The whole culture of trying to get women to love themselves still tends to isolate and alienate women in some way (fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, colorism, etc.). The body image project is a series that highlights what real, everyday women (and some men) have done to develop a positive perception of their physical appearance thus far — how they’ve gotten to a healthy place, what they’ve done to get there, struggles and setbacks they still experience, and what they’re doing to get to a place where they feel the best about themselves and stay there.
With editing by Adwaa
Jehan considers herself a mystic misfit. She is an editor and columnist for MissMuslim and a former academic publishing consultant, but a true storyteller at heart who is trying to take the road that tells the better story.
What issues have you had with your own body image that you’ve learned to love and appreciate about yourself?
I battled anorexia in my early twenties. I didn’t fully accept my body until my late twenties, after I started working with my [current] healer. It started when a modeling agent told me to lose two inches off my waist and then she’ll sign me. I left the agency, went straight to the gym, signed up with a personal trainer, and lost 30 pounds in 30 days. At that time, I didn’t need to lose any weight, but her innocent comment pushed me into a downward spiral.
What has been your experience with learning to be comfortable in your skin and love yourself?
It’s an ongoing relationship. Some days are better than others, some months are better than others. I notice when I go through a significant heartache, my old eating patterns, or lack thereof, creep back in. At that point, I listen to my body and spend more time in meditation/prayer to assess what is igniting my old patterns.
What comments have you heard over time about your weight, height, or other physical aspects of your appearance that have made it difficult to develop that self-love and acceptance?
I have a fast metabolism and growing up, I was always the tallest and skinniest girl in my class. I was an avid soccer player and during off seasons I played basketball and ran track. Since I was always physically active, my metabolism stayed active. Therefore, kids pegged me as “Olive Oyl” after the cartoon character.
I battled anorexia in my early twenties.
What would you say to someone who came to you about their own struggles with self-love and acceptance?
Ask yourself, in meditation or with a trusted healer, “What is the root cause of your emotional pain?” These issues always stem from an emotional trigger. I’ve always felt loved and accepted by my parents, but I know when I find myself creeping back into my old eating habits, it is a result of a heartache. Underneath that is me feeling like I’m not accepted by someone I love. You can also discover this persona through other therapeutic modalities like writing. There are a lot of writing prompts geared towards discovering these exact issues.
Since these issues never disappear completely, what are some things you currently grapple with and what do you do to overcome them?
I give myself compassion. I give myself space and time to feel through the tough times. I also read Surah Rahman and, during dhikr, I focus on “ya-Rahman” to activate God’s attribute of compassion.
In a short sentence or phrase, create and share your own personal mantra for positive and healthy body image.
I AM perfect, whole, and complete.