Is it really possible to love your body?
Pounding the treadmill, sweating through spin classes, juicing, detoxing, dieting, being “good, being “bad”, cleansing, massaging, trying to tame the beast. Using holidays as “thin-spiration” to kick start diet regimes and “no carbs before Marbs” style programmes.
It’s little wonder that the most common question I get asked by my clients is if it’s really possible to love your body.When you’ve quite literally been at war with your body for so many years, when the fight is all you know, how do you turn it around?
Photograph by Issara Willenskomer via Unsplash
From the work I’ve done with my clients and from my own personal journey from war to peace, I can tell you not only is it possible, but it’s possible for you too.
Start focussing on what you DO like
Seems simple right?
Comparing yourself to endless Instagram feeds, being defined by the number on a scale or in your clothes, having your mood and the way you feel about yourself determined by your food – stop all of it.
Unfollow the Instagram or social media feeds you’re using to fuel your hate of yourself, yes, you know the ones. Stop weighing yourself. Cut out the labels of your clothes. I’m serious. You will slowly start to see how insignificant these things are and start feeling and listening to your body.
Each night and each morning look in the mirror and tell yourself just one thing you like about yourself and your body. It can be a teeny tiny thing. You can say it in your head. No one but you needs to know you’re doing it. It doesn’t have to be a full length mirror.
“What we focus on grows. Focus on love.”
One client started by saying she liked her feet. She gradually over time was able to increase the things she liked and I received an email from her earlier this year and she told me “my husband calls my feet ‘ugly hammer toe feet’ but you know something, I still love them. All those times I told myself over and over I like my feet and so what he says doesn’t bother me, I find it funny. I spent years hating my thighs because of one comment a gym teacher made and I realise now if I’d have spent time telling myself I liked myself that teacher would have never made such an impact.”
See food as nourishment
We need to nourish ourselves in many different ways, as the points above highlight. Our bodies need energy to function and our fuel for life comes from the food we eat. In recent decades there has been an explosion not just of fast food and poor diet, but also “clean eating” movements – both of which can be damaging to our relationship with food.
Eating food with low nutritional values fills our bodies with toxins, puts pressure on our organs and ultimately can lead to serious health implications. Taking it to the other extreme, there are also dangers in being so extreme and fearful of food and restricting intake to very specific foods and eliminating the joy of eating.
Rather I encourage you to see food as nourishment for your body.
For me learning how to cook again, and taking nutrition courses gave me a huge amount of confidence in feeding myself. It’s something I work with my clients on – once you understand the role of food it stops being the enemy. Starting to understand things like the role of Fat, Protein and Carbohydrates in your body, and how crucial they are, changes the focus. Fat isn’t evil, it’s crucial in protecting your vital organs. Carbs aren’t all there to make you fat – they’re your principal energy source.
I work with my clients to teach them basic nutrition principals and then encourage them to play and experiment with their own food intake. Seeing food as fun, as an experiment and learning what’s right for your body is the only diet that can truly yield results. We’re all different and while some general principals are fairly consistent, our genetic make up means we need different things.
Surround yourself with love
The company we keep has a massive impact in how we feel about our life, ourselves and our bodies. In starting my own business I surrounded myself with other female entrepreneurs who inspired me and encouraged me. When I was looking to get well I surrounded myself with people who had positive body images and relationships with food so that I could learn from them and mirror them.
Similarly, if we’re surrounded by people who tell us we’re no good, who judge our bodies and make us feel inadequate – the same will happen.
One of my clients partners’ used to try and encourage her to eat healthily, only he did it in a way that she interpreted as being controlling and judgemental and she would often rebel against this. One of the things she did was to bring him into the journey and taught him how she needed his help – it changed everything for her at home and one of the biggest factors in keeping her stuck was removed.
Read books and magazine that teach about positive body image. Speak to your friends and agree to cut diet discussions, body critique and anything unhelpful out of your conversations. Look for positive role models. If your family and partner aren’t being particularly helpful sit down with them and explain the impact it’s having and ask them, specifically, to help you and be clear what that help looks like.
Move your body in a way that feels good
Sport has been shown to have some incredible benefits on positive image. I’ve found that dance, yoga and sex can have similar impact, not necessarily all together. These things teach us to be in our physical body and learn to move it, express it and use it in a way that feels good.
People of all shapes and sizes can dance. Sports personalities are elite athletes, but anyone can play sport. Learning to feel pleasure through sexual intimacy is one of the best free activities there is!
Whilst it might be something you have to push yourself to do at first, when you find something you love to do and makes you feel good, then you’ll find it changes how you feel about your body.
Is it possible to really love your body? Yes.
Do you have to work at it? Yes.
Do you need to be kinder to yourself? Yes.
Does it happen over-night? No, if only it did.
You have to be prepared to let go of the old way of thinking, you have to want the freedom and contentment to love yourself even if you’re not perfect.
Will you love yourself every day, probably not, but with consistent action, with consistent commitment to doing so you’ll look in the mirror and love what you see as you’ll realise you’re so much more than just a body.
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