The human body. When you boil it down, it seems rather silly that such an innate thing to our being – like air – can develop so many issues, problems, and mental and emotional turmoil, doesn’t it? What should be thought of in terms of what it can do for us, how complex and beautiful the human body and its systems is, and the skin we live in this world forever instead is thought of in terms of thigh gaps, narrow waists, long legs, perfect cheek bones, and the like.
I recently shared my past battles with disordered eating, and how I overcame it with you a few weeks ago. I won’t go over that again today, but instead, I want to share some tips on how I keep a positive body image and a healthy relationship with food. Namely: how I now don’t think about food all of the time, how I appreciate my body – both aesthetically and physically, and how I eat what I like while still being health-conscious.
Disclaimer: Obviously, my journey is not the same as yours or anyone else’s, and I’m just sharing my experience and what helped me.
1. Realizing that what’s healthy and beautiful for my body may not be another (or every other) person’s healthy and beautiful.
This one came as my self-confidence grew, but I now know that others’ perceptions of beauty are not my own. I know what’s healthy and beautiful to me, and that might not be beautiful to others. . And I love that. On the same token, what might be healthy for someone might be unhealthy for someone else. It’s important for me to remember this, especially if someone else outwardly criticizes your body. It’s all part of owning your positive body image.
I know that I have naturally muscular-looking shoulders and a slim waist, but also that I carry my weight in my butt and thighs. I know that I’ll always have some cellulite on my legs, and they won’t ever look like __(insert celebrity with killer legs here)___’s leg… because they’re MINE, not hers. There’s only so much I can change about them – and there’s no photoshop in life to create the so-called perfect body, so I might as well love them!
3. Remembering that food is plentiful, and it’s easy to get more.
Gone are the days where we have to hunt and gather our own food. With a Whole Foods around every corner, and large super markets even more abundant, food is everywhere. I remember when I was still truly in the throes of my eating disorder, and my mom would buy these cinnamon raisin bagels. I would stand at the kitchen counter, and eat bagel after bagel, eating only the good, raisin-y filled bites, and discarding the rest, like if I stopped, I’d never be able to eat one again. In reality? Those Thomas cinnamon raisin bagels (and any other food) were available to me at any time.
4. Letting go of any restrictive diet.
Labeling certain foods as strictly “off limits” can often bring up obsessive feelings and thoughts for anyone who’s ever experienced any sort of disordered eating. I voiced in this post how I felt about restrictive diets, but I also know they’re not for me. I try not to place any sort of label on myself, because having rules (which is basically what they are) for food just doesn’t jive well for me.
5. Love my body how it is, even if I want to change it.
Just because I have a positive body image, doesn’t mean I never want to change my body. Usually around the end of January, I have a few pounds to lose from my “hibernation weight” (ha!) But instead of looking at my body and tearing it apart, I affirm that it’s a rockin’ body just how it is – even while I’m working to tighten up a little bit.
6. Quit equating food with calories, and begin equating it with nourishment.
When food stops being thought of in terms of numbers and how much impact it will have on weight, and starts being thought of as how can this be nourishing, food becomes food again. Counting calories is often what starts the spiral of obsessive eating habits in the first place. That’s how it started with me. From what I’ve experienced, counting calories strictly can lead to obsessive thoughts, and in some cases binge or disordered eating.
7. Surround Yourself with Positive Women
There’s nothing in life like a good group of girlfriends. For me, it’s an absolute necessity. I find that surrounding myself with women who are positive, optimistic, strong,practical, and confident reflects back on me, too. I just don’t tend to gravitate toward women who are self-conscious, insecure, or dramatic because I don’t like the way I feel around them.
8. Focus on the DO instead of the look.
This is something I try to get my clients to focus on ALL. the. time. Even though we might have asthetic goals, it’s important to also focus on what we can DO with our bodies. Whether that’s hiking up a mountain, skiing down blacks, reaching a deadlift PR, or being able to do a full pull up or push up. Focusing on what we can DO can make us appreciate our bodies for their strength and what they are – not what we perceive it to look like.
All of the above help ME be confident in my own skin, but most importantly, I think it’s incredibly important to be self-forgiving when it’s not easy. After all, life is just NOT that serious…it’s as light-hearted, fun, and care-free as we make it
Is your body image in check? How do you put negative body image and obsessive thoughts at bay?