If there's one thing that's become clear to me over the last few years, it's this: Nearly every woman I meet, work with, or assume is perfect probably struggles with her body image. No, we don't all have eating disorders or even disordered eating habits. But, unfortunately, every woman I've ever taken the time to ask has admitted she has an issue with at least one part of her body, face, or appearance.
Personally, I came to the disordered-eating party a bit late. I had managed to mostly fixate on disliking other parts of myself (see: my personality) until I was 24, when I took a job working the night shift as an editor at a different website. I suddenly found myself under increasing amounts of stress, and (just for extra credit!) in a half-baked relationship with a guy who withheld his affection.
My body understandably freaked out. My stomach felt bloated and tense all the time. When I went to the doctor, she suggested I go gluten-free, which did help somewhat, but created a new problem. Cutting something completely out of your diet can be dangerous, and for me, it led to a cycle of restricting foods that fell into the "bad" category, only to binge on all my "good" foods when I got off work in the middle of the night.
Food became the cause, the reward, and the punishment; the funnel through which I attempted to pour control over a job and relationship that left me feeling increasingly disconnected from my body.
Now, just two years later, I view the path to regaining a healthy relationship with my body as one of the most important challenges of my 20s. Therapy, a new job, and a new relationship have all been essential ingredients. But the real work? I've been teaching myself — deliberately, and in small ways, every day — to love my body again.
Recovering from an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, or any kind of ongoing body image issue is no small task, and professional help should always be sought. But if you're looking to supplement that help with some small, tangible exercises, I highly recommend using these practices as jumping-off points.
7 Real Ways to Like Your Body More