Inside: Learn to love your body with six helpful tips and quiet your inner critic.
Body Positivity. By now, you’ve heard of the movement. You need this message – and you’re inspired. Finally, you’re encouraged to feel comfortable in your own skin.
Yet these are the words you still say to yourself:
“My stomach is flabby.”
“I hate my body.”
“I’m too tall.”
“I’m too short.”
“My legs are too skinny.”
“I wish my breasts/legs/butt/arms were fuller/toned/firmer/toned.”
If you’re a woman in midlife, chances are you’ve said critical and cruel things about your body. Probably, more often than you realize. It’s soul-crushing.
If you don’t do this – then rock on, my Queen. But if you do, well, it’s time to stop.
We need to change the way we think, speak and feel about our bodies.
Recently, my friend went to post a photo on Facebook of herself with her daughter. But then she stopped.
Why? Because she thought she looked “fat.”
Never mind the adorable moment captured. Forget about the beautiful experience.
The photo told the story of a mom and her daughter experiencing joy. Yet that’s not what she saw.
She saw flaws. Extra weight. Imperfection. She held back sharing this special image – because of how she felt about herself.
But I’m happy to report she came to her senses.
She reminded herself that she’s a healthy, happy, strong, successful and loving woman.
She went on to share her photo and her struggle, as a reminder to us all:
We should speak positively to ourselves. And we should love our bodies for what they can do.
I needed that reminder. And it made me wonder…..
Given all the “Body Positive” talk lately, why are so many of us still reluctant to accept our bodies? Why do we belittle ourselves? And how do we change it?
Really, how do you learn to love your body?
We’re Still Struggling
The Body Positivity Movement has been on the rise in recent years.
In a nutshell, body positivity is the belief that we should all have a positive body image, regardless of shape and size.
Easier said than done, right?
But we’re making progress. We’re shifting in the right direction.
These days, we see more plus-size models, actresses, and influencers showing us a much wider variety of shapes and sizes. We are shown different heights, sizes, and abilities in a positive light.
It’s helping us to reframe our perception of “beauty.” And it shows us that the “ideal” pushed on us by culture and society is not realistic for most women.
But while the dialogue about body positivity is increasing, we still have a long way to go.
Not only is it difficult to learn to love your body, but many of us are still tying our self-worth to with our physical appearance.
And that’s not okay.
What Body Positivity is Not
Believe it or not, body positivity does not mean feeling “amazing” 100 percent of the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean you love your body.
That’s not realistic.
No one is full of sunshine and rainbows every second of every day.
We all have days that we feel a little (or a lot) off.
We have bad hair days. Bloated Days. Breakout days. Crampy days. Pimply days. It’s all very normal.
To think that having a positive body image means you won’t have days where you feel a bit icky is inaccurate.
Body Positivity isn’t about “letting yourself go,” either. That can be a common misconception.
Accepting yourself where you are does not mean you don’t want to improve your health or fitness level.
Body positivity is about accepting yourself as you are. It’s loving yourself even in those moments when you don’t feel sexy, attractive, fit, beautiful, or whatever “feeling good” looks like for you.
And even though body positivity is about loving yourself, self-love shouldn’t be tied to how you look in the mirror.
Body positivity should be about looking in the mirror and loving WHO you see, no matter what.
Shifting to Body Acceptance
Body positivity means different things to different people. Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association, is making a shift towards the phrase “Body Acceptance.”
It’s a realistic shift because, as mentioned earlier, it’s unrealistic to feel positive about our bodies all the time.
We all have days that don’t feel our best. Or we have areas of our body we don’t love. And that can feel frustrating if we’re trying to be “Body Positive.”
So instead, Body Acceptance” means accepting and appreciating the body you are in. Period.
You don’t put yourself down. You don’t try to meet society’s unrealistic expectations. No matter what you look like on the outside, you know you are as worthy as anyone else.
It also means you take care of yourself.
Whichever term you prefer, Body Positivity and Body Acceptance include providing nourishment, self-care, and movement for your body.
You can care for yourself and make positive changes without punishing yourself for the way you look.
It also includes accepting changes and limitations, while still focusing on what your body can do. Or how your body supports you.
I can affirm that getting to that point can take a lot of work. You see, several years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My surgical option was a lumpectomy, and that led to uneven breast shape.
I didn’t get reconstructive surgery. And now, I have a large dimple underneath my right breast. Sometimes I catch myself starting to feel bad about it when I look at it in the mirror.
But then I stop.
I quickly shift my emotions and thoughts to express gratitude. I intentionally turn to gratitude in those moments, reminding myself that I’ll take uneven breast shape over a worse alternative.
From a physical fitness aspect, my age is catching up to me. Old ankle injuries and joint stiffness slow me down.
When I’m frustrated and angry because I can’t move like I used to, I remind myself to stop and intentionally find gratitude for what I can do.
I mean, I can walk. Seriously. I think about how I shouldn’t take simple things for granted. I can dance. And I can lift weights. I can do many things. So, I find appreciation for my abilities.
It’s a matter of perception.
The end goal is to feel comfortable in our own skin. It’s being kind to yourself and loving yourself where you are.
How Can We Change?
For starters, we can let go of what we’ve been programmed to think about our bodies. Culture has been bombarding us with unrealistic and unhealthy messages since we were very young
Whether it’s social media, society, family, friends, and medical professionals; we get it from all around.
We’ve been told how we should look, what we should eat (to look better), what we should weigh and what we should do to meet unrealistic standards.
Don’t get me wrong. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle is important.
What I’m talking about is how you speak to yourself and feel about yourself, regardless of where you are in your journey.
Body Positivity and Body Acceptance are mindsets of pursuing a healthy lifestyle instead of pursuing a size 6.
We should approach the journey in a healthy and loving manner. Or simply be happy where we are. Either way, critically examine what feels right and works for you.
6 Simple Ways to Love Your Body
Yes, it’s challenging. Body positivity takes work. But you can start feeling better by applying some of these strategies:
Start by looking at yourself as a whole person.
When I look in the mirror, I automatically start picking apart my “flaws.” My eyes go to my stomach. Or my acne scars, or cellulite. I could keep going….
That’s probably common.
But we need to remind ourselves not to focus on imperfections that stand out to us.
We should see our whole selves, because that’s who we are and that’s what other people see when they look at us.
Focus on the things you like.
Each day pick out at least one (or more) things you admire. Intentionally find something about yourself that you like.
I happen to like my shoulders. That sounds weird. But I do. It helps to notice these things with appreciation instead of the things we wish we could change.
Intentionally notice things you like. Find one thing (or more) and focus on them every day.
Eat healthy foods to fuel your body.
Don’t focus on dieting and deprivation. Instead, make it a habit to choose healthy foods that nourish your body.
Listen to your body and eat when you are truly hungry. Stop when you feel satisfied. It’s possible to eat in a way that supports you without starving or feeling denied.
Get moving – get physical.
Staying active is key for mental and physical health. Express gratitude for what your body can do and keep moving forward.
Find activities that work for you and your fitness level, and keep you engaged. For some that may be high-intensity activities and for some that may be walking or yoga.
Speak positive words to yourself.
Believe it or not, the words we speak to ourselves matter. Choose them wisely.
Catch the critic when she starts saying the negative things and reframe into positive statements. Make a list of positive affirmations about body image.
Speaking kind words to yourself will significantly impact your emotions in a positive way.
Think like a friend.
Would you tear down a friend in a conversation? No.
Would a friend put you down with the words you use towards yourself? No.
So when you catch yourself speaking negatively, stop and consider how you would speak to one of your friends.
Think about it. When you talk to friends, you are encouraging and positive. Speak to yourself the same way.
Focus on wellness vs. weight loss.
This might be one of the most challenging things to do, given the weight loss messages that bombard us daily.
For many of us, it’s all we think about – and it’s exhausting. But if you can, make the shift from weight loss to wellness.
Think of it in terms of “non-scale victories,” like being able to walk three miles, whereas before, you couldn’t walk one. Or keeping up with your kids on the playground without getting winded.
Feeling better about your food choices. Sleeping more soundly. Feeling happier with healthy life choices. Those all move you towards wellness.
Body Positivity Is a Process
Instead of “trying to get to this specific goal” and loving yourself only when you are “there,” let’s work on loving ourselves right where we are.
Let’s make healthier shifts so that one day, we won’t hesitate to post those pictures. Instead, we’ll feel joy in sharing those special moments because we’re doing the daily work of loving ourselves as we are in each moment.
I get it. Changing your body image can take a lot of work.
Shifting to a Body Positive or Body Acceptance mindset is a daily practice. We’re overcoming years of programming that told us we weren’t worthy if we didn’t fit a certain mold.
But that’s BS. Because we are worthy. Exactly as we are.
Friends – share those photos! Be brave. Be confident. Let us see you. Learn to love your yourself, just as you are.
Do you need a little extra each day to remind you to use your words in a positive way? Then download this Body Acceptance Manifesto. Print it out and put it where you can see it each day!