If you were to make a list of everything you love about the way your body looks, and everything you wish you could change about it, which list would be longer?
How much of the “don’t love it” list would have to do with body size?
Where did you learn that your body must look any particular way to be beautiful? When I ask clients that, they look at me like I’m nuts. Our culture is steeped in the idea that body size is the most important marker of beauty. Blatant messages, subtle messages, media focus, diet industry, confusion over health issues: the negative messages about body size are entirely pervasive. Most of us also got some explicit body-shaming messages from well-meaning people who believe it themselves because they too have been wounded. But concepts of what is beautiful are culturally constructed, which is not the same as “true”.
Today is the day to start loving your body, ESPECIALLY if you aspire to eat healthier or get more exercise, ever. If there’s one message I want you to take away from this post, it’s this:
Nobody ever got any healthier by hating their body.
Nobody ever made anyone else any healthier by shaming them about their body.
How are you going to go to an exercise class and learn to love movement if you look at your body in the mirror with distaste? How will you decide what you believe healthy eating is, and then take steps toward it, if you make eating an activity fraught with guilt?
Once you love your body and show yourself love in many ways every day, you will find out what your body wants to eat and how your body wants to move. Until then, your body will stubbornly work against you, just as hard as you are working against it. Lifestyle changes to improve health require lasting change. Lasting change is impossible without self-love to get you through the inevitable disappointments and rough patches.
You do not have to have the body of a model to be beautiful. You are beautiful just as you are. Let me say that again: you are beautiful exactly as you are. It is your birthright to hear that multiple times every day. I completely reject the cultural idea that some outward appearances are more beautiful than others. No. As a woman and as a therapist, I refuse to perpetuate that notion. I will not make judgmental remarks about your body, my body, or any other body.
Loving yourself is a radical act of courage. Make a resolution: today I will start loving my body, exactly as it is. Self-acceptance and body positivity are such courageous, radical acts that, for most of us, they require focused attention. What I’m referring to is an all day, every day mindfulness practice of self-love, focused on accepting what IS. The payoff is tremendous; try it and see. And then let me know how you begin to feel about your body. I’m rooting for you!