These days it seems like there’s a gym on every corner of every town centre…
Just love your body. It’s the only one you’ve got.
Has anyone else found that this is easier said than done? I know I have.
If you’ve been hanging out on social media in recent years, it’s likely you’ve come across some form of the self-love movement. From the ‘health at every size’ movement to ‘Embrace’ by Taryn Brumfitt and all that is in between, there is a rise in women (and men) fighting back against the cultural norm of having to look a certain way in order to be a valued human being.
And it’s a great thing. After years of working in an industry helping people achieve thinner, leaner bodies and ultimately ‘look better’, I know that the drive to attain the ‘perfect’ body does nothing but fill people with frustration, angst and despair. The other, more scary reality of this pressure is the desire to take extreme measures to attain it.
Just to highlight how much this pressure affects us, in 2012 an entrepreneur by the name of Gretta Von Riel created a multi-million dollar business selling SkinnyMe Tea. Yep, a tea (that works as a laxative) to help you be ‘skinny’. And it doesn’t end there.
We’ve had Kim Kardashian promote appetite suppressing lollypops, celebrities with their waist trainers, thousands of websites selling their own version of the keto diet and everything in between. The consequences of extreme dietary interventions may include disordered eating, obsessive behaviours, social isolation and food anxiety.
What I find most difficult about this whole thing is helping people to draw the line between making changes to their diet to be healthy and lose weight for health and those who just want to be thinner/leaner because it’s more socially acceptable to be so.
The self-love movement is a positive step in this direction and certainly helps me draw this line with clients. Because the truth is, people don’t actually want to be thinner. They want to be happy. And society has told them that they can’t be happy with their bodies the way they are and that they need to change them.
However, as I mentioned above, loving your body is not that simple – you don’t just wake up one day and feel completely comfortable with flashing your bikini-clad birthday suit all over social media. And the good news is, self-love doesn’t mean you have to.
Here is my (more light-hearted) guide to loving your body.
Check your thoughts
Scenario: Put on a dress. It’s tight. Unchecked thought: “I’m the most disgusting person in the world.”
Don’t let your thoughts spill out of control and become self-degrading. Why? Because thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to actions and behaviours.
Before you can start acting like you love your body, you need to first start with your internal dialogue. No one needs to know about this. It doesn’t need posting on social media.
Just practice nipping those toxic thoughts in the bud and not letting them spiral out of control.
Buy clothes that fit your body
Scenario: Try on a new pair of jeans. You bend over and you get a plumber’s: “I have the worst body shape.”
No, you don’t. The jeans suck. Go to another shop.
For years I bought a size of underpants that were too small for me because I literally couldn’t cope with the ‘shame’ of wearing a larger size. But my stupid tight undies would cut into my hips, indent my bottom and just feel plain uncomfortable – they were up my bloody bum all day! This would make me feel awful.
“I’m so gross.” was my internal dialogue all because my undies were so tight. I now buy a bigger size that sit comfortably around my hips and feel great. Ah-mazing!
Don’t critique other people’s bodies
Scenario: Aunt Gertrude is visiting and brings up an old family friend. “You should see how fat they are now!” she says. You cringe as you wonder if she says this about you to other people.
We’re not going to make much progress with self-love if we can’t do the same for other people. Let’s be the ones who move the conversation in another direction.
People are not their body shape, they are people, who have a body shape and regardless of what that shape is they are valuable, wonderful and worthy.
Practice basic self-care
Scenario: Instagram influencer ‘To Do’ list: Go to yoga, chant self-love mantra, go for a mindful walk around the lake, drink a green smoothie, go to the gym, take supplements, complete gratitude journal.
Me: I ate lettuce today and wore active wear because I thought about exercising.
Basic self-care isn’t charcoal smoothies and activated nuts or a special morning routine of ‘white space’ and gratitude journals. If you’re a parent, you’ll know that all the alone time you get is when you’re in the bathroom: “Leave me alone Jimmy, I’m naked!”.
Doing small, achievable healthy behaviours every day is a great way to prioritise yourself without the extra overwhelm of having to overthrow your entire daily routine.
I love doing things like a five-minute body moisturise after the shower (even better if I’ve shaved my legs), creating a habit of always adding vegetables to my meals or a quick 10 minute walk around the little lake near my house.
Unfollow the #fitspo that makes you feel #crapspo
Scenario: Wake up in the morning, grab your phone and before your feet have even hit the ground you’ve demolished 15 minutes of social content leaving you feeling: “I’m not good enough.”
I used to follow other influencers and nutrition programs with the excuse that I was staying up to date with the industry.
However, a few years ago I unfollowed it all. I decided that my mental health was worth more than any competitive edge I would gain from keeping tabs on my industry.
If you’re constantly comparing yourself to images that result in you feeling crap about your body, stop following those images.
Stop restrictive dieting
Scenario: You broke your diet for the 7th time this year and after spending the past five days on a detox of only tea and vegetables you binge on pizza, chocolate and food all weekend. “I’m the worst person in the world.”
No, you’re not. You just rebounded from a strict diet. Happens to all of us.
Diets suck and they don’t work long-term. They are overly restrictive and we always rebel against restriction. They promise the world and never deliver. Instead of focussing on cutting food out, take a positive approach and focus on adding healthy foods in. Fill up on these foods. Nourish yourself, don’t restrict yourself.
At the risk of sounding cliche, self-love is a journey, not a destination. It won’t feel easy at first but with small changes and persistence, you’ll start to make progress. Just know this: You are worth the effort.