Here’s what is so awesome about appreciating our bodies: We don’t need to wait until we lose weight or change anything else about our appearance to do so. You can begin embracing your body right now. I hope these suggestions provide a helpful start:
- Think about 3 to 5 things your body helps you do. Write them down. Maybe your body helps you hike with your family. Maybe it helps you endure a tough, long shift as an emergency room nurse. Maybe it helps you paint, which is one of your favorite things to do. Maybe it helps you play with your kids. Maybe it helps you take walks in nature, which is the ultimate in relaxation for you. Make it a daily habit to pause and give thanks—even if that thanks is simply, thank you for helping me breathe and doing everything else to sustain my life. Thank you for being my vehicle. (This piece doesn’t have anything to do with our bodies, but I think it illustrates gratitude so beautifully.)
- Remove all the things in your home that hamper your appreciation. This might be “health” magazines or catalogs. It might be diet or weight loss books, foods or cookbooks. It might be clothes that don’t fit or make you feel wonderful. Take some time to assess the reading material in your home, along with any other objects. Ask yourself: How does this make me feel about my body? About myself? The key is to surround yourself with things that support you—not with things that confuse your worth with your weight.
- Explore what stops you from embracing your body, and remind yourself that appreciation doesn’t have to be all or nothing. That is, it’s not that you either love every nook and cranny of your body, or if you don’t then you’re resigned, clearly, to hate it. Rather, you can dislike your thighs. You can feel frustrated with your belly. And you can still appreciate your body as a whole. (For instance, you might say to yourself, “I don’t like how my belly looks in this outfit, and I appreciate my body overall.”) You can still respect your body. You can still take great care of it.
- Find exercises and/or classes that cultivate a positive body image. For instance, Curvy Yoga is a wonderful body positive resource with DVDs and a monthly membership. Find local yoga classes that focus on honoring your body or dance classes that focus on the joy and fun of movement. (Because moving your body isn’t some annoying chore or another thing on your ever-growing to-do list. You get to pick enjoyable, pleasurable activities. You get to do movement on your own terms.) Participate in classes that empower you and focus on what your body is capable of.
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation. Pause. Slow down. Carve out some time to pay attention to your body. Spot where tension might reside. Try this guided video or this one.
- Begin your morning with some compassionate or powerful words about your body. Find a few favorite blog posts or passages from books. Then pick several sentences that really speak to you. Copy each sentence on its own index card or scrap of paper. Every morning remind yourself of the truth, as you start your day. For example, these posts have really resonated with me: Rachel’s “Letting Go of What ‘They’ Think” and “What I Know About Weight“; and Katie’s “I Don’t Want My Body Back.” I also love Anna and Mara’s newsletters, which are packed with body positive words of wisdom.
- Give your body what it needs. Sleep. Water. Rest. Movement. Pleasure. Nutrients. Plus, when we feed ourselves the very things we need, we also feel better overall. We’re less overwhelmed and crabby. We’re more energized and at ease. Which is great for our health—and it feels good. Ask yourself these questions and these questions regularly to help you tune into your needs.
Appreciating our bodies isn’t about being blissed out by every inch. It isn’t about changing ourselves. I used to think it was. For many years I was convinced that I only had permission to embrace my body if it finally became acceptable. If it finally became worthy of appreciation. But the beauty is that you can give yourself this permission at any time. There are no conditions. There are no prerequisites you need to complete. There’s no goal you need to reach.
You can start now. With the body you currently have. No changes necessary.