Athleta Ambassador Sarah Ezrin’s healthy self-image journey has taken her through peaks and valleys. Below, she shares how she transformed from an insecure calorie counter to a confident motivator, writer, yoga teacher, and teacher trainer.
Photography By: Samuel Henderson
Growing up, I loved fashion and idolized the models that were popular at the time. But when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t love what I saw and would wish to the universe that I could be “beautiful.” I spent years making unhealthy diet choices, and regardless of how skinny I got still struggled to love myself.
Over the years, with an incredible team of nutritionists, psychiatrists, therapists, yoga teachers, friends, family, and a devoted spiritual practice, I worked very hard to develop a positive self-image.
My yoga practice was the greatest forum to change my relationship with my body.
Where I used to slap myself and cry when I looked in the mirror, my yoga practice taught me to hug myself and smile. Where I used to desire to be stick thin, my yoga practice taught me to value strength. Where I used to compare myself to every other seemingly perfect body in the media, my yoga practice taught me to celebrate my uniqueness. I have been devoted to this work for several years and the path is not always an easy one. When things feel out of control or unsettled, I find myself counting calories or measuring food, yet unlike the old days, I now catch myself and hit the mat.
Mantra and affirmation have been incredible aids in this process, as well.
The act of reciting positive words changes negative thinking.
At 35 years of age, I am happy to say that I am finally able to look in the mirror and believe I look great! And it’s the first time in my life I feel comfortable wearing a bathing suit.
Here are 5 rituals I rely on to support a healthy self-image:
There is no greater practice of self-love and acceptance than yoga. Yoga brings us into our bodies and out of our heads. The body moves in live time, which helps us stay present. We learn to identify real sensation, like muscle fatigue rather than ‘phantom fat,’ and tap into more subtle sensations, like intuition and truth. Yoga is not an easy journey! We will wade through a lot of “our stuff” along the way, but the destination is so worth it.
Yoga shows us how strong we are.
It teaches perseverance. We learn not to beat ourselves up. We learn to go with the flow. Most importantly, we learn to appreciate the incredible gift that is our body.
Stop comparing yourself to others
I love fashion. I love shopping. I love clothes. But I have not had a beauty magazine in my home for over 20 years. Fashion magazines are designed to make us feel like we are lacking, so we consume more. The models and actresses on the pages have been Photoshopped (or chopped) to appear perfect. Nowadays these images of “perfection” overwhelm us on social media. Unfollow the people that leave you feeling ‘less-than’ and keep in mind that much of what we see is not real!
You want to see real women owning their essence? Look through the latest Athleta catalog.
Follow people on social media who are authentic, inspiring, and strong. I love looking through these hashtags: #strongnotskinny or #strongisthenewskinny
Buy clothes for today’s body
The worst possible torture is saving “skinny” clothes. I have been practicing yoga for 16 years now. My body is still changing from building muscle, to gaining curves. Many of my favorite clothes were from my unhealthily underweight days, and even though I am now in the best shape of my life, they will never fit me again. Repeat, I am the healthiest I have ever been, and I am a good 40 pounds heavier than my most skinny. Skinny does not equal healthy. Throw out your skinny clothes! Where do we get the idea that a pair of jeans from 15 years ago should fit us, anyway?!
Buy clothes that make you feel good and sexy today.
Spend more time naked
This is often the last thing we want to do when we feel uncomfortable, but just like training for a marathon, we must train for self-worth.
Spending time without clothes on teaches us to be more comfortable in our skin.
Going to a pool can be one of the most anxiety-provoking experiences. Everyone always seems to be in better shape and being nearly naked magnifies our insecurities. Own your shape! As I have gotten older and more empowered, I have learned to appreciate my body. Pick a time when no one is home and spend a few minutes in the buff. As you get more comfortable, increase the time you spent naked. I like doing this after getting undressed. I am truly myself without the layers of clothing or makeup.
Practice the mantra “I love and accept myself”
Mantra, the sacred repetition of words and phrases, works on a vibrational level, beyond the conscious mind. It is a powerful meditation tool that helps to calm and change the energy of our thoughts. There are many negative “mantras” we repeat unconsciously throughout the day. These are changeable, but the first step is to become aware. What destructive ideas or phrases do you repeat to yourself throughout the day? Once we notice, we can make a shift. I like to call it “changing the tape” (or “switching the song” for those of you born in the CD/iPod era).
The affirmational phrase, “I love and accept myself,” is most powerful when repeated looking yourself in the eyes in front of a mirror.
Try saying it out loud five times every day. I burst into tears the first few times I tried this. It may even feel like you are lying to yourself in the beginning, but as you stay committed the old tapes/songs/voices fade away and you will tune into a new channel, one that was always there but needed to speak up. You will access your true Self, a place of self-acceptance and unconditional love.