How to love your body even when it's not perfect

May 31, 2014 at 2:16 p.m. ET

True happiness is loving who you are no matter the size or shape of your body. Think about all the important, amazing things your body can do.

I don’t know many women who are genuinely 100 percent happy with their bodies. In truth, I’m not sure that I know one. I am sure they exist, at least I hope so, but it’s sort of like a rare sighting of a liger or the chupacabra. Does it really exist?

I know many of us like to blame it on the media and believe me, the media is not doing women any favors by perpetuating these ridiculous body images. The fact of the matter is that most women aren’t built like 10-year-old boys, most men don’t want women who are built like 10-year-old boys but apparently designers are designing for 10-year-old boy bodies because that is what looks good in couture. It also looks a lot like a corpse because that’s what happens when a grown woman starves herself… she dies.

No one person or outlet is to blame for the epidemic of poor self-image that is sweeping the girls of the world. It’s a whole bunch of little things; super-sized food, zero-sized clothes, actresses and models who starve themselves because that’s what the media expects and childhood obesity. It’s parents and schools who let kids sit in front of television and not move. It’s happy meals on the go, filled with unhealthy food options. It's organic, healthy food costing an arm and a leg while junk food sells for $1. It's dads telling their little girls that they shouldn’t have that second cupcake with sprinkles. She wasn’t thinking about the size of her waist, she was just happy playing tea party. It’s the girl-shame spiral that starts with a cupcake and ends with low-self esteem, dating jerks and eating disorders. This needs to end. Now.

If women ever hope to truly love what they see in the mirror, we need to learn to accept, love and appreciate our bodies. I know, easier said than done, says the recovering bulimarexic. Whenever anyone asks me how my eating disorders began, I say, “It began with my dad saying, 'You need to run more.'” It did, but it wasn’t his fault any more than it’s the media’s fault. They were just the catalysts that brought to light something that was bubbling just beneath the surface. They weren’t the cause and they can’t be the cure. The seed of self-doubt is planted from the moment we can comprehend that beauty equals happiness and the rest is misery. Everywhere we look, this is the message we are sent. Maybe if we were blind, we could all love ourselves more.

The only way we are ever going to be able to change the way we feel about ourselves is by changing the way we see ourselves and not allowing acceptance and love to ever be conditional. If it’s conditional, walk away. You don’t want any of that. You deserve better from others and from yourself.

True happiness is loving who you are no matter the size or shape of your body. No matter what anyone else says or thinks. You need to remember all the important, amazing things your body can do: conceive, grow and deliver a tiny human being, and if you need more, just be thankful that everything works and you get the opportunity to make each day count.

It’s hard to have self-confidence and even harder to have a great self-image. If you have those two things you are ahead of the game. 17 years in recovery, and I’m still struggling to make peace with the skin I am in. I’m finally at a point where I have accepted three things. 1. My body and I are not at war with one another. No need to torture it into submission. 2. My body may not be perfect but it is healthy-ish. It can be better and that needs to be my focus, not the size or shape of my a**. I need to strive for health, not perfection. 3. My worth as a human being has absolutely nothing to do with how skinny or fat I am. The people in my life who care about me don’t give a rat’s a** whether or not my jean size is a zero, so why should I obsess over it?

Be healthy. Be happy. Love yourself and let your daughters see you do so. That is how we change the way all of us see ourselves. This is the way we learn to love ourselves and each other.

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