So, it’s a new year. And that means the usual raft of ‘new year, new you’ crap. And as a cursory glance at the Facebook ads in your timeline will tell you, the vast majority of new years resolutions are not about learning to love your body as it is, but instead seem to be focused on weight loss, or some other variant on the theme.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against reflecting on the year that’s gone by, and setting goals for the year to come. But so many new years resolutions are founded on shame and self-hatred.
This year, instead of beating yourself up and setting yourself extreme and unrealistic diet and exercise goals, why not make your resolution to start working on accepting your body and learning to love your body exactly as it is?
Think about the reasons why you want to lose weight, or gain muscle or whatever it is. Maybe you think it will make you more confident? But why do you want to be more confident? Maybe you think if you’re more confident, you will be more likely to talk to people and make friends or start a new relationship. Ok, but why do you want to make friends and/or start a new relationship? Whatever your goal, if you keep drilling down, and asking yourself ‘but why?’ I’m betting that eventually, you will arrive at the answer ‘because I want to be happy and I think this will make me happy’.
Ok, so what if I told you weight loss is not a prerequisite to happiness?
The thing is, even if you do stick to your resolution and lose that stone, or fit into a size 10 or whatever it is that you are convinced holds the solution to all your woes, I’ve got news for you, it won’t make you happy. If you’re not happy with your body now, chances are you won’t be happy with it when it’s 15 pounds lighter either.
Although I know it seems unlikely now, but I promise you if you don’t love your body now, you won’t love your body when its smaller either.
Trust me. No matter how much weight you lose, it will never be enough. You will find something else about your appliance to be unhappy about. Although I know it doesn’t feel like it, the problem is not your body. The problem is how you feel about your body.
Still not convinced? Even if you still believe that being slimmer is the key, the thing that will allow you to finally start living the life you’ve always wanted, you still need to work on learning to love your body as it is now. Because you can’t hate yourself slim. Millions have tried (myself included) and millions have ultimately failed.
Even if you lose a bit of weight by berating yourself, subjecting yourself to restrictive diets and punishing exercise regimes, the weight will come back. Usually bringing a few extra pounds along for the ride.
If you are really committed to changing the way your body looks, the first step is learning to love your body as it is now. I know that sounds counterintuitive but when you love and respect your body as it is, taking care of it, and nourishing it with the food it needs and the activities that help it feel strong and capable becomes second nature.
So, without further ado, here are 6 practical steps to help you learn to love your body RIGHT NOW.
1: Curate your body positive bubble
Every day we are bombarded by images of ‘perfect’ bodies. In magazines, on social media, on television etc etc. It’s so ubiquitous that you probably don’t even notice how often you see these types of images. The worst thing about this is that not only are these so-called ‘ideal’ bodies usually unobtainable, they often don’t even exist! The photos have been airbrushed and photoshopped so much, that even the models don’t have the bodies shown in the images.
There is no doubt that social media has an impact on your self-esteem (I’ve written about this before here) but the wonderful thing about social media is that you have a lot of control over what you see. Right now (ok wait until you’ve finished reading this article!) I want you to set up a Pinterest board like this one.
I’ve written about this before, but it genuinely wasn’t until I started a body positive Pinterest board that I realised bodies like mine could be attractive. Until then, deep down I believed that unless you were super skinny, with impossible curves, it was game over.
It is often hard to look at yourself in the mirror and see the beauty, but when you are looking at pictures of others who have a similar body shape you can start to appreciate just how gorgeous they are. And if they look good, and they’re a similar size and shape to you, then surely this means you can look good too!
The second thing to do is to spring clean your Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and whatever else. Unfollow or mute any accounts that post fitspo, thinspo, diet talk, before and after pictures, body shaming or anything else that makes you feel bad about your body. The wonderful thing about the internet is although there is a lot of nastiness and body shaming, there is also a whole range of accounts celebrating bodies of all sizes and shapes. Go find these and fill up your newsfeed with them.
To get you started, here are a couple of my favourite body positive (and super hot) people on the net:
2: Buy some clothes that fit you NOW
For a whole year, I lived in worn out, see through leggings and baggy tops because I refused to buy nice clothes until I lost some weight. I was adamant I would be losing weight soon so why would I ‘waste’ money on clothes that would soon be too big? Instead, I kept an entire wardrobe full of lovely clothes that no longer fitted me. A constant reminder that ‘something had to change’, that my body as it was was not good enough.
I hope reading this you understand what a tremendously bad idea this is!
Unsurprisingly, walking around looking like a homeless person didn’t do much for my self-esteem. I didn’t want to leave the house or go anywhere nice because I never had anything to wear. Far from motivating me to lose weight, this just made me spiral deeper into depression and despair and at the end of the year, I weighed even more than before.
If you have a wardrobe full of clothes that don’t fit you, take them out now! Bag them up and give them to charity or friends. If you really can’t stand to get rid of them, at the very least pack them away somewhere that they won’t be seen. Stop punishing yourself. You deserve to have clothes that fit you now. Go out and buy yourself something that you feel GREAT in. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, if you’re on a budget check out eBay for a bargain. But just make sure that you have clothes that make you smile when you wear them.
3: Stop putting your life on hold
This is related to the point above. As well as waiting until we lose weight to buy clothes we like, we often also put other things on hold until we are slimmer. I bet if you stopped and thought about it, you could probably come up with a whole list of things you are waiting until you’ve lost weight to do.
Maybe you’ve been telling yourself you’ll take up a new hobby or sport when you’re thinner. Maybe you’re putting off internet dating until you’ve lost that last half a stone. Maybe you’ve told yourself that people your size can’t wear denim shorts/mini skirts or whatever item of clothing it is you’ve been lusting after and you won’t allow yourself to buy until you’ve lost some weight.
Whatever it is, stop waiting.
Life is short and this type of thinking is holding us all back. Putting your life on hold is a vicious circle. You are making yourself miserable and unhappy, which as we’ve already discussed, will make it so much harder for you to reach your weight loss goals in the first place.
Stop letting your size dictate your life. Make a list of all the things you want to do, but have told yourself you can’t because of your size, and then GO DO THEM. Yes, this might be hard at first. But the benefits far outweigh the discomfort you might feel at first. As soon as you push yourself outside your comfort zone and realise the only thing holding you back is yourself, your confidence will grow and a whole new world of possibilities will open up before you.
4: Quit diet talk and body shaming
You know what’s really fucked up? I would bet that diet talk is the number one way women bond with each other. Accomplished, educated, intelligent women still seem to bond over fat shaming themselves (see here). It’s so commonplace, that at first when you tell people you don’t want to participate they will be shocked.
Tell them anyway.
There is nothing positive or productive to be gained from diet talk. By engaging in this type of conversation you are feeding into the toxic diet culture that exists in society today. Stop it. Now. And while you’re at it, stop body shaming yourself and others.
That means no more looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself how disgusting your tummy is. That means no more looking at pictures of celebrities and commenting on their ‘flaws’. While we are at it, it’s best to try to avoid commenting on anybody’s appearance at all.
So go cold turkey on the celebrity gossip magazines and step away from the Daily Mail sidebar of shame. These businesses profit from your insecurity and feed into your self-hatred and low self-esteem.
5: Practice self-compassion
If I had my way, everyone would have to attend a course on mindful self-compassion. I truly believe it is the single most important thing you can do or your wellbeing and self-esteem. I think almost everyone is going through life with a self-compassion deficit.
If your compassion doesn’t include yourself, it is incomplete. – Jack Kornfield onecompletelife
And this isn’t just airy fairy hippy dippy shit. There is a ton of research (see here and here) that shows that mindfulness and mindful self-compassion aids psychological health and improves wellness (see here). Mindful self-compassion has completely transformed the way I treat myself, and the way I react to things that happen to me.
So give it a go, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. You can get started with the free mindful self-compassion exercises here and here. If you want to read a bit deeper on the subject, I recommend these great books on mindful self-compassion.
And if you can afford it, I highly recommend booking yourself onto a mindful self-compassion course. If you’re in London, check out the Mindfulness Project. I did a mindful self-compassion course here a while back. The course was a ray of light at a really dark time in my life; I can’t put into words exactly you how much I got from that course. But suffice to say, I highly recommend it. If you’re not in London, have a look at the course listings on this page.
6: Focus your fitness goals on ability and not appearance
Ok so just because I don’t think your new year’s resolution should be focused on weight loss, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a positive fitness themed resolution. Just make sure you’re not focusing on fitness for the sake of weight loss. So instead of telling
So instead of telling yourself you’re going to take up running so you can loose 10 pounds, focus on distance or time as a goal. Get excited when you hit a deadlift PB, not when you hit a ‘goal weight’. Ditch the goal weight. Even better, stop weighing yourself altogether.
There are some many fantastic reasons why being more active is good for your body and your mind. Don’t make weight loss the only goal. This means no more forcing yourself to slog away for hours on the treadmill when you hate it with every fibre of your being. Exercise should not be a punishment. Please don’t exercise for the sake of it, find something you love doing, and would do anyway even if it wasn’t going to help you lose weight, and then do that. Maybe that’s yoga, running, weightlifting, cross fit or martial arts or maybe even something a bit more off the wall like circus skills!
Every time you force yourself to do something you hate, just because you think it will help you lose weight, you reinforce the idea that exercise is a necessary evil, instead of being something you can truly enjoy. And that’s a real shame.
So there you have it, 6 ways you can start loving your body right now. I know that might seem like an impossibility, but trust me, these 6 ideas are powerful practices. It makes me sad to think about how much of my 33 years on this earth I have poured into hating my body. Think about what I could have achieved if I had directed that energy towards something productive or just enjoyable instead!
The saddest thing is, when I look back now at the times when I truly hated my appearance, I can see now how lovely I looked! My body wasn’t the vile creation it appeared to me at the time. Which explains why no matter how thin I got, it was never enough.
The problem was never my body, the problem was my mind.
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