When I hit 30 I realised I didn’t have a great relationship with myself. I’d spent my twenties either dieting or self loathing and generally being too wrapped up in it all that, I couldn’t enjoy anything truly. Thinking about occasions that involved food, occasions that didn’t involve food and the next time I got to eat food, consumed my life. I was obsessed with what I put in my mouth either in a feast of famine scenario; to say I had an unhealthy relationship with food was an understatement. Now it doesn’t take a mental health professional to work out there was a cause for this and even with my limited understanding of psychology I could understand where this came from, but felt helpless to change it.
I’d grown up in a dieting household; every diet known to man had been tried, whilst I grew up observing this struggle with body image. My mum hated her own body and treated it with so much contempt, even as a child this was obvious to me. She was always one diet away from happiness and as such life revolved around food. So after over a decade of parallels in my own life I felt it was time to understand myself more. I wanted to change my unhealthy relationship surrounding food and body image, one of punishment and reward.
It started a few years ago with a brilliant book by Cameron Diaz of all people – The Body Book. I devoured this, learning lots about how amazing our bodies are and just how little respect I had for how incredible they actually can be. I realised I was too absorbed in the way it looked and not how it worked or the amazing things it could do, I’d bought into the bullshit that the media had sold us all: That you are only worthwhile if you have the perfect look. It wasn’t even about health, or about longevity, it is only ever about the way you look.
I enjoyed this book so much, I couldn’t get enough of it, and then it was over. I’d learnt a lot about my body but I was still too stuck in my old ways for it to have a big enough impact. Don’t get me wrong I think every young woman should read it, if I had my way it would be used in schools to educate girls about themselves. Self-respect is a process, and understanding how wonderful your body is, is part of that process.
Work, life and everything else got in the way, a sure sign that I was struggling with self-love – I couldn’t even make the time! Then last year I discovered a brilliant book called Embrace: My Story from Body Loather to Body Lover by Taryn Brumfitt. I’d seen her campaign The Body Image Movement on social media and was interested to read about her thoughts on body image. Wow, what a book, a biographical read on her struggle with self-love and how she overcame it. This book really resonated with me, so much so I bought it for a friend, to share the love. Her lighthearted tales (albeit, some are actually quite serious and some even brought a tear to my eye) of her life and the message made me feel like it was possible to love my own body.
I was relatively late to the party with the next book on the list; it’d been out for nearly a year when I found it. The Goddess Revolution: Make Peace with Food, Love Your Body and Reclaim Your Life by Mel Wells was very much a revolution, so much so, I’ve read it twice already and am highlighting my favourite bits for future reference. Real honesty and practical ways to cut through the actions that we use to deprive ourselves of self love. Again I see this as a must read for anyone struggling with the relationship that they have with themselves. Mel even has videos on Youtube to discuss some of the strategies you can use.
Ice Cream for Breakfast: How rediscovering your inner child can make you calmer, happier, and solve your bullsh*t adult problems by Laura Jane Williams is my current read. At halfway through I am loving it, it’s a different message to the other books, more life skills and how to enjoy it, rather than focused on self worth, a nice change to my usual self help reading! Love the fact it has spaces to write down thoughts and spaces to make plans etc, a really nice touch and helps you to use as a tool instead of reading it and moving on to the next thing.
As a slightly cynical person I initially found it hard to accept that I am into reading self-help books, another inherited notion from media/society: that self-help books equals weakness. I actually am starting to see it as a sign of strength, self-improvement is a good thing and reading about other people’s experiences only broadens the mind. There are too many stigmas in society, we are all individuals and just because the person over there is doing things differently to you doesn’t mean you’ve got it wrong and they’ve got it right. Reading all these books have just made me realise, self worth is about backing yourself, not feeling the need to justify yourself but just being yourself.
For other book club posts see here – Book Club
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