“Body love is more than acceptance of self or the acceptance of the body. Body love is about self-worth in general. It's more than our physical appearance.” ~Mary Lambert
This past week, I got married.
For me, this symbolized not only a new chapter in my life with a partner, but also a new chapter in life with myself.
Here, in this new chapter, I officially left behind the woman who was constantly trying to mold herself into whatever she needed to be to (hopefully) be accepted and loved by a partner.
And instead, I found the woman who was unapologetically herself and loved for it. In fact, that’s what ironically got her to this point in the first place.
And I left the girl who used to get by on a diet full of grapes, lettuce, and coffee. Who thought the thinner she was, the more worthy she was.
This sad, hungry girl was replaced by a woman who didn’t think twice about losing an ounce to fit into a white dress, and who embraced her curves, thighs, cellulite, wrinkles, and all that goes along with the celebration (yes, celebration) of aging.
My twenty-something self would be amazed.
To be honest, my thirty-something self is amazed.
If you had told me how I’d feel about my body and myself today, even ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.
And that realization got me sitting here, reflecting, thinking, “Wow, what a journey.”
How did I get to this radical place of self-acceptance?
While it’s difficult to pinpoint any particular moment that landed me here (because there isn’t any one moment), there are certain things that pop up that I distinctly remember that allowed me to begin liking my body (and myself) more.
That allowed me to stop obsessively counting calories and to start actually enjoying food.
That allowed me to trade frantically exercising for mindfully moving (and connecting with) my body.
That allowed me to swap feeling shame about my thighs for gratitude that I have thighs.
Here are a few of those things that allowed me to start learning how to like my body more. I hope they help you just as much as they helped me.
1. Get clear on how you want to feel in your body and why that’s important to you.
First thing first, you need to know how you want to feel in your body.
Because you can’t get to where you want to go if you don’t know where that is.
So make the time, grab a pen and journal, find a quiet calm space, and ask yourself, “How do I want to feel in my body?”
Or, if it’s easier, ask yourself, “In my ideal world, where I am kind to myself, what would my relationship with my body look like?”
Write your answers out.
When you have your answers, ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?”
Know that you may need to ask yourself “why” five to seven times and really dig deep to uncover the core reason changing your relationship with your body is important to you. Just continue asking “why” until you feel your heart is speaking instead of your head.
You’ll need this reason to understand yourself more and to reflect upon when you feel frustrated and like you want to throw in the towel, because you will have those moments. But when you remember your WHY, you’ll rekindle your connection to being kinder to your body and yourself.
For me, my “why” centered on the fact that I couldn’t imagine going through my entire life at war with my body. I just couldn’t. I wanted to feel confident and free in my body, not shameful and controlled.
It took time and daily work to get to a new place, but my “why” and my vision of where I wanted to go was so strong I continued showing up.
You can do this too.
2. Flex your gratitude muscle.
One of the most interesting tools I used to like my body more was gratitude. Today, you see this word everywhere, but there’s a huge difference in seeing it all over social media and online mediums versus putting it to use.
When I began making the shift to what my body allowed me to do versus what my body didn’t look like, I was amazed.
I slowly began forming this new perspective that my body was a gift and a vehicle that allowed me to move through life. And it was my job to nurture it, take care of it, and stop being so mean to it.
What happened is that I became appreciative. I appreciated that I had thighs to hike, that even though I had cellulite, I could run a half marathon or participate in a yoga class. And it was through this viewpoint that I also came to like who I was as a person more.
I appreciated that I was open to growth, that I was compassionate, and that I had the ability to inspire others. Ironically, I found that I was more than just a body.
And so are you.
You’ll be able to see this if every day, you bullet point one or more things that you are truly grateful for or appreciate about yourself.
I promise that practicing gratitude is popular for a reason—it works.
3. Surround yourself with healthy bodies.
A huge part of my journey was surrounding myself with healthy bodies, all sorts of shapes and sizes, online and offline.
Because what can so easily happen is that we end up comparing ourselves to ideals that aren’t even real or that aren’t physiologically possible for us because they’re simply not the intended shape of our bodies.
For example, I used to be obsessed with model-type thighs. And then one day, it hit me. Those thin, “leggy” model-type thighs are not a part of my body shape. No matter how much I exercise or how little I eat, my body will never go there.
And it was through this realization that I began paying attention to all types of bodies—smaller bodies, bigger bodies, in-between bodies—and I found that there are no better types of bodies; they’re just all bodies. And it’s how we treat them that matters.
So if you’re struggling here, I highly recommend unfollowing social media accounts that make you feel bad about your body. And, if you haven’t, find a place to move your body where you feel comfortable and accepted. Because if you don’t feel comfortable in your body or accepted, you won’t want to go there to exercise, and movement is such a huge part in connecting with your body in mind, soul, and spirit.
4. Connect and acknowledge your underlying fears.
Acknowledging and understanding your underlying fears when it comes to your body is so huge. Those fears hold answers. But so many times, we’re taught to simply brush them under the rug and try to fit in and look like everybody else.
But what if you allowed yourself to dig into your fears?
To understand what you’re actually worried about?
And then to dig deep and question if that fear is an actual truth or if it’s something that is truly just a fear?
For me, when I allowed myself to examine my body fears, I found that I was afraid of not being accepted, of not being the way a woman was supposed to look.
You see, as a little kid, I was always teased or left out because I was on the chunky side. I wasn’t one of the popular girls. When I realized that I could overexercise and undereat to become thinner, and that I looked more like how the girls in the magazines and the popular girls looked, that’s what I did.
My deep underlying fear was not being accepted; it actually wasn’t about my body size.
I internalized this and then realized that the key people in my life didn’t care about my body size (in fact, they were concerned by my shrinking size and misery). Rather, they cared about who I was as a human being.
In other words, they accepted me for what was beneath my skin.
So my fear that if I weren’t a certain size, I wouldn’t be accepted was just that—it was a fear. There wasn’t truth behind it.
Wrapping my mind around this was revolutionary (and it still is).
You can begin to connect and break through your fears too by first playing with the idea that you may have body fears. And then get curious and see what comes up for you. If fears come up, examine them and allow yourself time to question if they’re true or just a fear.
5. Focus on actions that make you feel good in your skin.
Releasing the need to lose weight or look a certain way and instead focusing on doing things that make you feel confident and good in your body is a game-changer. When you do this, your body will come to its natural state of being, no question.
And trust me, I know this is so much harder than it sounds, but by really showing up and experimenting in your life and then keeping what works well for you and leaving behind what doesn’t, you will naturally like your body more.
Simply because you’ll feel more “at home” in it.
For example, when I first started down my body acceptance path, I realized I actually really disliked spending two hours a day in the gym. It made me feel worse about my body. So I experimented with walking and strength training and discovered I loved it.
Later, I’d discover yoga and go on to become a yoga teacher.
Yoga, during my body hate days, was something I said I’d never ever do.
Today, I love it.
You never know what you’ll find when you let go of the outcome and follow what feels right.
I also discovered that I actually loved cooking healthy, nutritious meals with lots of veggies and tasty food. Before, I only allowed myself bars and wraps where I knew the exact calorie amount.
You see, when I started truly allowing myself to let go and to experiment with enjoying food, moving my body in ways that felt good, and talking to myself kindly and coming at my body with gratitude instead of hate, something miraculous happened.
I learned how to not only accept but my body, but to like my body.
And I know that when you focus on actions that make you feel confident in your body, you’ll begin to like your body more too.