A longer version of this article originally appeared on Livestrong.com.
Learn how to accept your body and explore the power of words, influences, and mentality when it comes to loving and cherishing it.
While most people struggle with body image at some point of their lives, you can get ahead and learn how to accept your body now. Accepting it can be a lot easier said than done. Especially with the ongoing images of other people on social media, online, and on TV. However, there’s been an incredible uproar in body positivity activists. These people and companies/organizations help people of all shapes and sizes appreciate the skin that they’re in.
For some, this process can take trial and error, and be an ongoing process. But remember that with the right resources, surrounding yourself with the right people, and the right mentality, you can get to a place where you happily accept your body and love it for all that it provides for you.
Let’s look closer at common questions people have, and why it can be a struggle to treat your body with more love and respect.
Common Negative Body Self-Talk
You’ve likely heard family, friends, yourself, or a combination of all three, saying something negative about their body. Often, these phrases are also tied to the sense of happiness or success if a certain image were to be achieved, or a part of their appearance were different.
“When I lose 10 more pounds I’ll be happy.”
“Ugh. My hair is so thin.”
“I should really do something about those fine lines that are beginning to creep in.”
“My stomach isn’t flat enough.”
“I have cellulite on my legs.”
Sound familiar? These are the loud, negative and uninvited thoughts inside your head that make you feel like you constantly need to improve anything and everything about your external self.
Why is it so hard for people to accept their bodies?
Society has put so much value and importance on our outward appearance that it can make it difficult to prioritize what’s on the inside — intelligence, compassion, humor, etc. In an effort to perfect our “flaws” so that we can finally get to a place where we can be “happy,” it has become difficult to even consider accepting or loving our physical bodies as is.
Filters on social media and the edited highlights of peoples lives adds another hurdle. These filters to reality make it an unfair comparison game. But the truth is, if you take control of that unwelcome voice and direct it towards a new appreciation and respect of your body, you can ultimately end up happier and healthier.
Body Image and Health
Science has shown that when people have a more positive body image, they may have a more positive quality of life and a healthier body. In fact, one study found that when people feel more positive about their own body image, their ability to regulate their eating habits also improves.
“As body image improves, the researchers found that autonomous motivation, self-efficacy (confidence in one’s ability to produce a desired result) and self-regulation skills also improve and emerge as the best predictors of a beneficial weight,” says Misti Gueron M.S., RDN, medical nutrition therapist at the Khalili Center.
How do you accept your body?
Accepting your body doesn’t happen overnight for most people. But by constantly practicing gratitude and forming a better awareness of the negative things you do tell yourself, the closer you become to accepting any “flaws” and seeing them as unique parts of who you are. Finding the right community, resources, and if needed, registered dietitian or therapist, can start you in the right direction.
Why is it important to accept your body?
Your view of your body can impact your food choices, your relationships, your happiness, and your overall health. By addressing the daily dialogue you have about your appearance and the feelings you have towards the body you live in, you can set yourself up for a more positive outcome with all of those elements.
5 Strategies to Accept Your Body
Check out these five strategies to help you accept your body and show it more love.
- Make a choice to accept it and set your intention
- Practice positive self-talk
- Stop comparing your body to others
- Show your body you love it
- Make the most of body acceptance resources
1. Make a choice.
It all starts by making the decision to put in the effort to accept your body. “The simplest thing anyone can do is choose to accept their body. It’s a choice, nothing more. Accept how you feel about it and remain committed to taking care of yourself in kind and compassionate ways,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness.
Feel free to share your choice and ask for support from your friends and family. Tell them you will no longer focus on or talk about your self-perceived negative body attributes, but rather you’ll do all you can to take care of yourself and feel good in your body. This also creates a sense of social accountability and can help form an even greater awareness of how you speak about your body to yourself, and to others.
2. Practice positive self-talk.
Replace blaming and shaming with gentleness and gratitude. Start by noticing the words that go through your head about your appearance each day. For most women, they’d never criticize a friend the way they criticize themselves — and if they did, they wouldn’t have friends for very long!
To get started: “Write down a list of specific things you like about yourself: For example, ‘I have a great smile,’ ‘I have nice eyes’ or ‘I love what my strong arms can do.’ Read them every night until you truly believe them, and then replace with new ones,” says Alyse Levine, MS, RDN, intuitive eating expert in Los Angeles.
3. Stop comparing your body to others.
Make a rule not to participate in diet talk or comment on other women’s bodies in ways that put you down. If an image or video on social media has a direct impact on your feelings about your own body, choose to unfollow or mute that account. You can take control of what you’re exposed to, and the influences on your thoughts.
When you “mentally or verbally compliment others, appreciate the diversity of beauty rather than ranking yourself among others,” says Levine.
4. Show your body you love it.
Rather than focusing on restricting your diet to lose weight or working out solely to burn calories, focus on nourishing your body, moving it and giving it pleasurable experiences. Find gratitude in all that your body does for you, and the opportunities and abilities it provides each day.
“Do activities that make you feel good about yourself, whether that is painting your nails, getting your hair done, taking a brisk walk or trying a fun new workout with a friend. This type of positive stimuli leads to good feelings, which in turn can help you have a globally healthier relationship with your body. Pamper as often as needed!” says Levine.
5. Make the most of body acceptance resources
“There are several organizations, outreach centers, universities, specialized professionals and self-help books devoted to the area of improved body acceptance, such as the 10 Will-Powers for Improving Body Image from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA),” says Gueron. Involved in this exercise is making daily affirmations like “I will practice taking people seriously for what they say, feel and do, not for how slender or ‘well put together’ they appear,” says Levine.
If you’re looking for helpful resources focused on body acceptance and body positivity, explore the ones below:
- Body Kindness Book (mentioned above)
- Body Image Movement
- Health at Every Size Community
- More Than a Body