Like all women all over the world I’ve struggled to love my body for years. Through my teens and early 20s I punished it with restrictive eating and over exercising and although I’m more at peace with my body now, I wouldn’t say that I actually loved it.
Love is such a strong word, generally meaning a deep affection or feeling passionate towards something. For some, and me included, it’s a tough word to associate with your body. I think that the main sticking point is that we live in a world that is constantly telling us that we need to change our bodies to be happy and feel worthy. Diet culture in particular has conditioned us to think that if we improve our outward appearance then the real magic happens and all of our dreams will come true. Honestly, what hope do we have at any attempt to appreciate our bodies when this is the kind of mentality that’s constantly drilled into us?
The body positive movement has achieved incredible things to help empower women to appreciate their bodies whatever their shape or size; inspiring us all to be more forgiving towards ourselves. Despite my deep respect for the movement and everything it stands up for, it’s lack of tolerance for insecurities and body hang ups leaves me feeling deflated. Promoting that we should have a never-ending love affair with our bodies makes me feel uncomfortable, disconnected and inadequate because it’s not always this way.
Growing and feeding two beautiful babies has taken it’s toll on my body and it looks nothing like it used to. I’ve come to the realisation that it probably never will – plus, the effort and restriction that it would take to get there isn’t worth it. Ultimately, I think it’s unrealistic to think that we should continuously love our bodies and everything is all rosey and perfect.
You don’t have to be at the extremes of the body image spectrum in order to feel insecure about your body. Having anxieties over your body is natural – obviously I’m not talking to the extent where they completely cripple you, but those days when you look in the mirror and you wished you were taller or leaner. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for it either. I have these kind of days all the time, more so after having children. Even though it’s amazing to feel confident about your body, it’s certainly not plausible to expect this to be an everyday norm. Also, that’s quite a lot of pressure to carry on your shoulders to live life in that way.
I’d like to argue that we go through seasons with our bodies depending on our current situation and changes we’re experiencing. Whether that be contentment, gratitude, confidence, happiness or resentment they are all perfectly natural and entirely valid. At this point in my life, I’m not particularly happy with my postpartum body, it doesn’t feel very me, however I’m incredibly appreciative for all it has given me. I’m in a grateful season at the moment after giving birth and know how important it is to nourish and care for my body.
Instead of loving our bodies, which for me right now seems out of reach, I’m in a place of acceptance, which I think is far easily achievable for many. Body acceptance feels easier to get to grips with because loving your body seems very all-or-nothing. Acceptance conveys the fact that perhaps you’re not content, but still in the mindset of being kinder and appreciative of your body.
With that said, here are my 3 steps to start your journey towards body acceptance:
1. Change the record in your head
What you say and think about yourself matters as it sets the tone for how you care for yourself and how you approach life. If you’re in a season of negative self-talk it’s time to change that tune in your head to something more positive. Next time you catch yourself criticising your body try to turn this around by focusing on the good.
2. Give thanks to your body
There may be parts of your body that you may not like and that’s OK as long as you don’t let these thoughts consume you. To help me shift to a body acceptance mindset I like to practice gratitude and thank my body for all it has done and given me. This really helps me to connect with my body in a kinder way and nurture a healthier relationship.
3. Focus on the things that you do like
When we stay in a mindset of resentment that’s more likely to breed negativity. To help crowd out the negative thoughts try to dial up those positive vibes by giving specific focus to the parts of your body that you actually do like, no matter how big or small. This simple shift in thought processing will enable you to move past any uncomfortable feelings and move more towards acceptance.
These are simply a stepping stone to help get that ball rolling towards a level of acceptance that means that you won’t limit yourself because of the way you look. The reality is that it can take years of mindset work to reach this point, however taking that first step of many is an amazing achievement that will definitely be worth it in the end.
I’m going to be talking deeper about these 3 steps and body acceptance in my first Instagram Live of 2019 over on @UnconditionallyNourished, tonight at 8pm. I really hope you can tune in and join the conversation.