How do you feel about your body? Before you answer, take yourself out of past or future-tense statements. No thinking things like “well I used to be a lot thinner” or “by next summer I’ll be at my goal weight.” How do you feel about your body right now, in this very moment? For many women, this question is a daunting one. It’s one that can bring up a lot emotions. Shame, fear, frustration.
The good news is that it is possible to answer that question in a positive way. To love and appreciate your body no matter what size you are. Don’t believe us? Anyone who has tried fad diets or extreme weight loss plans can tell you that losing a certain number of pounds doesn’t automatically bring you self-acceptance. It comes from loving yourself right now, no matter where you are on your fitness journey. And I believe everyone can benefit from a positive body image. Read on to find out why body positivity and self-acceptance are essential pillars to your overall health, how to practice body positivity and self-acceptance, and why you should access them now, no matter what the scale says.
Shame, Meet Self-Love: Self-Love, Meet Shame
Here’s a radical thought: give yourself permission to love your body the way it is right now—no conditional if’s, ands, or buts (or butts!) about it. And it truly is a radical thought. When you consider that 94% of girls have been body shamed by the time they get to high school, you realize that as a grown woman, loving your body as-is is a revolutionary and necessary act. Not just for yourself, but to set an example that no matter what society deems “the perfect body,” the perfect body is the one that lets you live your own beautiful life. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and attempting to fit into a size 4 skinny jean does not need to be your goal in order to be healthy. Wherever you are in your health journey, that journey should start with knowing you have worth and value as a human being in whatever shape you are in.
Don’t get us wrong, we all have parts of our bodies we want to improve (and that’s fine) but you aren’t going to be successful hating your way to change. It’s the difference between: “I hate my fat thighs” and “I am going to do some lunges and squats today to work on toning my thighs.”
We believe loving your body and loving yourself is the only path to a healthier you. As author and motivational speaker Brene Brown says, “shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” In other words, hating your body won’t get you a different one. But loving your body? That opens the doors to choices that honor your own unique physicality. When you start loving your body as it is today, you might be motivated to find new forms of exercise that feel natural and celebratory instead of uncomfortable and punishing. You’ll probably want to cook meals that fill you up while also delivering vital nutrients to you. And you won’t beat yourself up for your unique size and shape: you’ll find gratitude for the things that make you you. These are all practices that come from ditching body shaming and embracing the body you have right now for everything it does for you.
5 Ways To Practice Body Positivity
So just how can you put practice body positivity? Whether you’re prepping for your first 10k or just want motivation to start exercising for the first time, here’s how to practice body positivity, love your body today and make healthy choices that honor that self-love in the future.
1. Recognize that “we all come in different shapes and sizes”
We all see unrealistic images of beauty everywhere, every day. Who doesn’t look amazing with a professional makeover or a photo shoot with great lighting? But here’s the deal, we’ve got to stop comparing ourselves to images we see in magazine or online, or better yet, stop comparing with anyone! Expecting to look like we stepped off the pages of a magazine or like a mannequin in a store is unrealistic. We need to embrace that. We all come in different shapes and sizes. We all have different goals and are at different parts of our journey. You might want to look like you work out all the time, or you just want to drop a few pounds. Maybe you love your curves and you don’t want to change at all. That’s okay. Maybe no matter how much weight you lose, you can’t necessarily change the width of your hips or your own body proportions. You can lose weight from your body, but the areas that your body holds more fat than others can be influenced by your genetic or hormonal makeup. For example, if you tend to carry your weight in your hips and you lose weight all over, your hips might still be the area you carry more weight in than the rest. The size of your hips and the strength of your muscles are what gives your body its unique curves. Shift your brain to accept differences in people and only concern yourself with your own healthy path. Know that we all have different strengths and limitations. My point is this: love yourself today no matter how you look or feel. Look in the mirror today and truly take that in. Appreciate the parts of yourself that are strong and curvy and take up space. Appreciate your unique shape.
2. Practice positive self talk
Being human, we all inherently have an inner stream of consciousness that babbles on all day long. In fact, according to recent studies, up to 70 percent of our daily self-talk is negative. This stream of thoughts flows constantly, and, as you may learn in meditation, you can’t always stop this flow. What you can do, however, is avoid getting caught up in its current. When you’re by yourself and have a thought about your body, try to observe your inner monologue as you would eavesdrop on a stranger’s conversation. What are you saying about your body? What’s the story these thoughts tells you about your own self-worth? Would you say these things to a friend? A stranger? If the answer is no, consider this: you get to listen to your thoughts for the rest of your life. What purpose does it serve you to have those thoughts be defeating and negative? When you catch yourself having a negative thought about your body, don’t dwell on it or focus on it. Simply notice that negativity and choose to follow it up and replace it with a more positive thought. Don’t let that current of sweeping negativity pull you under. It’s unlikely anyone has gotten to the end of their life and said “I wish I would’ve spent more time thinking horrible things about my thighs.” Start your own list of positive thoughts and focus on those more often than you do anything you want to change.
3. Switch from fear to gratitude
It’s tremendously easy to get caught up in what we don’t like about ourselves. These shame-based thoughts come from a place of fear: fear that because we don’t like what we see in the mirror, others won’t either. Fear that because we observe a certain thing about our physical appearance, this makes us unloveable or unworthy. But gratitude is the opposite of fear. And the second you can turn your stream of shame into a stream of gratitude, you will be singing a whole different tune. You know the Janet Jackson song “What have you done for me lately?” Sing it to your body and the answers might just surprise you.
“Legs, what have you done for me lately?” (They’ve carried you to where you need to go. Allowed you to walk your dog. Helped you hike a beautiful trail in nature.)
“Arms, what have you done for me lately?” (They pick up your child or grandchild. They carry your groceries home from the store. They let you garden or play the violin or paint.)
Find ways to be grateful toward your body and how it allows you to live your life. The moment you start to view your body for all the miraculous things it DOES for YOU, the more you will want to speak kindly to it.
4. Set health-related fitness goals instead of size-related fitness goals
Having fitness goals is wonderful. But the motivation behind those goals can make a huge difference. Maybe you want to hit the gym twice a week before work or lift heavier weights next month than you can this month. Maybe you want to stop eating processed foods or cut out sugar. When you have these goals, it’s important to link them to a bigger “WHY.” As we talk about in The Whole Body Reset course, you’re more likely to follow through with goals if they connect with a deeper motivation. Connect your goal of going to the gym twice a week before work with the “WHY” that it will give you more energy to start the rest of your day. Maybe your reason for wanting to stop eating processed foods is so you can live a longer life. Those are some big “WHYs” and they will motivate you to follow through on your goals more so than a shame-based thought of “I need to lose 10 pounds because I don’t like the way I look.” Focus on factors like your overall health, longevity, strength, endurance, and energy. You’re making healthy choices because you love your body and feel worthy of honoring it with actions that support your big-picture desires.
5. Live the life you want right now
So many times, people postpone life’s amazing experiences until they reach their goal weight or decline invitations to events because their body doesn’t exactly look the way they think it should. If you have a trip that you want to take, schedule it now! If you’d like to use the trip to reward yourself for hard work in the gym or hard work in the kitchen, then do so. But tie the reward to experiential progress, rather than a bodyweight number. For example, you might plan a short weekend getaway at the end of the month to celebrate four weeks of consistent daily exercise. Or you might indulge in a spa day after a week of healthy eating. Or reward yourself with some new clothes that make you feel beautiful and strong. There’s no reason to wait until you are a certain size to do the things you want. No matter what, don’t let life pass you by until you reach a certain weight or look a certain way. Life is happening right now; acknowledge and love your body enough to live it!
Body Positive Mantras To Practice Daily:
Changing up a shame-based body image is no easy feat. That’s why sometimes you have to start talking to yourself in a nicer way even if you don’t believe it yet. (Fake it til’ you make it, anyone?) Next time you catch yourself saying something negative about your body, repeat after me:
- My body is healthy
- I honor and respect my body
- Even on days where I feel less-than, I am enough
- I thank my [body part] for [doing its physical function!]
- I celebrate the uniqueness of my body
- My body takes care of me and I take care of my body
- I am allowed to take up space and hold my head up high
- I love my body because it is mine
- I thank my body for letting me enjoy life
We believe that you should love your body right now, wherever you are in your journey to a healthier you. Being healthy is a lifestyle, not a fad or a shame-filled punishment. What you think about your body is one essential piece in determining how you will treat it. And we believe loving your body and loving yourself is the only path to a healthier you. Self-love should not be conditional; you should not wait until you see a certain number on the scale to deem yourself worthy of acceptance. So wherever you are—whether you’re training for a marathon or you feel like you’re scared to start exercising—start with how you think about your body. Start with the words you tell yourself when you look in the mirror. Start with thanking your body for all that it has done for you, and for coming along on the journey you have ahead. We promise it will make all the difference.