The other day I started chatting with a lady while I was in the gym locker room. She was an older lady probably in her early 80’s. She asked me if exercise would help her lose weight. I asked her why she was so concerned about losing weight (she didn’t appear to be over weight to me). She said she didn’t like how big her belly was and didn’t like feeling flabby.
I was speechless and incredibly sad.
To be in your 80’s and still not at peace with your body is just unimaginable to me.
Last week I illustrated the endless cycle of yo-yo exercising and revealed that at the heart of this unhealthy cycle are feelings of aversion, disgust and even and hate about your body. (If you missed it, click HERE). As promised, this week I’m giving you 5 simple ways to start accepting the body you already have.
Accepting your body is so important because it is in this simple (but not easy) step where you can finally heal your relationship with your body and move forward in establishing a healthy and balanced relationship with exercise. In other words, good-bye yo-yo and hello moderate consistency!
If just the thought of accepting your body feels horrible, don’t worry. That’s normal for pretty much everyone.
We live in a culture that promotes and encourages body dissatisfaction. In fact, as women we even bond over complaining to each other about how fat we feel or how old we look or how gross we feel. It’s far from easy to accept your body and can be incredibly scary and threatening on many different levels. But with out accepting your body you will never be able to have a healthy relationship with it. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be that 80-year-old woman still complaining about flabby parts.
Why not “love” your body? Body acceptance is the first step because loving your body can be a TALL order.
How in the world can you expect to come from a place of hating your body to a place of total love and peace? The answer: you can’t. That is why acceptance is the first step.
Here are 5 (fully clothed) ways to start accepting your body right now.
1. Stop Body Shaming Yourself
What is body shaming? It’s the putting down of one’s own body while idealizing another culturally celebrated body type – such as those seen in fashion or fitness magazines. It is negatively comparing your body to a singular body type that is seen as better than or more valuable than your own. For example, saying things like, “God I feel so fat! I wish I looked like (fill-in-the-blank-celebrity)”.
2. Stop Body Shaming Others
When we body shame other people it can end up harming us more than the subject of the actual shaming. Saying things like “Oh wow! Did you see how big Sally’s arms look in that halter-top? She should never wear something like that!” is an example of body shaming others. Our critical statements might be about someone else but the truth is we internalize them and they turn against our self. So next time when we are deciding what to wear, we might actually reconsider wearing that halter-top ourselves for fear of not looking the right way.
3. Limit Mirror Time
The mirror only reflects what we believe about ourselves and for most of us, this can be vastly distorted. Many experts would have us believe that we should stand in front of a mirror and rattle off positive things about our body in order to build up our self esteem and body image. I will tell you that this is about as helpful as toddler doing your taxes. Instead of continuing to look outside of ourselves for value and worth, we need to turn inward and begin to draw attention to what is like feels like to be in our body. We cannot empower our true self when you are still fixated on the outer shell. Want reasons to get rid of the mirror? Check out THIS post.
4. Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Do enjoyable activities that physically take you outside of your comfort zone. For me, that’s the beach. I love going to be beach but still struggle with being comfortable in my bathing suit. I would also like to try arial yoga someday but I am scared to look like a complete moron. And although just the thought of these activities can make me anxious, I know that when I do them and don’t die of embarrassment, I will have strengthened my body image muscle and gained just a little bit more courage to do the next uncomfortable thing.
5. Reframe Past Experiences and Forgive
Having a healthy body image is not just thinking we look hot in an outfit. Our body image and how we see ourselves is a result of a lifetime of experiences, reactions from others and observations about the world around us. We may have been told horribly hurtful things about our body or our appearance in the past that still affects how we feel about ourselves today. We may have been bullied or shamed by friends or family members about not fitting the culturally accepted definition of beautiful. All of these things shape how we not only view our body but how we feel in our body. In order to move forward from these harmful events, we must first forgive those who have shamed us. Forgiving them doesn’t make what they did right, but it sets you free. So much of what is said to us about our body by other people is a reflection of their own insecurities and shame. By forgiving them and reframing any harmful incident regarding our body, we are finally free to move toward a more healthy relationship with our body and finally accept it.
These 5 ways to accept your body are by no mean easy, but they are actions you can begin to implement into your own life right now if you are ready to build a healthy and balanced relationship with your body and with exercise.