This article was originally posted in August of 2014.
You can't take good care of something you hate.
It's a phrase that's on repeat in my office. We all need a reminder that you can't hate yourself into a smaller body. And similarly, loving your body isn't going to cause you to gain weight. Loving your body, or at the very least respecting it, is a must if you want to take good care of it.
Every day we get dozens of messages reminding us that society values smaller bodies, so it takes active work to feel good about your body. Here's five exercises to promote body confidence.
Express gratitude for your body
Instead of focusing on perceived imperfections, focus on what your body can do, and express gratitude to your body for it. Those thighs you hate? Say thank you for powering you through a strenuous hike that allowed you to enjoy the most gorgeous view you've ever seen, for giving you the strength to pick up your child (or dog or cat or, like, a heavy box), and for releasing tension and calming your body as you stretch them during a yoga class.
Maybe it's too difficult to feel gratitude for a part of your body you've spent your whole life feeling ashamed of. Show gratitude for a part of your body that isn't connected to your body image, like your lungs or liver or brain. Literally, just grab an anatomy book and open to any it to any page. It's absolutely fascinating what our body does without our thinking about it. Although understanding how a renal corpuscle filters the blood or how the small intestine absorbs nutrients from our food won't make you feel better about parts of your body you're sensitive about, it will help you develop a more complex view of your body outside love/hate.
Joyfully move your body
There's no better way to foster gratitude for your body than by seeing what it can accomplish. Run, jog, hike, walk, dance, barre, stretch, lift, swim, rock climb, jazzercise...just move your body! Just be sure that whatever movement you're doing, you're doing it with the intent of having fun. Not sure if your exercise is motivated by weight loss or enjoyment? Ask yourself if you felt OK in your body, would you still do it?
Toss the scale
Just smash that thing. It'll be cathartic! After all, the scale doesn't tell you anything about your health, value as a human being, nor should it dictate your happiness. Need some more motivation? Here's four reasons to ditch the scale.
What do you love about you?
There's a lot to love about the uniquely perfect individual that is you, but when you're staring at a perceived imperfection in the mirror, it can be hard to remember what those things are. Write them down so you always have something there to remind you.
Your body is just a teeny, tiny part of who you are, and probably the least important part. So write down aspects of your personality that you love. List skills and accomplishments, both big and small. What do people you love like about you? Write it all down and keep that list with you so you can break it out whenever you need a confidence boost. Even better, write it on post it notes and stick them all around your full length mirror - then you'll truly see yourself.
When you see headlines about a model dropping all her baby weight in six weeks or a bikinied actress endorsing a diet pill, get pissed. Redirect the anger you feel towards your body to who really deserves it - a predatory diet industry making billions selling false hopes. They are the problem, not your thighs.
Any other body image exercises you like to do? Share in the comments?