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“Today, I asked my body what she needed, which is a big deal considering my journey of not really asking that much. I thought she might need more water, or protein, or greens, or yoga, or supplements, or movement. But as I stood in the shower reflecting on her stretch marks, her roundness where I would like flatness, her softness where I would like firmness, all those conditioned wishes that form a bundle of never-quite-right-ness, she whispered very gently:
Could you just love me like this?”
Loving, honoring, and respecting your body in a society that tells you that your body will never be good enough takes a conscious and careful effort. Starting as children, we receive messages about how our bodies should look, and these messages become so constant that it can become hard to even distinguish that they are even there. However, they are hard to escape: which celeb lost the baby weight, which celeb might have gained weight, the miracle diet, the workout that will help you lose X number of pounds in X number of days, the face cream that will take away the wrinkles. Everywhere you turn, you can find a message that your body should change.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist who has worked with eating disorders and exercise addiction, I have had the honor of sitting across from many men and women who are doing the brave work of healing their relationship with their bodies. In my personal life, I am doing my best to raise my children to listen to and respect their bodies. I have an 11-week-old baby girl who I hope grows up to feel that her body is one of her greatest gifts that deserves celebration and love. I am also currently navigating life in my own postpartum body, making a conscious effort to be gentle and grateful for this body that allows me to grow, birth, and care for my babies.
Here are three of the tools that I use with my clients and in my own life to help promote a healthy body image.
Practice Body Gratitude
If you have a lot of practice critiquing your body and your appearance, you might have difficulty shifting into a mindset of body gratitude. Start by thinking about what you love to do. What fills your days, and how do you take care of yourself? Do you love yoga? Thank your body for letting you stretch, breathe, and balance your way into a place of zen. Are you awesome at your job that keeps you on your feet, traveling the country or the world, or busy at a computer? Give thanks to your feet and legs that support you as you give amazing presentations or let you sprint through the airport to make your next connection. Say thank you to your hands and fingers for letting you craft emails and blogs and articles about important topics. Are you working hard to raise amazing kids? Practice gratitude for your arms that let you snuggle and comfort your babies, your legs that let you wrangle an energetic toddler, or your belly for letting you grow life. Take stock of your gratitude each evening by writing down three ways your body allowed you to fully participate in your life that day. With this perspective, you can shift out of criticism and into gratitude, which will encourage you to realize all of the hard work your body has done and continues to do to allow you to do the things you love.
Carry a Picture of Your Younger Self
This idea works for practicing kindness both to your body and to yourself. For some of us, the inner critic, the voice that tells you that you’re not good enough
, you’re doing it all wrong, or that your body should be different, can be so loud. If you struggle with an overbearing inner critic, I encourage you to find a picture of your younger self, when you were just a small child. Keep this picture with you in your wallet or on your phone, and when you hear that inner critic, pull out your picture. Think of how you would want someone to speak to that little child, and then try speaking to him or her. Give her comfort or offer him encouragement. Tell her that she is perfectly enough just as she is, that he is working so hard and doing a great job, or that her body is a beautiful gift that lets her run fast and climb high. Remember that we all still have that younger self as a part of us, and we need to give ourselves and our bodies love, patience, and kindness.
Do a Social Media Cleanse
Do a body image social media cleanse: scroll through your feed, notice any accounts that don’t make you feel empowered about yourself and your body, and unfollow them. If you find that you don’t have a lot of accounts in your social media feed that make you feel inspired or encouraged, then check out these celebrities and who are promoting a healthy body image on social media. If you are a new mom navigating the postpartum period and all the joys and challenges that presents your body, then take a look at these celeb mamas who are empowering women by speaking the truth about the postpartum period: that it’s messy and beautiful, and your body is amazing!
I hope these tips can help you practice new ways to love, appreciate, and respect your body. If you find that you could use some more support to enhance your body image, reach out to us at Smart Talk. We’d love to help you!