Body Talk: Annie Outerbridge, Client Services
Welcome to Body Talk, an S-Life series for the month of February, where we will be fearlessly opening this portal of communication about self-love, self-deprecation, and touching on anything and everything in-between.
The aim here is not image-making, or perfection-seeking. Rather, it is image-wrecking, perfection-shattering, and infinite-purpose discovering in order to peel back the layers of the images we have each built of ourselves and who we are suppose to be, in faithful anticipation that we may unearth the absolute Love and Beauty that we have always been, and always will be. We each have unique bodies, and unique stories to tell. Here, we will be telling ours, in faith that you will be encouraged to tell yours. So without further hesitation, may we introduce to you, The #SakaraBodyTalk of:
Annie Outerbridge, Client Services Associate at Sakara Life
I always fantasized that if I had never gone to boarding school, I would be completely free of body-image issues. If I had just stayed at home with my non-dieting mother and sat down to a balanced dinner every night, I would never have had any issues with food. Of course I realize this is naïve, as it’s almost impossible for any of us to escape an imperfect relationship with our bodies, but sometimes I like to indulge myself in the 'If only I hadn’t…' fantasy.
Being a far-from-home 14 year-old girl was overwhelming, and my boarding school tried its best to make us happy and comfortable. On school nights at around 10pm, we had something called “FEEDS”. After study hall and all our homework was finished, everyone on my hall would huddle together and…feed! Whether it was a big pot of mac and cheese or donuts and ice cream, I usually didn’t stop eating until I was uncomfortably full and in a food-coma delirium. However much I missed home or felt the stress of teenage drama, this little pre-bedtime party always made me feel better and less lonely. Combined with other teenage girl angst, this was probably when my struggle with food and body image began. Food was something that could immediately make me feel better when I was missing my family, bored, sad, or feeling anything that made me even slightly uncomfortable.
I would love to be able to blame my body issues or food hang-ups on leaving home so early, but I know this wouldn’t be fair and that so many factors go into why we think what we do about our bodies. I had a relatively normal and over-all great childhood / teenage experience, but I knew that my growing fixation on my body and food was not normal.
To remedy this growing anxiety, I stumbled upon the vast world of dieting -- the whirlwind of 'I’ve found what works!' and the inevitable 'Oh wait, no it doesn’t'. I felt so stuck throughout high school and college, as body-shaming and insecurity settled in for a few long years. I was so confused and felt sick in my own skin.
When I moved to Argentina after college, something amazing happened. Suddenly, I was in this world where the diet industry didn’t really exist, and local women -- beautiful, healthy, fit women -- didn’t obsess over food or their bodies. They drank mini cappuccinos and ate delicate bites of chocolate cake in cafes. They ate real, whole foods and listened to their bodies so intently but so innately that it seemed effortless and almost mystical. In Buenos Aires, there were no diet ads on TV, no calorie talk, no excessive exercise fads…it was bizarre but incredibly liberating. There was less negativity around food and body image in general, and this thrilled me. I began studying these women like a mad scientist, observing them in restaurants and clothing stores and eavesdropping on their friendly chatter.
I started emulating the women around me by truly listening to my body for the first time in years. It felt so freeing, like I was a child again. I was realizing that when I listened to my body -- when I ate when my stomach growled, when I drank when I was thirsty, when I didn’t drink when I wasn’t thirsty, when I ate only what my body was calling for -- I was feeling a genuine love for myself and my body again.
I had always felt discouraged by the concept of acquiring self-love. It sounded exhausting to have to wake up and say 'OK, today I’m going to try to love my body' or 'Today, I’m going to say nice things to myself'. It all seemed so abstract and unattainable to me. But when I started listening, very quietly, to my body’s requests, it generated this automatic self-love. I didn’t have to feel or affirm anything to myself. All I had to do was obey my physical body, and this subconscious respect began to develop, easily and naturally.
Don’t get me wrong, I am far from mastering this. I still have days when I feel anything but love for my body and I hate the way my pants fit. But, I am finding that listening to my physical cues quiets the food noise that confuses us all day long on what we should or shouldn’t be eating. I think my body is waiting to tell me exactly what it needs, and I just need to listen. This is where self-love happens for me.