Owning Your Shadow Around Your Body • Selene Milano
Welcome to our newest series about body love, shadow and acceptance, hosted by Selene Milano of The Gain. We resonated so deeply with everything Selene had to share on the CURER Series and felt this would be a perfect platform to spread what inspired us about her message of body love and magnetism.
Over a year ago, after leaving my job at a mainstream women’s magazine I started thinking about shifting my writing to body positivity, mindful eating and weight loss. I was lucky enough to have an in-person session with Lacy in New York City. I learned so much about myself during those hours but the biggest shift came when she told me that you can’t manifest weight loss. Lacy explained that in order to be truly magnetic and manifest whatever you want, you must first see yourself as whole and enough, exactly as you are. Minutes after the session, as I was sitting in my car processing everything, the idea came to me for The Gain—a body positive content site centered around the idea that when women stop focusing on what they want to lose, they can open themselves up to all they have to gain.
It took it a lot of expanding to actually launch The Gain and find clarity around what I want it to be. I started putting my writing out there, really just telling my story about my own journey with yo-yo dieting, finding mindful eating and learning to accept my body. I did the Free + Native Curer takeover, which was so amazing and gave me so much confidence.
So many women reached out to me about wanting to finally be free from restrictive dieting and the shame around their weight.
I got a ton of traffic to my site and then… I just stopped. I didn’t write another thing for weeks. I felt so paralyzed but I couldn’t put my finger on why. I had worked through Shadow, Opulance and Reparent and I thought I was fully expanded. That’s when I came across this video of Lacy’s on building a brand and gaining followers. She said if your business isn’t growing you really need to work through your shadow. She looked right at the camera and said something to the effect of, “You, you watching this YOU have to work through your shadow.” It was the biggest ping I ever got and I knew I had more work to do. I went back and redid shadow and realized that the biggest block around my work is that I feel guilt and shame for being inauthentic – because I also value thin bodies. I value and revere my daughter’s thin body. I still wish I was thinner! Deep down I felt like a fraud and a hypocrite for writing about body positivity when I still have so much reprogramming to do myself. But I took Lacy’s advice and I integrated that into my brand and my writing and admitted to my readers that I’m a victim of thin obsession also. I’m still in my process and on my journey, just like my readers. As soon as I did that— literally the next day I was able to write another story and it drove a ton of traffic to my site. I feel so much lighter and more honest. I’ve been asked to write for several other magazines and I feel things starting to move again.
The ultimate lesson this taught me is that we all have shadow around our body image and it’s not necessarily as obvious as it may seem. Women who live in larger bodies have been conditioned to feel shame, especially if they’ve suffered the mental torture of yo-yo dieting.
But what I’ve found through this work is that thinner women fear getting fat and they have shame around that. Or they intellectually know they aren’t overweight but their perceived “flaws” nag at them.
Enter the food solution. Instead of dealing with our low self-worth and toxic messaging around our bodies, we try to control it and fix it and deprive our way out it. But if you feel inherently broken, you need to dig down and find out why. The answer is changing your mind, not changing your body.
We are born with an internal GPS to navigate our hunger. But when we approach food from a place of self-loathing and desperation, hopping from one diet to another, we completely lose touch with what our bodies are telling us. And worse we feel like a failure each time we can’t sustain these unrealistic standards we set for ourselves. Living on prescribed plans causes us to lose sight of our natural cravings and the organic way food makes us feel.
Even more damaging, we’re not honest with ourselves about why we are eating a certain way. Making it that much harder to connect with what we really need to nourish ourselves. I hear women say things all the time like “I don’t diet, I just follow keto (or paleo, or Whole 30, or intermittent fasting). But I don’t care about my weight, I just want to feel good.” We are truly the most gullible to the lies we tell ourselves.
I’m not saying that everyone who eats healthy food is desperately trying to lose weight, but what I am saying is that if you are actively restricting your calorie intake, fasting for a large part of the day or eliminating entire food groups—you need to own it: You’re on a diet!
I should know—I was on a diet for most of my adult life. I cringe when I think of the before and after photos I used to look at longingly. I’m sure every woman, regardless of their size can remember early programming around their weight. As a little girl in the 70s, my friends and I would play house and pretend to drink Tab. One of the first “diet drinks” – so toxic it was taken off the market. But it made us feel undeniably grown-up and glamorous.
I wasn’t overweight until well into adulthood. But I got the memo much earlier that being thin was something I had to maintain in order to be sexy, attractive and loved. I remember walking toward my high school boyfriend in a bikini when I was all of 15 years old. He said to me “You need to start jogging or something. Your thighs really jiggle when you walk.” While my size is totally irrelevant to this story, as it happens I had a conventionally desirable figure at the time. But still, I learned like so many of us did in those teen years that my body and my looks were not good enough and would need to be fixed in order to be accepted. That is heavy stuff to ingest and even harder to let go of.
I had a woman tell me recently that her older brothers constantly made fun of her for being fat. They called her blubber and roly-poly. As an adult she found a bunch of old photos of herself as a little girl and was shocked to realize, she wasn’t even slightly overweight. But because of this early bullying, she identified as fat and therefore restricted her food intake, leading to years of disordered eating.
Even in this age of self-care and body positivity we are barraged with new “lifestyle changes” that promise to finally make us feel comfortable in our own skin. But when we become obsessive about any one way of eating or exercising, it’s time to examine why. I believe being honest about why we eat what we eat is the first step to working through this pervasive shadow.
I encourage you to ask yourself: Do I make food choices based solely on health and feeling good—or is it because I want to get thin or stay thin? Both are deeply personal choices and should be free of judgement, as long as we come to them authentically.
Do I love my body every day? Not by a shot. But I refuse to spend any more time letting it define my worth. I’ve given up dieting, practice mindful eating and I work on daily reprogramming and despite all of this, I still carry around the residual conditioning that thin bodies are more attractive. I don’t know that I will ever be totally free of that inherent bias—but I know that I am aware of it and honest with myself about it and that’s the only way I can work on removing these blocks. I’ve replaced denial with compassion and forgiveness for myself and that’s the only before and after I’m interested in.