“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
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 lotta 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 to food, exercise and my body. And whilst I still sometimes struggle, I have found when I consistently practice these 5 tips, my body and life are so much happier!
“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 desire to be fit and healthy and turn into a gluttonous slob.
It means that you wholeheartedly recognise where you are in your health journey with kindness and compassion, rather than piling on guilt and shame about where you “should be”.
Acceptance gives you permission to acknowledge where you are and also 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 faster you should be able to run, 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, workout too much and end up injuring myself. Accepting where I was at on my health and fitness journey allowed me to approach workouts with much more kindness and joy.
2. Stop Comparing!
Stop comparing yourself to others, yourself to 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.
Recognise that you have unique abilities in this present moment. Honour 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. Turn Down the Inner Bully
We all have a harsh inner monologue that criticises 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.
Recognise the harsh, repetitive, adrenaline fuelled messages for what they are. Anxiety. They are not true statements about you, your personality or your potential.
4. Turn Up Your Inner Bestie
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 is 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. Giving myself permission to be kind to myself has been a big step towards loving myself and my body more.
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 gives you the opportunity 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 my 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?
Photo by Gaga M13
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26 thoughts on “5 Ways to Change Your Mind About Your Body”
I think you will find that mindfulness is the key in all areas of your life. Learning to maintain it day in and day out is the key.
Dan @ ZenPresence
Absolutely Dan. It’s really helped me in so many different ways, and I certainly find the days I don’t maintain my practice just that little bit harder :)
Brilliant Tahlee! Spot on. I totally agree that being mindful and not dwelling over regrets or future worries is very helpful for disordered eating and calming the mind in general. :)
Thanks Alana. Yes, mindfulness changed my life ;)
At one point, I started telling the parts I generally hated on my body “I love you” and “you are the most beautiful (fill in body part) ever”. Just stuff that was obviously a little theatrical, but it kinda helped reverse that subconscious mind that was stuck in the ‘you’re ugly’ ditch. There’s still things I want to see improve on my body, but I’m not anywhere near as harsh on myself as before.
Hooray Stacey! *fistpump* Fabulous news. x
Probably not the effect you were hoping to have, Tahlee, but this article kind of woke something up for me. I’m a very skinny guy at 115, 5’7. Perhaps I’ve been too accepting and I should put on some more weight. I mean sure, I’m not incredibly unhealthy or anything, but other people’s comments on my weight may have some significance. I never really compared myself or even felt hurt, but what do I have to lose by trying to improve my body? Thank you Tahlee!
Waking up people to the possibility of a body and life they love (no matter where they are on the spectrum) is the exact effect I’m hoping for. ;)
Thank you Vincent.
This is what i need right now! Got married Dec’ last year and now i find some changes in my body that most of the time i still can’t accept. I feel a bit a fatter, i get tired easily and my workout habit is a mess at the moment for still having difficulty in managing the time with my husband. The idea of ‘skinny body’ somehow really sticks in mind esp. for women, there’s always a pressure in society about how to look and how to be perfect based on our body shape. It’s a real issue! However, my husband keeps telling me that relationship does not depend on how we look, it’s much more than that. Another thing that actually calms me down is that my husband likes me gaining weight a bit, it makes me look fresh he said. Well, we need more articles like this to help us be a good friend to our body :)
I LOVE your line – be a good friend to your body. So beautiful :)
You raise a good subject here Tahlee. I’ve been struggling with anorexia for about 10 yrs, on and off, but it’s been extremely active last 2 yrs.
And you know what I say to all my girlfriends who try to lose weight/diet etc.
It doesn’t worth it! It doesn’t worse to lose your mind over your body shape!
Please people no matter what you do, keep in mind that balance harmony and mental health are much more important in life. Now I’d give everything I have to get rid of this gorilla that effects and in times destroys my life.
Also What I’m trying to focus at right now is to be strong, not skiny, but strong, fit and full of energy.
We’re so much more than just our bodies!!! and it pians for me to see how healthy folks are going wrong way…
Oh Maria, my heart goes out to you hon.
Absolutely, an eating disorder actually has nothing to do with food. It’s a mental health issue.
Keep focusing on your goals honey. Keep taking each day at a time and be kind to your mind and body.
Thank you so much Tahlee for your kind words:-)
Great article.. It not only applies to body and weight but its is applicable with people and behaviour in generic.
So true. Thanks Hari.
I’ve learned to stop comparing most things in my life and I’m much more satisfied.
Yay Dan! :)
Hi Tahlee….. Sincere thanks to you for such a great post….
You wont believe I had a fight with one my close one today morning itself because I compared myself with another person and our relationship too and I was in inferiority. Because of this I hurt my close one. This keeps happening with me.
All the 5 points which you have mentioned personally applies to me. I keep struggling to come out these things. In one of my latest comments for another blog I did mention that I can suggest, support my friends when they are demotivated or when they need compassion.
But when it comes to me I am ruthless, I like to be sad and make others sad. I dont treat myself good.
There was no way out for me. The point “4. Turn Up Your Inner Bestie” is so enlightening for me. I will definitely work on it.
I hope I will become kind to myself and to my close and loved ones.
And ofcourse mindfulness is always helpful for the human kind. In India we call is as “Dhyanam(in Sanskrit language)”, this means meditation. Ideally it will be of 20 mins. It is believed that it has lot of advantages, it can improve mental and physical health of a person. It can also get you what you desire of. It is also believed that sages of India in the ancient ages, used to practice meditation intensively and they had achieved super natural powers through meditation.
I guess there is a typo… could you please correct it. In the below paragraph which I copied from your post, I have put double quotes where it requires a correction. I guess it should be “me” instead of “my”.
I’ve found mindfulness to be excellent at reducing my anxiety, which helps prevent emotional eating. It helps “”””my”””” 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.
Thanks again for such a great share and hope to see more such posts.
Keep up the great work and All the best to you!!
Thanks Roopa. Glad you found the article helpful.
Kindness is definitely a practice too. Keep turning up your Inner Bestie! :)
Oops – you’re right. That was a typo – it was meant to be “me” not “my”. Unfortunately I can’t change it now that it’s been published…
All the best to you too.
Hey Tahlee…. I am extremely sorry, I didnt mean to point out any mistake from your article when I said there is a small typo. All I meant was, Its a great article and I wanted it to be perfect! That was my concern.
I hope you got my intention. Thanks a lot for understanding that….
Please don’t give it another thought. I totally understand your intention. It’s all good. :)
Right, i know that comparing yourself to yourself is your goal better than comparing yourself to someone else :)
Exactly Abyooda. :)