Body Myths

myth. 

miTH/

noun: myth; plural noun: myths.

  1. a widely held but false belief or idea.

  2. a misrepresentation of the truth.

  3. a fictitious or imaginary person or thing.

  4. an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing.

Synonyms: misconception, fallacy, false notion, old wives' tale, fairy tale/story, fiction

Is there a myth you have created about your body? That go-to story that you tell yourself over and over. Maybe your myth is that you are not athletic enough to be “outdoorsy”, perhaps your myth is that you could never wear formfitting activewear because you feel like everyone will look at you and question what you were thinking walking out of the house.

My myth has been that my body keeps me from finding love. All of the relationships that have failed, all of the men (boys) I have chased, all of tinder dates that disappeared after date three--I have always blamed the lack of romance on my body.

Now let’s pause and reflect...mostly because it took me a lot of therapy to realize this.

Whether or not I did this consciously or unconsciously, I blamed my body. To me, that was the only reason. There was no way that we didn’t have chemistry, our personalities didn’t jive, or that he thought my obsession for big yellow dogs was too strange. In my head it was because I wasn’t as small as his last girlfriend, or his other tinder dates.

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Of course this myth isn’t something I dared to speak out loud. It sat in the back of my head, only returning to haunt me when I was at my most vulnerable, when I felt lonely or utterly exhausted by the dating scene.

About 6 months ago, I found myself once again frustrated, and lonely. Calling my therapist for yet another session. And for the first time, I spoke my myth, my ultimate fear out loud. My body is the reason I have not found love. 

It sounded so stupid.

I wrote it down, and I hated reading it. There it was. It was out there, in the universe. Now what?

So here is the thing, myths that we create usually don’t come from nowhere. There is usually a trauma, a memory, something that you were told growing up that really stuck with you. Those memories and beliefs are hard to shake, especially when we don’t process them. Thoughts of eating disorders or negative body image often feel shameful and secretive, saying them out loud, even to ourselves is scary. But in order for us to find healing we must process, come to terms or find peace with where this false story comes from.

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When we keep these myths locked away, keep it secret, or deny that exists, the myth will always have power over us. If we acknowledge the myth, we can figure out where it comes from, work through all the shit that come with it, see where it holds us back in life, and learn and grow from it.

I processed, I cried, I was extremely kind to myself. I took hikes, I drank wine in the bathtub. I thought about how this message I had been telling myself was impacting every aspect of my life. It was hard, and glorious. So I challenge you:

Write down three myths about your body.

Sit with them.

Read them a few times.

Read them out loud to a friend.

Do your myths sound ridiculous?

Its okay.

Where do they come from?

Be compassionate with yourself during this process.

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So what happened after I acknowledged and processed my myth? I started to see other patterns in how I approached dating and men, that were unhealthy and simply not working. I also acknowledged that perhaps I wasn’t always the reason that the relationship didn’t go anywhere. Generally, I brought more awareness to how I date, and how I feel about my body.  I started making small changes in how I approached my attitude towards men, dating in general, broke some of the “rules” I had created for myself.

With the absence of this negativity, I made more space to acknowledge the men who were available and wanting to spend time with me.

I started dating a man who loved me, played no games, adored every part of me. I felt like myself in the relationship, and I wasn’t always concerned with the way I looked. He reminded me that I am loveable, and for that, I cannot thank him enough. I now walk with more confidence and joy. I am not saying that you need a another person to make you feel good or complete (I have been doing that for a long time), this love was a result of doing my own work, timing, and well, meeting a dude from a mountain town at a Superbowl party.

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Our time together was short and sweet. We no longer live in the same place, and I don’t know what will happen. But reminding me that I am lovable and capable of being adored was one of the greatest gifts I have received in a long time.

He came to visit me while i was in Idaho. We could barely see the Sawtooths, but it didn’t matter.



 

Unexpected Lessons

I spent the first week of my journey in Yosemite, one of my favorite places in the entire world. It is where I first fell in love with being outdoors, where I found a sense of confidence working as an outdoor educator, and where for the first time, I felt truly weightless and free from my eating disorder. I expected my time in Yosemite to be nostalgic, comforting and effortless. I left with pain, discomfort and anger.

I started my adventure on the road on my 29th birthday. Most comments about my birthday have sounded like this, “29, so how do you feel about that age?” Yeah, sure there were many “happy birthdays” and memories shared on Facebook. But most comments were somehow related to the fact that I am entering my last year of my twenties. Like its a final good-bye to youth, and social acceptance to be jobless, and partnerless. What makes this message even harder to hear is that it’s true, I do seek security. A job that pays me regularly, a partner, a dog, a house, a morning routine and a gym membership. There is nothing like the emotional roller coaster ride that comes with a birthday.

On my birthday, I hiked to the top of Mount Hoffman, located right above May Lake, a breathtakingly beautiful part of the park. I was joined by my dear friend Sophia (a true adventure partner in crime) and her brother who was visiting from the middle of the country and seeking adventure out west. We hiked to the top, enjoyed our sandwiches and birthday beers and headed back down to the lake to jump in. I did not jump initially, not because I don’t like water, but because I don’t feel comfortable in minimal clothing. There is so much sadness around this topic, and it is still something that I have not yet been able to shake. Since this moment there have been a number of invitations to jump in a lake, take a swim in the river, and I find myself sitting on the side. Watching and wishing that I felt free enough to let myself dive in.

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A few days later I found myself with yet another invitation to take a dip. This time in some pretty iconic hot springs outside of Mammoth. It has taken me 29 years to get there, so I figured I shouldn’t pass up on the opportunity. I sat watching the sunset over the Eastern Sierras, calm, happy, blissful. As we sat, somehow the conversation turned to my appearance, and I was mortified. Through years of teasing, when someone begins to talk about how i look, I feel my stomach drop, I am filled with fear, and shut down. One of the women with us commented on my curves, and told me that I look like “Old Hollywood.” She continued, “You know, before people cared about being perfect and thin.” I couldn’t really tell if it was a compliment or not. And although I knew that it wasn’t malicious, it hurt me. I know I am not perfect, I know I am not thin, and those two things are what I feel most sensitive about because of my eating disorder. So any acknowledgement of that feels devastating.

The rest of my time in Yosemite, I felt extremely closed. I did not laugh as much, I did not feel free like I did however many years ago, and I was angry. This was supposed to a place where I felt safe, free and joyful. This moment taught me that I could not flee from my issues, no matter how fast my truck can go.

Suddenly, I was hyper aware to all of the body comparison that existed around me. Hikes with the ladies turned into hours of conversation around what they would like to change about their bodies. I noticed strangers on the trail comment on my pace, or how sweaty I was when I got to the top. I overheard the climbers outside of the little market comparing the pace of their assents up the face of some piece of granite. Comparison seemed to be fueling all of Tuolumne Meadows, my base camp, and “home” for the week.  

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One morning after breakfast I cried. I cried like use to when I was 13 and someone would make fun of me at school. I cried because my week in Yosemite showed me how much work I still have to do on myself. I wish that I could own my curves, talk about my body without shutting down, and wear a swimsuit without hesitation. I realized how much my body affects my life, my mood, and my relationships. I believe that I am more lovable when I am thinner, and so when I am feeling heavy I retreat so I don’t need to feel rejection. It is what I believed at 13, and what creeps into my thoughts in my darker moments, when I reminded that I am 29 and still without a partner.

This first week brought so much doubt and so many questions:

Am I running from problems by jumping back into my car and driving through the North West? My issues are sure a lot easier to deal with when I am traveling. And my it seems to be signature move, when things start to get hard I tend to seek out adventure and distraction. Is being in the outdoors simply a bandaid for the deep work that needs to get done? Of course being active, breathing fresh air and the rush of adrenaline makes me feel good. But is it really helping me battle the reminisce of an eating disorder? Why am I still feel so much shame around my body? Is it just a distraction? What if I am not ready for this? Do I have any right to preach loving our bodies when there is still so much that I battle with internally? There are moments when I feel fake. I do not have all of the answers to self love and acceptance...like at all.

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On a long drive through Nevada, I was listening to a podcast with Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert. Brene (the Goddess herself) who speaks to vulnerability and shame through personal stories from her life, stated that she doesn’t share stories until she has fully worked through them. She is not looking for validation or comfort from her audience. This stuck with me, because after this experience I wanted very badly to jump on my computer and shame anyone who regularly comments on other people’s bodies, who lives a life fueled by comparison, and is careless with their words.

But I didn’t.

I took time to hike. To process. To breathe.

And I found compassion.

I found compassion for the woman who made comments about my body. I actually consider her a friend, and I know that the comparison comes from a place of pain. I also acknowledge and give space for miscommunication. A better option instead of stewing over a total of 10 words, would be to talk about it. Yes, I don’t think that we should comment on other people’s bodies because we don’t know their story, their history or what kind of trauma is linked to it. But in that moment I did and said nothing, only leaving more room for anger, and self-hate to grow. And I even have compassion for myself that in that moment for not knowing what to do. It reminds me of the little 13 year-old who still lives inside of me, who is deeply sensitive and fragile, who grew up in world where her appearance has been the driving cause for pain in her life.

With this compassion I have again found a sense of purpose. The doubts and questions about my mission and goal are still there, but with a deepened knowledge that the times that challenge me most are how I will grow and learn. These unexpected lessons are what I hope to share with you and the future generations of women who find healing in the outdoors or are involved with Wild and Weightless.

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Peaks for People

I write this from a Super 8 motel room in Twin Falls, Idaho. The coffee is so bad that I'm attempting to mask the taste with a packet of Swiss Miss, but I guess half the packet isn't enough. Throughout the evening, I listened to the conversations of people outside of the bar located next door. I was impressed by their college-like drinking stamina, especially for a Monday. Although it has its quirks, lets be real--all I really look for in a hotel room is strong wifi, strong shower pressure, a place to charge my various devices, and reruns of the Kardashians. After being on the road for the last 12 days, this Super 8 is treating me great. 

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I have traded in my Subaru Forrester for a 1991 Dodge Ram, and have created my first #adventuremobile. For me, this means buying a Ikea bed frame, twinkle lights and storage boxes, one for gear, the others for all of the essentials (fanny pack, roller blades, and vintage sweatshirts that wont keep me warm at night), as well as an impressive number of Amy's Lentil Soup cans.  I will be on the road for 6 weeks total, my goal: summit 30 peaks around the North West. 

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Why 30 peaks?

30 Million people currently suffer from some from some form of an eating disorder in the United States. Statistically, only 1 out 10 with an eating disorder will seek out help. This is a problem. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. In a culture that promotes thinness, yet profits over screen time--this is an issue that will continue to plague our country.  The amount of photoshop and messaging that we receive on a daily basis reminds us of what we should be continues to make the journey of body acceptance a daily struggle. 

This starts at a very early age. 80% of 10-year olds are afraid of being fat. If they didn't get it from the TV or internet, perhaps they watched their mothers criticize their own bodies when they looked in the mirror, or watched them diet constantly. As children we absorb so much just by observing what is happening around us. This is a mental disorder that has been past down through generations. Perhaps these children will restrict their food intake, or try to indulge as much as possible while their parents aren't looking. The risk for disordered eating, and developing negative body image is higher than ever. 

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Why summit peaks?

I choose to summit peaks for so many reasons. I am one of those 30 million people. I have spent a large portion of my life either binging or restricting, and spending most of my time wishing that my body was different. Being outside, hiking specifically, has been the most healing outlet for me. It is on top of peaks where I feel the most proud of my body and all that it can do. I feel gratitude for all that it does for me. Feeling grateful for my body, is something that I had never dreamt of.

I have seen this happen for so many others as well, through experiences with my girlfriends or the Wild and Weightless platform. Building confidence through outdoor activity transcends into our daily lives, and through connection and community online we get to celebrate that together! The outdoors is an incredible tool for healing and recovery, this is the message I want to spread.

Lastly, I am summiting peaks to let go of shame. So many people don't seek help for eating disorders because they are afraid of judgement from others, they feel shame, they are afraid of letting go of something that has become such a huge part of their existence. Eating disorders are isolating, they destroy the relationships we have with others, and ourselves. And in isolation the eating disorders grow. The answer is to build community that is safe, supportive and allows us to speak about our struggles, insecurities and triumphs. Summiting peaks is a metaphor for letting go, allowing myself to be seen, working my ass off and shouting (literally) from the mountain tops that it is time we celebrate our bodies! 

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Why am I doing this? 

I'm on a mission to turn Wild and Weightless into a nonprofit, that facilitates therapeutic outdoor adventure experiences serving those who have been affected, or at risk of developing an eating disorder. Through activity in the outdoors we will foster strength and confidence that transcends into day to day life, learn how talk about and view our bodies in a more compassionate way, and develop new coping skills.

The ultimate goal for Wild and Weightless is to increase the number of people seeking treatment for eating disorders by approaching the subject in an empowering, thoughtful and approachable way. I seek to talk about the connection between our bodies and mental health in a way that is free of shame and self hate. I strive to create a supportive community that exists not only online, but also in person.

I am climbing 30 Peaks for the 30 Million People affected by eating disorders in hopes to raise money to make this dream a reality. I am working hard to create a crowdfunding platform, blog and Instagram content as well as a video footage. And of course, climbing lots of mountains. I will update you all when I launch officially. 

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 Do you have any hiking recommendations? I am new to Idaho, Montana, and Washington, I would love your wisdom. If you reside in the North West and would like to go hiking and talk about bodies, I'm your gal. Let me know, I might be rolling through your town soon.

See you on the trail,

Kristen