When we get so many powerful messages every day telling us we need to be skinnier, wear more make-up, act sexier, have clearer skin, how do we feel confident as we are? How do we silence these voices and start to see the best in ourselves? When I was a teenager, my thoughts about my body were overwhelmingly negative. I thought my entire worth was in my looks, and as such I needed to be skinnier, have better clothes, act sexier and on and on. I was obsessed with my weight and appearance and it was exhausting. . At some point, I decided I was tired of hating my body. It wasn’t serving me and I knew there was a different way. I read a lot about body image and learned about ways to shift my thinking so that my body was no longer a source of such stress in my life. Learning to treat my body with love was much more influential to my health and appearance than any diet or exercise plan had been. It’s a way of thinking that is foreign to many people, but is there for you whenever you need it. If you’re ready to start loving your body here are some ways to get started.
1. Start seeing your body for what it can DO, rather than what it LOOKS like. We put so much emphasis on appearance we forget all about our body’s function. Everyday we breathe, move, talk, eat, touch, and feel so much because of our bodies. When we are hurt, our body heals us. When we are in danger, our body gives us everything it can to help us survive. When you’re feeling down about your body, remember all the amazing things its doing all the time—there is always a lot more going RIGHT than going wrong!!
2. Start with what you put in. Don’t wait until you love your body to treat it right- with this mentality, you’re never gonna get there. Start with what you put in. Cutting out junk food, eating more vegetables, and moving more will create change. Start with what you put in and trust that the rest will follow.
3. Set non-appearance related goals. When people start eating healthier or exercising, it’s tempting to set goals like getting to a certain size, looking like a model or celebrity, looking “good” in a bathing suit etc. While these goals can be motivating, they can also be hard to reach because they aren’t tangible. Even when we lose weight, we might not look exactly how we pictured- that shouldn’t diminish from all the work you’ve done. Try setting tangible goals like eating 5 servings of vegetables a day, increasing flexibility, or getting to the gym 3 times a week. Meeting your goals will motivate you and remind you the journey is not all about physical changes.
4. Focus on what you like. If you find yourself dwelling on something about your body you don’t like, try shifting the focus to something more positive. Challenge yourself to think about something you do like- it doesn’t have to be limited to a physical quality, but can be anything you like about yourself.
5. Eliminate superficial media. Many magazines, websites, and social media sites are focused on superficial issues like make-up, celebrity weight loss (or gain), dieting, etc. Just a few minutes looking at pictures of half-naked models can prompt doubts about our own bodies. Check who you follow and what you read and make sure it’s inspirational, not soul crushing.
6. Get educated. It’s important to realize that ads for makeup and weight loss products are motivated by a desire to make money, not to tell the truth. These companies profit from your dissatisfaction. When you accept this, its easier to ignore these messages and realize they have nothing to do with you! After all, the people making these ads know nothing about you and unfortunately they have no interest in improving your life.
7. Talk about it. Tons of people, especially girls and women, deal with body image issues. Girls are often prone to comparing bodies or talking about all the things they hate about their own ( i.e. “I have such big pores” scene from Mean Girls). These conversations have an odd power and not in a good way. Instead of engaging in the body bashing, try opening a conversation on positive body image. Teaching others about body positivity can strengthen your own beliefs and opens a space to talk about these issues with people you trust.
8. Read about it. There are tons of resources on body love. Many people are on a body love journey and have a lot to share, from practical tips to poetry and art. Checking out what other people have to say is a great way to get educated and to realize you’re not alone.
9. Realize it’s really NOT about what you look like. You can look perfect based on conventional standards and still hate your body. The way you look and the way you feel about your body are 100% independent factors and you are in control of this feeling.
10. Practice active acceptance. Active acceptance means accepting ourselves as we are while realizing that there is always space for change and improvement. Active acceptance allows us to experience the self-love needed to for positive growth. Remind yourself everyday that you are enough today, just as you were yesterday and will be tomorrow.
11. Start your day with loving movement. Wake up and move- however it feels good. Before negative thinking begins, do something that feels good and allows you to connect with your body and your self. We often live in the mind, without actually getting into our body and seeing how it feels. Before you think, move & feel- forget about the supposed tos and should bes and just see how your body is now.
12. Embrace other body types. Go to an exercise class or just look around you anywhere and realize that people come in so many shapes and sizes. Think about people you respect- there is probably a range of genders, races, shapes and sizes. While we have an appearance focused society, we can see that there are people in all kinds of important positions – teachers, doctors, politicians, lawyers, athletes, artists, musicians, engineers, nurses- and that there are
13. Realize the ways your body loves you. When we drink too much, fall down, starve ourselves, or overeat our body always has our back. As soon as we’re hurt, our body does everything it can to help us heal. Our body loves us unconditionally- maybe it’s time we return the favor. <3