This year I’m going to learn to love my body. These are my top tips for anyone else who wants to break the bad habit of negative self-talk and poor body image.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been doing a 30 Days of Yoga challenge. This particular challenge is really great because each session is really short, just 10 to 15 minutes, so it’s super easy to fit into my busy day. I aim to do one session each morning as part of my hacked Miracle Morning (more on this in a later post!)
The first two weeks or so were so great. I had taken a long hiatus from really any kind of exercise, so this was a beautiful way to introduce some movement back into my day. I’ve always loved yoga and for some periods of my life I have taken regular classes and gotten into really strong and flexible shape through it. But I started to struggle with this challenge once the novelty wore off and I started getting into the habit-forming part of the challenge (2-3 weeks in). I’m still doing it daily and will see out the 30 days, because it’s important for me personally to finish what I start. But after that, I’m going to be finding a new virtual instructor.
My struggle with this challenge has nothing to do with the difficulty, although parts of it are very physically challenging, but hey, it IS a “challenge” after all, so there is no problem inherent with that. No, unfortunately the struggle I am having is with my size. I am now by far the biggest I have ever been. Luckily I’m still pretty flexible, but there are definitely some yoga poses that simply aren’t achievable for me because my belly, for example, gets in the way! Basically any twist where I need to cross my arm over my body and bring my elbow to meet the opposite knee. Not gonna happen.
The instructor, while adorable, perky and encouraging, is pencil thin. I mean this in the nicest possible way and am in no way trying to body shame her AT ALL. We are all different and beautiful and that’s great, but I’m finding it really difficult to look at the screen and see a svelte instructor with a thigh gap the same size as one of her thighs. It’s totally MY issue, and nothing to do with her, really. It’s my body issue, my unhealthy mindset. I look up at the screen and get upset that my reflection looks nothing like the person I am aiming to copy.
Yesterday I did something new… after my yoga practice I collapsed on the floor, feeling defeated and negative about my size, on the brink of giving up, when I remembered something. At the start of this year I set myself some goals, not resolutions, goals, real and achievable with detailed action steps. One of those goals was “This is the year I learn to love my body”. I had started putting some of the action steps into practice, doing the yoga challenge itself was intended to be part of it. Having discovered that the challenge was hindering my development in that area, I looked at the other steps. The very first one hadn’t been touched yet: Change My Visual Diet.
Visual diet is simply the images we consume in day to day life; in the media, on social media, in entertainment and so on. In modern, developed society, we are fed a visual diet heavy in the same kinds of bodies; slim, athletic, styled. When you flick through a clothing catalogue, what do you see? Do you see your body type represented? Even so-called “plus size” models are comparatively slim and tall. They still have flat tummies and smooth thighs, they’re just a couple of dress sizes bigger than mainstream fashion models.
I came across the idea of changing my visual diet about a year ago, when I saw this video of a Tedx Talk by burlesque performer, Lillian Bustle. It’s well worth a watch, but if you only have a few minutes, this one is also great (only if you don’t mind profanity!). Despite discovering the importance of visual diet, I didn’t do anything about it. I kept on consuming a diet of thinness. And I kept on hating my body because it didn’t measure up to what my brain kept being told: THIN IS NORMAL. FAT IS BAD AND UGLY.
So yesterday, when I recalled this action step, I did something about it. I immediately turned to YouTube and searched for “plus size yoga”. What I found was a real eye-opener. There are women my size rocking yoga! They are strong, supple and have great balance. They look like me, there is epic diversity out there!
I had stumbled upon this short video a while back, but had forgotten it and needed the reminder. Apologies, it is an ad, but my link goes to doyouyoga.com where there is an interview with the fantastic yogi in the video.
Anyway, I ended up sitting watching inspiring videos for ages and fed myself a healthy dose of alternative body types. I’m going to make sure I keep feeding myself a varied diet, because research has proven that the more you see a body type, the more likely you are to have a preference for it. If I want to learn to love my body, just as it is, then I can start with seeing more bodies like mine.
Now, as it happens, I do also want to lose some weight and that is high on my priority list right now, but I think it’s so important to love my body whatever size it is. My mental health is even more important than my physical health right now, so I’m tackling that too. The beautiful thing is, in learning to not only accept but love my body as it is, I should also see a side benefit of breaking some unhealthy habits that are causing me to gain weight; such as emotional eating. Research has also shown that the more shame and negativity a person feels around their weight, the harder it will be for them to lose weight. This is a big part of why fat-shaming is so wrong. Not only is it fundamentally unethical, it is totally counter productive. You can’t shame someone into changing their behaviour to tackle weight loss. Shaming them is one way to make sure they DON’T lose weight! Some fat-shaming is disguised as “concern”. I have seen comments on social media that seem well-intentioned, but are actually fat-shaming in disguise. The comments can come across as incredibly patronising and ignorant, even if the commenter genuinely does mean well.
One of the best ways to change your visual diet, is to check out #effyourbeautystandards on Instagram or Facebook. A hashtag created by model Tess Holliday intended to open up people’s minds to what “beauty” is and can be.
Change the Voices
I’m a huge fan of P!nk, crazy huge. I adore her. There are various lyrics from her songs that have inspired me over the years. On this subject, there is one that stands out:
Change the voices, in your head,
Make them like you instead
~ F***ing Perfect
For as long as I can remember, the voices in my head have been telling me things like “you’re so clumsy”, “you’re so stupid”, “you’re so fat and ugly”. It would so totally unacceptable for me to talk to another person like that. So why do I let myself talk to me that way?! It’s awful. I’ve been working on that for a while now. If I catch myself saying those things, I check myself and stop it. I say something affirming immediately. I do daily affirmations as part of my Miracle Morning too, often including something about my body, such as “My body is filled with energy”, or “I am beautiful”. I’m finding it incredibly powerful and my mindset is changing. It’s obviously a slow process to undo 30 years of negative self-talk, but I will crack it. I will make those bullying voices in my head go away for good.
One of my other daily actions is to practice gratitude. Every day I write down something I am grateful for in my bullet journal. I’m finding that focusing on things that are actually important stops me worrying about the more trivial things and things I simply can’t control. Also, accepting that no matter what I feel about my body right now, it IS amazing and something to be grateful for. Just pause for a moment to think about all of the functions that your body performs automatically; breathing, circulating blood, memory. Then add in the rather extraordinary feat of growing another human life! My body has done that twice! And nurtured said new lives once born, having breastfed both my children – the Bean only stopped nursing this month. All bodies are incredible and should be acknowledged as such. So today I am grateful for a body that is living and (more or less) healthy and functioning well.
So this is truly the start of a new journey for me; the destination: self-acceptance. I hope you find these tips helpful in your own journey. I love to hear from readers, so leave a comment below if you have any further suggestions on learning to love your body.
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