The original title of this post was going to be “…from body shame to BODY love” but I changed it because if that was the title then this post would need to be written by somebody other than me. I can’t tell you how to love and adore every square inch of your body.
The truth is… you don’t need to.
I hope you just let out a huge sigh of relief. I know I did.
I am hereby giving you permission not to love your cellulite, or your wrinkles, or your thighs. So you can stop thinking there’s something wrong with you, that you’re maybe just too shallow of a person, if you have some insecurities about your body. Instead, let me congratulate you on being normal.
The thing I want you to understand is is that the opposite of loving your body isn’t loathing your body.
Let me invite you to a beautiful place called Body Neutral Land, home of the free! This is a place where you have a body and you appreciate it but you aren’t defined by it. Your body is your vehicle for chasing dreams and for living out your purpose. It is not the source of your self-worth.
Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of my tummy. Even at the peaks of my physical fitness, I still felt pretty “meh” about it. But I can finally say that I’m okay with that. Just last month, I bought the most adorable one piece suit when I was out in California. After 15 years of feeling like I had to be comfortable in a teeny bikini in order to be confident, it felt so good to release that pressure and just wear something that I felt good in. I could just be me.
Could I achieve a super lean, toned tummy? Yes, probably. But I’d have to be willing to do what it takes. That kind of effort and sacrifice is only possible when you want something with your whole entire heart and I simply don’t. It’s not that I’m lazy or unmotivated. I’ve just decided that achieving a “perfect” figure isn’t my purpose in life.
My heart is for encouraging others and I don’t need to be flawless to do that. I find a lot of peace in that.
So instead of looking in the mirror and picking yourself apart, here are three ways I’ve found to love yourself better…
1. Cultivate Self-Compassion.
When I first started teaching yoga I didn’t truly understand it, I thought it was just about the physicality. In case that’s where you are at, let me save you some time…
Yoga is not about the physical poses. The goal isn’t to become more flexible, that’s just a positive side effect. Yoga is about cultivating the mindfulness needed to become your best self.
When I finally understood this I began taking my yoga practice off the mat. I practiced being less judgmental, less critical, and less reactive. Nowadays, I’m more aware of negative self-talk and I’m kinder to myself. I don’t react to a bad body image day by deciding to go on a diet or compulsively exercising. Through yoga, I learned self-compassion.
When you find yourself focusing too much on your outward appearance, look inward to find out what you’re really struggling with in that moment.
2. Let Go Of Control.
The summer before my senior year of college I was counting calories, taking supplements, and planning meals that had to be consumed every 2-3 hours. I was obsessed with my weight. Then something happened that snapped me out it…I lost control.
I started working as a cocktail server at Grandma’s Saloon in Duluth, Minnesota. It was a tourist hot spot and every day we got slammed. Once my shift began I didn’t have a chance to even think about myself until at least 6 hours later, many more if I was working a double. If we had a few seconds to spare, we would run into the kitchen and grab a bite of anything the chefs had made for us before heading back out to our tables.
Being forced out of my perfectionist mindset into a mode of total survival was a game changer for me. My meal plans were shot to hell and yet nothing bad happened. It made me realize that I don’t need to have control over every little thing. I don’t need to obsess over my body. I just need to get busy living my life and serving others!
When you loosen up your grip on life you can relax into becoming more of who you are.
3. Quit Comparing.
Look, I work in the fitness industry so I get it. Some women’s bodies are so stunning that it’s hard to even process. But you know, a few of those bodies are coming to my mind right now (in a totally non-creepy way), and it occurs to me that each of them is so very different.
If you want to shut the door on comparison, you need to ditch the scarcity mindset that tells you another woman’s beauty takes away from your own. I was once compared to another woman and told that she was “hot” and I wasn’t. At the time, it hurt me. But now I find it to be a rather ridiculous statement. My body is as unique to me as my face and my personality are. Maybe I don’t have her brand of “hotness” but I have a ton of my own!
This isn’t just about comparing to other women, it includes comparing yourself today to former versions of you. Start appreciating yourself as you are in this moment. Stop comparing your body to the way it looked 5 years ago or before you had a baby or when you got married. Just like the seasons of our life, our bodies are constantly changing.
In your own skin is the only place you belong and when you allow yourself to be comfortable there, that’s when you’re the most beautiful
(This post was originally an article I wrote for The Real Food Dietitians at http://therealfoodrds.com/body-shame-self-love/)