the 60s and it's now reached epidemic proportions, filtering down to young girls.

"Teenage girls look to their mums for guidance only to see them continually worrying about their own body shape and size. Now many girls of 13 and 14 are dieting constantly at an age when their bodies are still developing."

This has got to stop. How can we learn to love our appearance and teach our daughters and other young women to do the same?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Body Image Revolution

During an idle Googling session I found this fab site which is currently running a free teleseminar on The Body Image Revolution with speakers who are all experts and activists in the field of body image.

A bunch of inspirational women who are bucking the trend, saying a big "NO!" to the common misconception that thin is healthy and beautiful. To promote body diversity and create resources to help women love their bodies more...now that's something I could really get passionate about.

What a noble cause. After all, which one of us truly loves our body? And how much do we hold back on doing things - being happy, living a life we love - because we're just waiting until our tummy is flatter, thighs thinner, boobs perkier etc etc

Even if we try not to think of it, that nagging voice 'you're not good enough the way you are' is playing on a loop constantly. It is sanctioned by the media with it's unachievable images of one specific body type (a figure that is more common to teenage boys than to grown women incidentally), and our female friends who occasionally bemoan their own figures/weight. Maybe even our husbands or partners (not mine, thankfully) who suggest we lose a bit of weight or say no to that second slice of cake.

I've just listened to Cheryl-Ann Webster, a speaker on The Body Image Revolution. The Beautiful Women Project is her touring art exhibition of 120 life size clay sculptures of real women aged 19-91, each decorated to reflect an aspect of the women’s life journey.

Deemed a “revelation of truth”, the sculptures act as role models for natural beauty, allowing audiences of all ages to compare reality with socially-created, unattainable images of beauty that are portrayed in our culture. Check it out here and start to realise that we are all imperfectly perfect just the way we are.

Vive la revolution!!!