Looking Beyond The Mirror
I spent 10 years of my life in a codependent relationship with the mirror. My emotional state depended on what was reflected back to me. Was I bloated or did I put on weight? How many pimples were on my chin that morning? Will it be possible for those thighs to fit into my pants today?
I obsessively looked for my reflection everywhere: the shop window, blank TV screens, even my friend’s sunglasses.
The answers to the questions I was asking informed the emotional landscape of my day and made my decisions for me. How many miles I ran, how much food I ate, what I would allow myself to ask for, the social plans I would say yes to, all depended on what the mirror was reflecting back to me.
What I was experiencing was surface level self love. A love that was conditional, unsustainable and required constant validation from the outside world.
I became a Health Coach after my own weight loss "victory", which I accomplished through restrictive means. I received the constant validation from the outside world that I had finally made it. Others saw me as beautiful and acceptable because of my thin body. Not only was I loved, I was also needed as people asked me to help them lose weight.
Yet something insidious was happening underneath all of the “love” I was receiving.
I was depriving myself, restricting and controlling the food I ate. I was socially isolated because of my food choices. I was constantly anxious that I would gain weight and lose the love that I had worked so hard to get. My entire sense of self worth rested on my ability to maintain my thin body.
The real healing happened when I had no choice but to look at how much of myself I had lost in seeking validation through the mirror and others.
I was in the middle of the ocean, on a cruise, hundreds of miles away from my approved list of foods. In front of me were buffets of delicious foods that I had deemed off limits.
I broke down crying everyday. My stomach was twisted in knots of anxiety at the thought of putting these foods in my body.
What if I put on weight? What would my clients and raving weight loss fans think?
There was a giant mirror above our bed in our state room. I looked at it obsessively. Turning to the side and checking my stomach to see if I was putting on weight. Taking note of any noticeable changes.
It was in this place where I found what it meant to look beyond the mirror.
I had been planning this trip with my husband for years and I was letting my codependent relationship with the mirror destroy it.
I came back from this trip knowing that I could no longer depend on surface level love.
The healing did not happen overnight. Transformation is a continual process of letting go and it took daily work to be free of the old paradigm that I wasn’t inherently worthy of love.
After spending the necessary time to look beyond them mirror, I came to understand the truth of who I am. I’ve experienced a sense of self love that I never thought possible. Not a prideful love, but a love that allows me to feel complete freedom in my mind, body and spirit. A love that allows me to look in the mirror and say "you are fully worthy and deserving always."
An unconditional, all-consuming, abounding love for myself that goes beyond the mirror, the scale and the compliments.
We live in a world where 91% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies. This, to me, is a self love epidemic and the dominant narrative tells us to indulge the dissatisfaction, restrict ourselves and diet so that we can finally look in the mirror and love ourselves.
I believe the true health revolution will happen when we feel freedom to make choices for our bodies and lives from a place of radical self love and autonomy, instead of guilt and restriction. When we stomp out the belief that there is one ideal body type or expression of health. When we decide to no longer find our value in our reflections but in the content of our character and contributions to the world around us.
This is truly looking beyond.
About the Author:
Holly Toronto is a Certified Health Coach who supports women and men in finding freedom from body shame and food fixation. She uses a non-diet, pro-lifestyle approach that focuses on cultivating a healthy relationship to the body and food, while avoiding deprivation, restriction, guilt or shame. From this place, her clients are able to make empowered decisions for their health, feel amazing in their bodies and live the life they desire.
Holly is extensively trained in the Transformational Coaching Method. She works with private clients, groups and runs online courses. She lives in Sunnyside, Queens with her husband and loves to cook, drink wine, travel, explore the city and be surrounded by beauty.