About six years ago, I was invited to a pool party with a bunch of my closest friends. Rather than feeling excitement, I was overcome with a sense of dread. Going to a pool party meant wearing a bikini, and I was so incredibly self-conscious that I didn’t go.
That’s right. I missed out on an opportunity to spend time with people I loved because I was that uncomfortable in my own skin.
That day served as a huge wake-up call for me. One of my favorite and most important things in life is sharing experiences with the people I care about, and I knew that if I was turning those down, there was some serious work to do.
Over the last several years, I have spent a lot of time diving in deep to find peace with my body. I want to share some of the things that have been the most helpful for me and for the many women with whom I’ve been lucky enough to work.
In a perfect world, you could make all of your negative thoughts disappear forever with the flip of a switch. However, changing your thoughts actually takes some work. Some people are able to practice making positive affirmations and benefit greatly from them, but in my experience, going from “I hate my body” to “I love my body” can feel out of reach and inauthentic to many people.
If that is the case for you, I encourage you to start noticing the words you use regularly when talking about your body and your appearance. Do you make disparaging remarks about your body to others? Do you disguise the negativity by making jokes about your body or your food choices and how they relate to your body? Many women do this, often without even noticing, because it’s become such an ingrained habit. For many, it just comes with the territory of being a woman: getting together and bonding over our mutual disdain for our bodies.
Altering your language will feel much easier to control than changing your thoughts, especially if you’ve been thinking negative things about your body for a long time.
Your words are powerful. They bring your thoughts and beliefs to life. If you are committed to changing your mindset about your body, start by noticing how you speak about your body, and then give it everything you’ve got to refrain from using negative language. Do your best to refrain from complaining about, or apologizing for your appearance or your body.
There was a time in my life when I would roll out of bed every morning, use the bathroom, and then hop onto the scale and see what number appeared. I would then allow that number to completely dictate my mood, and therefore, my whole day. If it was higher than I thought it should be, I felt like a failure. If it was lower than I had guessed it would be, I felt like I was “good.” I had attached my worth to whatever number lit up that silly digital screen each morning. Needless to say, I was a rollercoaster of emotions due to the normal way that the scale can fluctuate by a couple of pounds each day.
Now, listen… I know that for some people the scale can be a completely neutral tool. They can swing 15 pounds in either direction and be completely unfazed by it. I haven’t been one of those people, but if you are, feel free to scroll down to the next section.
If the scale is a constant source of stress for you, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship with it.
You may consider getting rid of it altogether, or, if that feels like too big of a first step, think about making a commitment to weighing in no more than once every two weeks.
If you want to keep the scale in your daily routine even though it’s causing some emotional distress, I will share this with you: in my personal experience, regardless of what number ever appeared, it was still never good enough to bring me to a place of peace with my body. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with who met their goal weight and have said something like, “Huh. I thought I’d feel different at this weight.” That is because finding peace with your body is an inside gig; it’s not a job that a number on the scale will fix.
Ask yourself: is the scale nurturing a healthy relationship with my body, or hurting it? Only you know the answer.
One of the best things I’ve ever done to improve my relationship with my body has been finding hobbies. For about a decade, my only hobbies were working out, prepping food, and dieting, all in a quest for the “perfect” body. If I wasn’t working out, preparing food, or eating, I was thinking about it. I would spend all of my free time designing or logging my workouts, planning out my grocery lists and meals, or simply daydreaming about food (mostly because I was always hungry). Interestingly enough, it was that same decade that my relationship with my body was the most unhealthy. Coincidence? No way. My behaviors kept me trapped in the same way of thinking, which was: I’m not worthy just the way I am.
A few years ago, I got fed up with it all and threw myself headfirst into anything and everything that didn’t have a single thing to do with the way my body looked. This meant mountain biking, dirt biking, aerial sports, hiking, and whatever else sounded like a great time. It has been enormously rewarding for me, and I believe it will be for you, too. Even if mountain biking or hiking aren’t your jam, there are plenty of things for you to explore, whether it’s mentally or physically. Consider volunteering, taking an art class, dance lessons, or joining a book club. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing it feels to look forward to things that have nothing to do with the way your body looks.
There is no denying that exercise and great nutrition can be fun, and that’s great! It’s important to be healthy and feel your best, but there is also so much more to enjoy in life than planning your workout schedule, prepping and packing meals, and logging it all — especially if you are working toward creating peace with your body.
Hint: It’s not having an ideal body.
Let me start by reiterating that there isn’t a single thing wrong with wanting to change the way your body looks. It’s your body and entirely your business. You get to decide what is best for you. But there is a huge difference between working to make changes, and associating your worth in this world with how your body looks.
Neghar Fonooni recently said something that deeply resonated with me:
“A woman’s primary purpose in life is not to have an ‘ideal’ body.”
So many women become wrapped up in how their body looks, and in their quest to achieve the way that they believe it’s supposed to look, that they lose sight of the fact that they have so much more to offer this world.
I’d love for you to grab a pen and some paper and write down your purpose or the work that you want to accomplish in this world that has nothing to do with your body.
If you get stuck, the following prompts may help you. Feel free to write a full journal entry, jot down single words, or (my personal favorite) create stories using stick figures.
I understand that finding peace with your body can seem like a lofty goal. But, as with anything else, it becomes easier as you put in the work and chip away at it daily.
My friend, when you embark on this work and find yourself having a harder day, know this:
You are the sum of all of your parts — your heart, soul, brain, muscles, and bones. You are the experiences that you’ve had, the lessons you’ve learned, the emotions you’ve felt, the wisdom you carry, and the love you’ve given and received. You are far too powerful and amazing to distill yourself down to merely your physical appearance.
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