Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.– Baz Luhrmann
Many of us aim to change how we think about our bodies, seeking a path toward self-love and acceptance.
For many years, I believed the only way to get my ideal body was to whip it into shape with lashings of shame and hate. For some bizarre reason that I couldn’t fathom at the time, this strategy was unsuccessful.
It resulted in fluctuating weight loss/gain, injury, pain, and a whole lot of misery.
If I lost weight, I always needed to lose more. If I felt overwhelmed, I ate my emotions and put the weight back on. No matter what I did, I never felt good enough.
Fortunately, I was blessed to receive the assistance of a gifted therapist to overcome my disordered relationship with food, exercise, and my body. While I still sometimes struggle, I have found when I consistently practice these five tips, my body and life are so much happier!
1. Embrace Self-Acceptance to Positively Change How You Think About Your Body
Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.– Albert Einstein
Acceptance does not mean that you never want to change. It doesn’t mean that you’ll give up all your desire to be fit and healthy and turn into a slob.
It means that you wholeheartedly recognize where you are in your health journey with kindness and compassion, rather than piling on guilt and shame about where you “should be”.
Acceptance allows you to acknowledge where you are and where you’d like to go. It’s far more motivating and sustainable than the self-loathing that accompanies the “shoulds”.
Thinking about how much you should weigh, how fast you should be able to run, and how stronger / fit/ toned you should be is dejecting and usually leads to resentment.
Whenever I resented or felt ashamed about the way I looked, I was more likely to skip workouts or conversely, work out too much and end up injuring myself. Accepting where I was on my health and fitness journey allowed me to approach workouts with much more kindness and joy.
2. Stop Comparing to Enhance Body Positivity
Stop comparing yourself to others, how you were yesterday, or even how you were 5 years ago. Comparison truly is the thief of joy as it either leads to smug superiority or feelings of shameful inferiority. And as you already know, shame is not a sustainable motivator.
Recognize that you have unique abilities in this present moment. Honor the journey that has brought you to this place and renew your commitment to living your life of awesomeness.
A great first step is to go on a media diet.
Get rid of the magazines that uphold such ludicrous ideals of beauty. Even though you’re an intelligent person and you KNOW those models are digitally altered (making their beauty even more unrealistic) your primal brain doesn’t.
Your primitive brain, deep below your neocortex, is hardwired to accept reality as, well, real. It has no way of knowing that the images it sees in magazines are illogical and deceptive. It’s why movies and books are so powerfully entertaining and immersive.
The less material you have to fuel self-comparison, the better off your mental health will be.
I’ve even given up reading health and fitness magazines because I find that I end up focusing too much on the women’s bodies and how I stack up, instead of focusing on the fitness information.
3. Silence Your Inner Critic for a Healthier Body Image
We all have a harsh inner monologue that criticizes and blames us for when things go wrong, or that arcs up when things are about to get risky.
You know – the voice that is overly concerned with things being perfect, safe, and secure. The voice that says things about you that you would NEVER say to anyone else.
Mine is particularly nasty if I’ve put on weight if I’m trying something new, or if I’ve stuffed something up.
But just because you have one, doesn’t mean you have to listen to the horrible things they say.
Recognize the harsh, repetitive, adrenaline-fuelled messages for what they are. Anxiety. They are not true statements about you, your personality, or your potential.
4. Amplify Kindness with Your Inner Bestie Approach
Transforming your critical monologue is as simple as treating yourself as you would your best friend.
Not always easy if your Inner Bully has been running rampant for a while – but simple.
The next time you begin to feel the dead-weight dread of your Inner Bully – imagine the situation that is causing the anxiety happening to your Best Friend. What do you say to them when they are sick, scared, or suffering? What do you do for them to soothe them? How do you treat your loved ones when they need your compassion?
Whenever I imagine how I would treat my bestie, there is often a large gap between how I would treat them and how I treat myself. Permitting myself to be kind to myself has been a big step towards loving myself and my body more.
5. Practice Mindfulness to Transform Your Relationship with Your Body
Staying aware and focused in the present moment is at once grounding and liberating.
In an age of hyperconnected 24-7 lifestyles, the ancient wisdom of mindfulness is more vital than ever. Slowing down and appreciating the present moment allows you to be grateful for all you have.
I’ve found mindfulness to be excellent at reducing my anxiety, which helps prevent emotional eating. It helps me pay more attention to hunger and satiety clues, helping to prevent overeating. And it gives me focus, which vastly improves the quality of my workout.
Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as taking 10 minutes per day just to sit quietly and breathe. The intention is not to stop thinking, or to avoid thinking negative thoughts. The goal is to quietly witness the thoughts without attaching judgment or criticism. Whenever you get distracted, just gently guide your attention back to the physical sensation of breathing.
Mindfulness is definitely a practice. The more I do it, the more familiar it becomes and the benefits flow into all areas of my life.
Do you struggle with body image? How do you motivate yourself to stay fit and healthy? What other tips would you suggest for positive body love?