So my last post was a little heavy, but I wanted to share some background before I offered up these mostly practical body positivity tips. It’s easy to judge someone by their Instagram feed and assume they’ve got a perfect life and have it all figured out. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we all have a story, and that was just part of mine. I’m encouraged by y’all every day to keep sharing and being boldly vulnerable without fear (my 2018 mantra, hello).
I digress. These ideas, or mantras, or practices are things I do literally every single day as a defense against society’s intimidating portrayal of beauty and my own inner mean girl. Body positivity is a journey, and I’m working on it.
ALWAYS WITH GRATITUDE
Even if your body is far from where you want it to look, there’s still so much to be grateful for. Your legs carry you through the world; your stomach digests the food that nourishes you; your chest and lungs expand and contract to deliver fresh oxygen. It’s actually freaking amazing how much our bodies do for us all 86,400 seconds of the day, even if we’re carrying 7 more pounds than we’d like or if our thighs are striped with stretch marks.
My body plays a huge role in making my experience of this life possible, and for that, I know I am grateful for it and its health.
AND ALWAYS WITH RESPECT
Doing good things for your body is simply a means of showing respect for yourself now and your self of the future. To me, this feels like a much more compelling rationale for healthy eating and regular exercise than any evasive “goal weight” or imagined physical appearance.
I’ve found that real magic happens when that healthy lifestyle thing shifts into gear. First, you enter this virtuous cycle. You do good things for your body (e.g. eating well, working out, sleeping enough, etc.) and your body starts to feel good, so you do more good things, and you feel even better, and on and on. And eventually doing those good things doesn’t even feel like trying anymore. The good things are just a seamless part of your life. And it all starts with a little gratitude and respect for your body.
MOVE YOUR SCALE
As you might’ve guessed after reading My Body Story, I used to weigh myself incessantly. At least daily, sometimes more. And my assessment of that day as good or bad would be largely dependent on the digitized number that stared back at me every morning. It totally sucked.
That said, there have been times that I didn’t weigh myself at all, and things got a little out of control, otherwise known as My Semester Abroad. So I’ve settled on a happy medium for myself, which started by moving my scale out of plain sight. In my one bedroom apartment, I simply moved it to the closet, and it now sits in my guest bathroom. It’s there when I might want to check in, once a week max, but it’s out of sight enough that this is no longer a compulsive behavior. Of course, there’s a lot more work that’s happened here to help me feel untethered to the number, but this was a concrete step in my journey.
REMEMBER EVERYONE’S GOT SOMETHING
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard a gorgeous woman disparage her own appearance in complete sincerity. In fact, I think that was basically the soundtrack to every group bathroom trip I took in college. (And I was in a sorority, so there was a lot of those.)
First, I should tell you how sad this makes me. After posting My Body Story, I received a wave of comments, messages, and emails from women who said that my story resonated with them. It was so bittersweet. Sweet that I was able to offer something that helped heal, but bitter and heartbreaking that this is an experience so many of us share.
But what I hope is that instead of constantly comparing ourselves to others, we remember that everyone’s got something, no matter how perfect you think her hair or abs are. Everyone’s got something, and we can all love ourselves and each other harder through that shared empathy.
FIND MOVEMENT YOU LOVE
This kind of goes hand in hand with treating your body with respect, but I thought it deserved its own special section. For so long, I used exercise as punishment. You know, that “sweat is fat crying” mentality. Blegh.
Moving your body is not punishment. It’s part of keeping your body healthy, the same way you brush your teeth or moisturize your elbows. (Moisturize your elbows, ppl!!!!) This sentiment really sunk in for me when I stopped trying to force myself to do sh*t that I hate. The perfect example is running.
I. Hate. Running.
So guess what? I just don’t run. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable exercise is when you eliminate the things you don’t like. Now I do yoga, lift weights, or take the occasional group class. It makes my brain and my body happy.
DO YOGA WITH YOUR SHIRT OFF
I know this sounds sort of asinine, but this changed the game for me. The first time I removed my shirt in yoga was out of sheer necessity. I went to my first hot yoga class and, like a total amateur, forgot to take my make up off or bring a towel. So I was covered in sweat, my eyes stinging from my dripping mascara. Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, so I whipped my shirt off to relieve my eyeballs. And then I was doing yoga with my shirt off, and I just never put it back on.
In the spirit of gratitude (lovely how we really went full circle here, eh?), I feel like I can really see my body for all the work that it does when I can see myself in the mirror, breathing heavily, twisting through my core. The first few times were weird. It was hard not to be critical of my body and its folds (especially when the Comparison Monster crept in), but eventually I was able to let go. I was able to look at my body with less judgment, more appreciation.
Like I said in my last post, I’m not the perfect picture of absolute confidence and self-acceptance. But, dammit, I’m trying. Plus I think it’s cool to love yourself and your body and your butt and your brain, so I hope I can help you get in on the action just a lil bit too