How we feel about our bodies isn’t set in stone. That is, if you’ve spent years bashing and disliking your body that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to spend your future doing the same. You can feel better about your body. You can feel more comfortable in your own skin. And you don’t have to change a thing about your physical appearance to do so.
You also don’t have to take big leaps or make sweeping changes. You can take small and simple steps every day.
In their excellent book Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight Linda Bacon, Ph.D, and Lucy Aphramor, Ph.D, RD, share a list of tips for improving our body image. Here are seven of my favorite suggestions, which can be really powerful:
1. Throw away your scale. Or put a sticker over the dial that says “awesome.” Because it’s not helpful to stay shackled to the scale. Like I wrote in this post, focusing on our weight can lead to unhealthy habits. Here’s an excerpt:
Here’s one scenario: You’re exercising and eating nutrient-rich foods. You’re feeling pretty darn good. You weigh yourself every few days. But the number isn’t budging.
Every time you step off the scale, your heart sinks a little more. Your disappointment turns to frustration and anger. You decide that this is ridiculous, and you stop exercising and ditch your greens. What’s the point? You’re not losing weight anyway.
Here’s another scenario: When the same number glares at you, you cut back on your calories, and banish sweets and carbs from your home. You’re hungry, and your mood takes a nosedive, but you’re committed to losing weight.
You view food as an inconvenience, at best, and, more often, as the enemy. If you do eat more calories than you’ve allotted yourself, you beat yourself up and head to the gym to engage in exercise you don’t even like in the first place…
2. Pamper yourself. For instance, take hot baths or showers. Get massages. Remember that you don’t need to “earn” the right to pamper yourself by changing your shape. You always deserve kindness and self-care. What feels like a special treat to you? How do you define pampering? What do you wish you did more often? Incorporate these activities and gestures into your days.
3. Use your body. That is, use your body to “find activities that are fun for you.” This might be anything from hula-hooping to creating sculptures to taking cooking classes. What sounds enjoyable to you? What feels playful?
4. “Take the time and money you would have spent on dieting and spend it on fun, supportive activities instead.” For instance, you could buy books on building a positive body image, practicing self-compassion, coping with emotions or becoming more assertive. You could take a dance class or buy gentle yoga DVDs (or any kind of exercise or movement you’d like to try). You could start working with a therapist on feeling better about yourself and creating a fulfilling life on your own terms.
5. Surround yourself with diverse images — and people with your body size. For instance, the authors suggest going to an art gallery, and observing the range of body shapes and sizes.
6. “Find ways to limit the damage of unfair comments and treatment — talking, journaling, blogging, activism, joining an online community.” For me writing, talking to other bloggers and reading their inspiring work have been instrumental in helping me to embrace my body.
7. Think about the activities you’ve been waiting to do until you get thinner. Start enjoying these activities today. Are you waiting to buy nicer clothes ’til you lose weight? Are you waiting to run a race ’til you lose weight? Are you waiting to start treating yourself with kindness? To stop dieting? To take a trip? To start hiking? To start dancing?
Whatever it is, start doing this today. You don’t have to lose one pound to start enjoying your body or your life. Fill your life with the activities that energize you and support your well-being. Fill your life with people who genuinely care about you. Fill your life with things that are fun, exciting and interesting.
Remember that you can start feeling better about your body at any time, shape or size. You can start taking compassionate care of yourself at any time, shape or size. So start today. Start right now.
What are your favorite tips? Which suggestion will you try today or this week?