I’ll let you in on a little secret… but you mustn’t tell anyone. I have never liked my body. The closest I got to even tolerating it was when I was pregnant. Knowing that I was supposed to have a big belly, I embraced tight clothing for the first time in my life. That was more than six years ago now though, and now that I am raising a daughter I am acutely aware of my body hang-ups, and desperate that they should not be passed down to her.
And so, I am working on loving and accepting my body – and myself.
Just recently I have been focusing more on self love and self care in general, and learning to love my body seems a natural part of that. I read this quote somewhere, that you can’t hate yourself into loving your body; you have to approach it with love. That really struck a chord with me; how many of us have thought to ourselves, I’ll love my body when… When I’m ten pounds lighter, when I get rid of this belly, when my arms are more toned, when I have a thigh gap… when, when, when. All this waiting for some as yet undetermined point in the future is a big waste of time. What about right now? What if we all just accepted our bodies for how they are right now, and approached any changes with love and nurturing, rather than hatred and punishment?
I published a post the other day about talking kindly to ourselves, and I think when it comes to our bodies, most of us could stand to talk much more kindly to and about our bodies than we currently do. We poke and prod and judge and complain; this part is too big, this is too small, here is too saggy, this scar, those stretch marks.
I can’t help thinking about when I was a teenager. I was especially disgusted with my body during those years, and often attempted to starve it into submission. It didn’t work, and even when I was skinny, I wasn’t skinny enough, and I still wasn’t happy. Just recently I was talking to an old friend about this and she exclaimed, but you were so skinny at school! And all I could think was – but I didn’t know! Looking back at photos now, I see that I was quite thin, and my body looked quite good. But I was too busy picking fault with it to appreciate that it actually looked ok as it was. When I had a breakdown and stopped eating, I lost a lot of weight. I had a moment where I went for a bra fitting and when the lady came in to check the fit, I realised to my horror that I hadn’t felt the need to suck in my belly, for the first time in my life. I had always thought I would be happy when I was thin, and yet here I was – the most miserable I had ever been in my life.
I can’t bear the thought of S growing up to have the same, deep seated loathing I have often harboured for my body. It seems bonkers that so many of us take such issue with our bodies. After all, your body is arguably the one thing that is always with you. You can get rid of clothes; you can move house; friends and even family members come and go. But your body is always there (unless Futurama becomes an actual thing). Since we’re all stuck with the bodies we have, isn’t it about time we just got on and accepted them as they are?
Here are some starting points to help get yourself onto the path of body positivity:
Take good care of your body.
When you love your body, you know that pizza is not going to make it feel good. You know that boring things like eating vegetables and getting good sleep are what will make your body feel good. Don’t look at food and think about whether it will make you “fat” – look at food and think about whether eating it will make you feel good. And if you’re having a day where eating pizza will make you feel good, then eat the damn pizza – but do it without any guilt or self judgement. Eat it with joy.
Find positive things to focus on.
Instead of looking in the mirror and pointing out all the things you don’t like, try to find things you do like. I know, right; revolutionary. Every time you look in the mirror and are tempted to poke and/or prod, commit to finding at least two things you like about what you see. Personally, I like my legs; they’re pretty good. And my bum is not bad either!
Avoid judging other people’s bodies too.
This can be really hard, in a world where we are invited and encouraged to find fault in celebrities’ bodies on a daily (if not hourly) basis. Oftentimes we can make ourselves feel better by looking at someone else and thinking, At least my bum is not as big as hers – but that really just encourages that negative attitude. Either decline to pass comment (even internally!) or do the same as above: find something nice to say.
Practice accepting compliments – without question!
If someone tells you they like that dress on you, don’t respond with oh, it was only a fiver in the sale; say thank you very much, I love it too! It’s so easy to fall into the habit of deflecting compliments by putting ourselves down. The dress is cheap; no, I haven’t lost weight, I’ve put it on; my hair might look good but it’s a nightmare to style. Try your level best to Just. Say. Thank you.
Follow body positive social media accounts.
There are always stories in the news about how social media can make us all feel negative and depressed and not good enough. I heard an interesting podcast the other day though where the presenter said that is only the case when you are following social media accounts that make you feel that way. If you follow people who uplift you and celebrate normal lives and normal bodies, you will find that they make you feel pretty good. Personally I love bodyposipanda and glitterandlazers on Instagram because they are normal, beautiful women positing positive images. I have never seen either of them apologise for how they look, and that’s something we could all learn from.
Embrace your body, and all its functions.
We all know we’re not supposed to talk about periods; we’re supposed to buy the products we see advertised on TV by women wearing white and rollerblading, and we’re supposed to shut up. There’s a huge amount of shame around menstruation which is bonkers when you think that it’s something every woman deals with or has dealt with. A lot. The tide is changing, with brands like Knixteen bringing out “period proof pants” and talking about periods without using cutesy euphemisms or images of women riding bikes in white shorts.
Do things that make you proud of yourself – and are nothing to do with your body.
Do things that make you feel good, and in my experience you’ll care a little less about whether your bum looks big in those jeans.
Spend more time with people who don’t talk about bodies – theirs, yours or other people’s.
When you spend time with people whose attention is on other things, your attention will follow. When people are not judging or being judged by looks, you will worry less about how you look.
Learning to love your body is a long process, and self acceptance is a bumpy road that seems to involve a lot of setbacks. But I’ve heard tell that once you get there, the view is pretty good.