National Eating Disorders Association
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Instilling and Supporting Body Confidence in Men

Seamus Kirst

When I was deeply suffering from my eating disorder, I hated my body. I abused it. Worst of all, I separated myself from it. My mind became one entity and my body became another. To my mind, my body seldom did anything right. 

Since entering recovery, I have had to learn how to care for my body, how to nourish it, and how to appreciate it. But most importantly, I have had to accept that I am my body and my body is me. I will never be able to separate from my body, nor should I want to. When I hurt my body, I am hurting myself.

There is no separation, there never was, and there never will be. 

When it comes to instilling and supporting body confidence, the key is to find physical activities that bring you joy, not just exercises that are a means of attempting to look a certain way. 

Growing up, I always rolled my eyes when I heard people speak about yoga and the sense of serenity and presence it brought them. It sounded like fluff to me, so I stuck to other exercises. 

In the past two years, yoga has become the only form of exercise that I enjoy; it has truly become one of the most important parts of my life. In yoga, I am constantly amazed by the incredible things my body can do when I keep practicing. I am always amazed at how much more flexible I can become and by the mental sense of calm that follows yoga. 

As much as I used to scoff as this idea of "presence," I now totally understand. When I leave yoga, I feel in my body; it feels like my own. 

Yoga is the first form of exercise through which I have focused on how I feel, not on how I look. When I leave, I want to eat healthy foods, not because I am trying to lose weight but because I understand how good I feel when I take care of myself. 

For me, body confidence has come from better understanding my body biologically. As I have come into recovery, I have realized all the ways I could have died during my years of active substance abuse and eating disorders and I am thankful that I did not. I no longer take my body for granted; I now understand what can happen when I don’t take care of it. 

I don’t think I would ever be able to achieve body confidence when I focus on the aesthetics of my body. Realizing that it is about how you feel has made a world of difference for me in regards to my day-to-day life, from how I carry myself to having a healthier sex life.

Of course yoga will not be the answer for everyone but there is some activity out there that can make you feel good about yourself and foster a sense of positive ownership between you and your body. 

Take care of yourself and find it. You deserve the joy. 

Seamus Kirst is the author of a memoir, Shitfaced, about mental illness and addiction. He is the co-host of the Mental Health Hangouts  podcast. Follow @SeamusKirst on Twitter and like his page on Facebook.