Put Down That Smoothie: 3 Ways To Love Your Body That Actually Work
“I hate the way I look.”
“I’ll feel better when I can fit into that old pair of jeans.”
“I deserve dessert tonight – I worked hard at the gym.”
This is the kinda toxic self talk that we’ve all had at one point or another. (Yeah… you don’t have to ‘earn’ food for yourself, and exercise is more than a get-out-of-guilt-free card).
We don’t know how to take care of our bodies, or how to love them.
We look in the mirror and hate what we see. We talk trash about our stretch marks, wrinkles and belly fat – sometimes in the privacy of our own mind, but all too often with our friends and family too.
We sweat and push and strain at the gym, but don’t feel satisfied with the results.
So we calorie count, juice cleanse and yo-yo diet ourselves into a nervous wreck. We pluck and pamper and style and preen in the hope that eventually we’ll like what we see.
When we’re on the health track, we feel great. But when we inevitably ‘lose our way’, the self-loathing and shame is crushing…
Tomorrow, I’ll get back on the healthy band-wagon.
Tomorrow, I’ll go for a run… try that new diet… drink more water… eat less chips…
I’ll feel good about myself… tomorrow.
Something’s gotta change. And it’s not our bodies.
Because the only way to escape this crazy-making treadmill of “I’ll love my body when….” is to jump right the hell off.
But how exactly do you do that? (especially in a culture that’s hell bent on keeping you down)
Telling yourself to just “love your body as it is” ain’t gonna cut it. You’ve worked that out the hard way, no doubt.
“Positive affirmations are great if they feel like truth. But if you don’t really love your ass in those jeans – it’s a lie. And lying to yourself feels gross. It makes you more aware of how much you don’t love your body.”
So what do you do?
Before I share the 3 best approaches that have transformed the way I feel about myself, I have a confession to make:
For most of my life, I’ve had a pretty good relationship with my body.
I’ve never been a dieter or an obsessive gym junkie. I don’t have a powerful story of overcoming an eating disorder to share.
The truth is, I’m a size small with a naturally toned-looking body that plenty of people have told me they’re envious of.
So does that mean I’ve always loved the way I look?
With the culture we live in, there’s plenty of things to feel inadequate about.
My lack of ‘womanly’ curves. My acne scars – made all the worse by a distracted tendency to pick at my skin (oh the shame of admitting this out loud!). My apparent failure to ‘woman correctly’ (eye roll) – because I can’t nail the messy yoga bun or match my shoes with my handbag.
There’s literally no end to how critical or inadequate you can feel about your body and the way you look.
But why the hell would you do that to yourself?
Trying to perfect your body is a dangerous game, and one you can never win.
Far more powerful is to transcend the game altogether, and take a different approach to these fleshy vessels we find ourselves in.
So here’s 3 ways to love your body that will absolutely change your life.
#1. Negative Visualisation
Yeah, you read that right.
This is an ancient Stoic technique that’s been used for thousands of years to cultivate deep fulfilment and joy, no matter the external circumstances.
To rid themselves of the negative affects of wanting what they didn’t have, the Stoics used negative visualisation to want what they already had.
Here’s how it works for your body:
Spend time each day reflecting on what your life would be like if you didn’t have the body you have right now.
Imagine what it would be like to be without one of your senses.
What if you lost the capacity to speak?
How would your life be different without the use of your arms? Your legs? Or your hands?
Imagine how different your body will be when you’re in the final years of your life – how age might restrict your movement, or make it impossible for you to do things on your own.
Realise that one day, your body will stop working altogether and you’ll cease to be here at all.
This might sound incredibly morbid and depressing, but it’s an incredibly powerful way to appreciate what you have.
No matter what your body can or can’t do, you could always be worse off. Which means there’s always something to be grateful for.
So now when I catch myself talking smack about my legs, I pause and think about what it would be like to not have legs at all. And suddenly, I’m flooded with appreciation for the body I have, ‘imperfections’ and all.
#2. Lovin’ Your Body Ain’t About The HOW
I have a client who’s an extremely capable and accomplished athlete. She totally inspires me to be more active and bad-ass in my life.
She was feeling scattered, unmotivated and really struggling with her exercise routine. And despite working hard to get her body in excellent shape, she still felt unhappy and critical of how she looked.
As we started working through it, what became apparent was this:
She was absolutely nailing the how. But what about the why?
It’s well researched that your ‘why’ for doing something is often the difference between seeing it through or not.
When it comes to exercise, most people will tell you they have a pretty compelling ‘why’:
“I want to lose 10 pounds.” “I want to fit into my favourite jeans.” “I want to feel good about my body.”
On face value these might seem like worthwhile goals, but there’s an unspoken underlying element that is dangerous:
That however you are right now isn’t enough.
And when that’s the underlying ‘why’, it sure as shit ain’t going to empower you.
Here’s a FAR more compelling ‘why’:
Choose exercise because it strengthens and revitalises your body.
Choose food because it nourishes and enlivens you.
Choose to get your eight hours of sleep a night because you deserve to feel well rested and alert.
Set your health goals around the belief that your body is a sacred vessel, and that it’s your job to care for it the best you can.
This approach is incredibly liberating because it also allows a lot of scope for choosing less-than-ideal health options as well.
Sometimes I eat pizza. Sometimes I enjoy a sugar-rich cake. Sometimes I’ll drink more wine than I know is good for me.
Because in that moment, that’s what self-respect feels like. I want the thing, and I choose to give myself the thing. ‘Cause deprivation to the extreme is self-flagellation, not self-respect.
And the line between the two is always easy to find.
Pizza every day, an entire bottle of wine or skipping the gym for a whole week doesn’t feel like self-respect to me. And so I don’t do it.
No ‘shoulds’. No guilt. Just a commitment to myself and making the best possible choices for my body.
Try it, and see how your approach to your diet, exercise, your body and your health in general shifts.
Less guilt, more respect. Yes please.
#3. Go on a Diet
“Ummm, didn’t you just say…..”
No, not a food diet. Restrictive eating or calorie counting rarely works, and is more likely to make you feel worse about your body.
I’m talking about an image diet.
Start cutting back on all the photoshopped, filtered, flawless images of models and superstars you see everyday – in magazines, ads, YouTube clips and the picture perfect people we see on the silver screen.
But don’t just stop with advertising and entertainment.
Your Social Media feeds are bursting with everyone else’s ‘highlight reels’ – from make-up perfect selfies with the lighting just right (take #329), to lifestyle gurus ‘selling the dream’ – while you compare them to the unglamorous backstage version of your real, everyday life.
No wonder we feel like crap – we’re on a non-stop diet of self-image junk food.
I’m not saying you have to drop off the face of the planet or throw your iphones in the trash.
But surely there’s scope for a more conscious consumption of body images?
I regularly have digital detoxes. I’ve stopped reading magazines and stick to books instead. I limit my Social Media time each day. And my phone’s always on Do Not Disturb Mode from 9pm – 8am in the morning.
And, I’ve never felt better.
Bonus Level: Rampage of Appreciation
This is the positive complement of approach #1. And at first glance, it might sound a bit like your everyday positive affirmations. Not quite.
The key difference is to find the parts of your body that you genuinely appreciate, and speak that appreciation out loud. Or in your head. Or on paper. Or to yourself in the mirror. Whatever works.
You’re not picking some imagined ideal and trying to convince yourself that you’re there when you’re obviously not.
It’s finding the love that’s already there, and building on that. And the secret is to start small.
Something nasty about your body pops into your head? Find something awesome to say about yourself in response. Maybe even two things.
“I hate the way my cellulite looks.”
“Oh, but I love how strong and toned my arms are. And my eyes are so damn striking!
But why stay with the surface stuff?
What about the dazzling array of chemical reactions happening in your body every single second? The way your lungs work to oxygenate your body? Or the 1 in 400 trillion probability you were even born as you at all?
Just the fact that you’re here reading this now is reason enough to celebrate.
And you can apply this to how you approach food too:
As you’re eating, or just before you start, pause for a moment and reflect on what you’re grateful for.
Regardless of whether you’re munching on your kale salad or munching on a packet of crisps, there’s loads to appreciate.
And if you’re going to choose the triple choc fudge sundae, you may as well enjoy it (instead of guilting yourself over it). Shame and guilt only sets you up for more shame and guilt, which ain’t exactly the bedrock of a healthy relationship with food.
So throw out the ‘good food / bad food’ list, and instead let self-respect and gratitude drive your decision making.
And don’t hate on yourself for having things about your body you don’t love – just remember to find all the stuff that you DO love.
You don’t need to do it perfectly. Just start small.
Want to know how the Rampage of Appreciation can help you get the spark back in your sex life and supercharge your relationship?
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