When you hear the term body love, how does it make you feel?
For me, body love is something that I have tried. No matter how hard I looked in the mirror and told myself that I “loved” what I saw, I didn't wholeheartedly believe it. In the last 8 years, I have been in a smaller body, a medium body and a larger body and I have not once have I loved my body.
The past year has been particularly challenging for me as I had to watch my body change due to hormones, and the after-effects of years of dieting and over-exercising. But in the last few months, I have managed to shift my mindset when I decided I was ready to be a mum. I started saying to myself, how would I treat my body if I had a baby growing in there? Would I treat myself, or talk to myself as I would to my future child? Absolutely not. So why do I think this is ok now?
Even though my mindset has shifted I still can’t convince myself to love my body which got me thinking- what is body love anyway and is it realistic and necessary? Can we truly love our bodies unconditionally? At this moment, I don't love my body, and I’m not sure that I ever will, but what this shift in mindset has taught me is that I don't have to love my body but what I can do is respect it. Respecting my body has enabled me to have the freedom and happiness that I so badly craved.
Body respect means treating our body with nourishment, kindness and dignity. It means letting go of the negative self-talk and behaviours so we can live our lives in happiness, and do the things we want to do. Since I have started respecting my body, I have been able to enjoy life, be more present, as well as spend my time on the things that bring me meaning and enjoyment. Before I respected my body, I was stuck in a never ending battle in my head, and constantly engaging in destructive behaviours trying to change my body yet again. If like me, you haven't quite got there with body love, then you can give body respect a try instead.
Here are the 5 things that helped me.
1. Gratitude. Practising gratitude increases our happiness and general emotional well-being, as well as decreasing stress. Practicing gratitude with our body can be simple by being thankful that we can walk, dance or swim. Each day I wake up and I grateful that I am breathing, and that I can get out of bed easily without any pain. I am also thankful for everything that my body has done for me, despite everything I have put it through over the years. It's strong and it supports me no matter what.
2. Self-care. I talk about self-care a lot, as it really is the first step to health and happiness, but it also plays an important role with body respect. Showing our body respect with self-care includes decreasing stressful behaviours in life, getting enough sleep and resting when our body needs it. It also means nourishing it with gentle movement and food.
3. Throwing out the weighing scales. I used to weigh myself everyday, twice a day, for 8 years. Letting go of my scale was hard. If you aren't quite ready for this step then it is best to start small. You can start with one day a week, and then gradually increase each week. Our self-worth is not dependent on how much we weigh. That number does not make us intelligent, strong, funny, kind, compassionate, creative or brave. We are so much more than a number on a scale. Instead, let's put our energy into gaining body respect.
4. Having a wardrobe clear out. Get rid of any clothes that don’t fit. I know! This is hard as we want to hold on to these clothes in the hope they will fit us again one day. Holding on to these clothes, or trying to squeeze into them, just make us feel worse about ourselves and causes us stress every time we open our wardrobe. Once you have a clear out, you will feel free and liberated I promise! This also means you can go also shopping and buy yourself new clothes that make you feel comfortable.
5. Focusing on our strengths and personal qualities. Rather than focusing on our physical appearance, focus instead on the qualities that have nothing to do with our body. What are your strengths? Are you intelligent, funny, patient, kind, compassionate, a good listener, loving, generous, thoughtful? When I find myself slipping into negative thoughts about my body, I spend a moment reflecting on my strengths.