A friend recently wrote to me about how I seem so confident in my body and asked how I deal with body image issues and coming to peace in myself…

Body image is a big issue for women and, believe it or not, many men as well.

I used to be over 200lbs and, let me tell you, I loved my body then too.

I was a belly dancer, and a nude model and for some reason, I had no negative feelings about my body.

I loved my goddess belly and the fullness in my breasts. I loved how soft I felt, and I didn’t really ever think that I was overweight or unhealthy.

Then I lost weight because I wanted to go to school for acting. I changed my diet to mostly raw foods and I began an exercise program.

I dropped down to 125lbs, and I started to have the worst body image issues.

The outside world reacted to my weight loss, I got hit on all the time by guys and I lost a relationship because of it.

People everywhere told me how good I looked.

But I still felt “fat” and I was always worried that I would gain the weight again, and I had stretch marks and cellulite and nothing was perfect.

I lived in LA for 10 years, the capital of superficiality and plastic surgery. I am considered plus size here.

It can do a number on your self-image.

Before I got pregnant I was working with a personal trainer. He put me on a 1200 calorie diet and I worked out every day.

I started feeling really good in my body. Then the pregnancy hit and I lost all my muscle and gained weight, which is what is supposed to happen, but my body image stuff came up big time.

My breasts drastically increased in size. My partner was affectionately calling them “goddess goblets”. And I got a few stretch marks, which my mother says are the battle scars of pregnancy, but I hated them with a passion.

I was so afraid that after having a baby and breastfeeding that my body would be ruined.

It’s strange though, some days I felt so sexy, like I did when my body was full and over 200lbs. I felt the fullness of my breasts and my belly and it felt like I was a garden teaming with life, full of life and sexiness.

Today I feel really alive in my sexiness, really confident. Actually, most days I feel great about myself, and I’m very grateful for my body as it is. The female body is pretty amazing.

Why does our society tell us what is supposed to be attractive? And why is it more about how we look rather than how we feel? Body image is such an issue.

How do I deal with it?

First, I have to not compare myself with everyone else that I see in magazines. I have spent a lot of time in nudist resorts and that is always great for my self-esteem.

This practice makes me realize that everyone has imperfections; no one looks like the plasticized and airbrushed women in the magazines. That ideal woman doesn’t exist, but it’s what society tells us that we have to be and tells men that that is what they should have on their arm.

At the nudist resorts I see obese bodies, plump bodies, bodies that have had babies, old bodies, young bodies, fit bodies, and even bodies that have been operated on to have sex changes. It is here that I start feeling most comfortable with where I am because I am just another one of those bodies.

Put down the magazines and take a look at the variety of real bodies out there.

Next, I have to spend time feeling and being sexy for me. This might mean gifting myself with something fabulous to wear, or taking a long bath and massaging myself with oils. It might mean going to the gym and working on those parts of my body that wish to nurture to optimal health; not complaining about those parts, instead of working on loving them.

I love having my body photographed, when I’m photographed by a great artist, I can see that my self-perception is really off and that I look nothing like the negative perceptions I see in my head, or often in the mirror.

I think that photography has been the best healing tool for me when it comes to body image.

And finally, I just have to let go.

When my partner tells me I am beautiful, I breathe it in, I accept it.

When negative thoughts about how I look pop into my head, I take a breath and tell myself that I am perfect in all my perceived imperfections and I let go.

I took a workshop with Niki Elite instructor named Misty Tripoli. One of her truths is that “no one cares what you look like, and if they do, it’s their problem”.

That was a hard one for me to believe, but it’s sinking in.

My partner is never thinking about the fat on my thighs during sex, he’s tuned into the pleasure; and if he was thinking about my fat, would I really want to be with him?

These days I spend more time loving myself and my body, but sometimes I totally indulge myself in feeling fat, ugly, unlovable and not sexy at all. And after a few intense moments of total indulgence, I can usually laugh at myself.

Humor is the best medicine.

What are some things that help you deal with negative body image?