The Every Body Is Beautiful Project

This Is How I'm Learning to Accept My Body

Wellness, Recovery, Community, MovementOphelia's PlaceComment

Kirstin Sandreuter
Senior at Cornell University
Circles of Change Warrior

Why did you join Circles of Change and choose to become a Warrior?

I became aware of Ophelia's Place and the Circles of Change movement through my own journey of healing during my early college years, and think the work you do is absolutely amazing. (Thank you for all that you do!)

I am part of a small group of students at Cornell University, and we’re forming an organization called "Body Positive Cornell.”

We are working to gather and share tools and resources to equip fellow students to cultivate deep love for their bodies and themselves.

What inspires you to change the conversations in our culture around health/beauty/bodies in your community? 

I grew up in the world of competitive running, where body types of those who were “successful” were not very diverse.

In high school, I became obsessed with eating "healthy" and training as much as possible – habits I thought would be conducive to making me a stronger, better runner.

Based on the standards set by running magazines and the cultural fitness craze, I was certain my performance would be maximized if I had a certain body type.

And it was, for a while.

But by the time I reached college, my body was exhausted from years of poor nutrition and over-exercising, which led to a slew of injuries that prevented me from doing what I loved.

Although it was difficult to lose the joy of running for a time, I soon became aware that many others also felt pressure to "perfect" their bodies in the name of performance.

Watching several friends and competitors struggle to achieve impossible and unhelpful physical standards has inspired me to fight the lie that you must "look like a runner" to enjoy the sport.

Runners, just as all people, can be beautiful and successful at every size.

How has this change unfolded in your life/work/social circle? 

There have been many ups and downs as I've worked to expand my definition of beauty and change the conversation around health in my social circle.

Having gone through much physical change in my own healing process, I too often associate my "new" body with being non-athletic, unfit and not able to do the things I used to do.

But the more I am open and honest with others about these topics, the more I realize we all long to be free from judgment and rules around what constitutes a healthy, strong body.

It is wonderful to see people learning to trust their body's wisdom as they eat, train and rest more intuitively.

Change begins with conversations.

I've found that the more we discuss and are there for each other to work out the tough parts of body acceptance, the stronger our culture becomes, and together we can cultivate true, lasting joy.

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How has the practice of body acceptance changed your perceptions of health and beauty?

I may not have the body I used to, but I'm not cold all the time, my fingers don't turn blue and my hair doesn't fall out every time I brush it.

I used to have such a narrow perception of what made me beautiful and worthy, that I ignored the unpleasant side effects that came with depriving my body of the fuel and care it needed.

As I've learned to accept my body, I've realized that health extends far beyond physical appearance and performance.

True health involves mental, emotional, social and spiritual vitality as well.

It is beautiful to have the energy to share our unique talents with the world, and our imperfections are a beautiful reminder that each of us was created with a one-of-a-kind purpose that no one else can fill.

Where do you source your strength and motivation from to keep creating this change? 

When I was in the depths of disordered eating, family mealtimes and social gatherings were not much fun.

I felt pride at doing what I thought was best for my body, but at the same time I felt deeply isolated and empty.

Although it was difficult at first, I realized it is much more fun to participate in family gatherings and celebrate the pleasurable aspects of food and eating.

Whenever I am tempted to relapse into old habits, I remind myself that if I value intimate human connection even a little bit more than unnecessary restriction at that moment, it is worth it.

The wonderful memories I've made with family and friends, and how much better I've been able to love and care for them once I started loving and caring for myself, are my main motivation to keep cultivating change.

I want others to experience the joy and freedom on the other side of an eating disorder.

What’s one nugget of truth, inspiration, encouragement, or empowerment you can share with us? 

Be patient.

I've found that all-or-nothing thinking tends to creep in when I try to change my habits for the better.

I sometimes get discouraged that I don't love every inch of my body every day, but learning to appreciate your body, redefine health and expand your perception of beauty takes time, and it is so important to recognize and celebrate every step of progress in your journey to self-love.

And surround yourself with encouraging community along the way!

Friends who lift each other up make a world of difference. 

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