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Body Image & Self-Acceptance: 28 Lessons I've Learned in My 28 Years

You may or may not be familiar with the fantastic body-positive blog Operation Beautiful, which was started by Caitlin Boyle. The mission of Operation Beautiful is to stop negative self-talk, which as we all know is incredibly destructive, by positing positive messages in public places for others to find. It’s become this great movement – and now it’s become a book. Caitlin’s book, Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-It At a Time,was released yesterday. In honor of that, tons of bloggers are blogging about body image. A huge congrats to Caitlin for an amazing accomplishment!

When I was younger, I yearned, and I mean yearned to be pretty. While school was always important to me (I refused to leave my room to eat dinner until I’d finished my heaps of homework), I remember on many occasions saying to myself that I’d rather be dumb if I could just be beautiful. That progressed to wanting to be pretty and skinny, as I got older.

After turning 28 last Friday, I’ve been looking back and thinking about my self-image throughout the years. There are so many things I wish I would’ve known about body image, self-acceptance and being truly healthy. Sometimes, I can’t help but regret how I treated myself. Oh, how I wish I could go back and tell my younger self everything I know now.

But I know that this is no way to think. Plus, unless someone has invented a time machine, it’s pointless for me to keep ruminating about this. Thinking this way doesn’t get me anywhere – except very upset. All I can do now is move forward and strive to take good care of myself today and in the future.

Today, I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned in my 28 years on Earth:

  1. The best way to nourish your body is not by a) counting calories b) adopting a diet c) depriving yourself of dessert or any other foods. It’s to listen to your body’s internal cues, and respond as best as you can.
  2. Women’s magazines and other places that push dieting have no clue what they’re talking about. (Also, most women’s magazines espouse unhealthy advice.)
  3. I’m me (and thanks to genetics, look a certain way), so there’s no reason to strive to have someone else’s legs or abs.
  4. If you’re a good person, you deserve to be loved and respected, regardless of your appearance, weight or shape.
  5. If you’re feeling a certain way, be honest with yourself and be honest with others. There’s no reason to pretend. It only complicates life.
  6. There’s usually so much more behind your relationship with food and yourself, than simply wanting to be thinner and eating less.
  7. Only participate in physical activities that make you happy, not to punish yourself for eating something or for the sole purpose of losing weight.
  8. If someone makes a mean remark to you about your body, this has everything to do with them, and nothing to do with you.
  9. Always remember just how amazing your body is. As reader Vicki said on Weightless a long time ago, “Any day that I’m breathing is a day I look my best.” Wow.
  10. “I feel fat,” is rarely about feeling fat. It helps to dig deeper to see what you’re really feeling. Am I exhausted, frustrated, angry or sad? How can I fix this?
  11. You can be healthy at any size, as long as you’re engaging in healthy habits.
  12. Your weight or size doesn’t determine your self-worth – ever.
  13. Beating yourself about your body (or not eating right or not exercising enough) is a terrible motivator. The only change it creates is building more self-loathing.
  14. Instead of focusing so much on manipulating your body, focus more on getting to know yourself. Explore who you are, what you believe in and your greater purpose in life. I wish I would’ve spent my formative years concentrating more on enjoying my own company, than striving to be and look like someone I’m not.
  15. Your body has always been there for you, even when you’ve been too busy bashing it. Thank her for that.
  16. It’s great to be able to take a compliment. Relish it, instead of trying to come up with 50 reasons why you don’t deserve it. Just smile, and say “thanks.”
  17. Before getting anyone’s opinion, ask yourself what you want. What feels right to you? What does your body, mind and heart say?
  18. I’ve never felt better (or stronger) since I’ve started eating intuitively and mindfully and participating in physical activities that I really genuinely enjoy.
  19. You won’t always love your body. But that’s OK. We all have our good days and bad days. On the bad days, try your best not to bash and do something that makes you happy.
  20. Comparing yourself to others only hurts. Plus, who wants to become a sub-par version of someone else? I still have to repeat these words to myself because I get comparison-happy allll the time.
  21. Even though it might not feel like it, you can always find something you like about yourself.
  22. It’s a good thing to enjoy eating. It’s not a sin punishable by exercise or food restriction.
  23. There are no good or bad foods.
  24. The definition of healthy eating is not dieting or deprivation or salad.
  25. Building a more positive body image is an ongoing process, which means that you can start small and do something every day to feel better about yourself. It can be as small as refusing to indulge your inner critic when she insults a body part, or eating a nourishing snack when you feel pangs of hunger.
  26. No matter how horrible your day or month is, remember that it’ll pass. It’ll pass. It’ll pass.
  27. Diet rules don’t keep you from overeating. They offer a false sense of control, silence your own voice and feed the inner critic.
  28. Life is so much happier and so much more fulfilling once you accept yourself, at the size, shape and appearance that you are right now.

Today’s favorite post. Check out all the other inspirational posts in honor of Caitlin’s book release here.

What have you learned about body image, self-acceptance or dieting? What does a healthy body image mean to you?

Body Image & Self-Acceptance: 28 Lessons I've Learned in My 28 Years

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2010). Body Image & Self-Acceptance: 28 Lessons I've Learned in My 28 Years. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Aug 2010
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