- What Is Body Positivity
- How Body Positivity Improves Physical Health
- 9 Ways to Love Your Body
The journey to better health starts with a whole lot of self love. If you’re struggling with the way you look or even hating yourself for it, it’s time to change the narrative. This means embracing body positivity and learning to love the way you look right now, perceived flaws and all.
It begins with your thoughts, then your words, and finally your actions. You spend more time with yourself than anyone else, and how you think about yourself, talk to yourself, and treat yourself can make or break this lifelong relationship.
Health and wellness is a never ending journey, and there will never be a right time or perfect weight when it comes to loving yourself and your body.
The only time that exists is now, and right now we can choose to let go of all of the conditional love keeping us at war with ourselves.
So cut yourself some slack and know you don't always have to love your body to give yourself permission to feel good, nor do you need permission from others to be confident and powerful.
Cultivating body positivity and self-acceptance takes practice, and it isn’t always easy. But you’re not alone and there are things you can do today to start practicing self love. Here’s your self-care toolkit with 9 tips to help build more body-positive rituals in your life
What is Body Positivity?
Body positivity addresses how our perception of body image shapes our mental health and well-being. It also challenges the role of cultural, social, and media influences in the development of our relationship with our body, ourself, and how we perceive others.
Body positivity is the mindset that everyone is worthy of love and a positive body image, regardless of how the media and society tries to define beauty or the ideal body type.
Body image refers to what you believe about your own appearance and how you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight; it also includes how you physically feel in your body (1).
The term body positivity can also refer to:
- Radical acceptance of yourself and others, body and all.
- Cultivating confidence and self-love.
- Appreciating your body regardless of perceived flaws for all it can do.
- The social movement of inclusivity and acceptance of all traits
What is the Body Positive Movement?
The body positivity movement has been around for a long time; as long as there has been a group of people trying to monopolize what 'beauty' is and judge others on their appearance and lifestyle theres been an opposing group of people fighting for inclusitivioty and self-love.
The body positivity movement challenges the cultural and social stigmas created around peoples physical shape and size.
It also acknowledges the many forms of judgement and criticisms made based on non-physical qualities in hopes to help people understand how external influencers, like the media, contribute to the relationships with have with ourselves and the impact this has on our well-being.
The movement has taken on many different meanings as it has become increasingly popular in the past 20 years, and will continue to evolve and grow; it's not without its criticisms as more and more people get involved.
This is why it's important to prioritize your relationship with yourself and determine what body positivity means to you.
Everyone will always have something to say about someone else, but that doesn't mean we have to listen and internalize what's going on in the world. You control how you feel about yourself and you alone; and you're pretty amazing.
How to Change Your Narrative?
The most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself.
We fabricate a story about our identity based on our relationship with ourselves. This story gets hijacked when negative self-talk shows up and we focus more on external approval to define our self-worth vs feeling confident in ourselves from within.
What story have you been telling yourself about your body?
Studies have shown that exposure to the portrayal of the "perfect body' in media influence our self esteem, the development of depression, disordering eating, and body dissatisfaction (2).
If you’ve struggled with loving yourself and your body or body image, you’re not alone. Up to 84% of people will experience body dissatisfaction and struggle with all the uncomfortable feelings about their weight and appearance (3,4).
There is no wrong way to have a body, there is no winning number on the scale, there is no perfect image; we all come in different shapes and sizes, and part of the body-positivity movement is honoring your uniqueness and accepting every part of yourself.
Uncomfortable feelings may stem from how we ‘think’ about our body and our wellness, but that’s also the part of the solution; prioritize your mindset and your whole life will change.
Body positivity incorporates many teaching from positive psychology, the scientific study of of positive subjective experience, individual traits (gratitude, resilience, and compassion), and positive organizations founded by Martin Seligman (5).
Positive psychology encourages us to think about our strengths, happiness, wellbeing, self-esteem, and self-confidence; and teachings us the power of shifting our perspective and mindset.
One shift is the ability to constantly rewrite our own story and shift from negative emotions more positive by practicing gratitude and curiosity.
The stories we tell about our lives are not just a recount of the past, they also generate experiences, such as how we feel, think, and what opportunities and obstacles we envision for ourselves (6).
How will you rewrite your story?
How Can it Help Improve Your Physical Health?
It's rarely talked about, but adding some more self-love and self-care into your daily life can help you achieve great things.
This might be an over looked topic because for a while taking time to "work on yourself" was considered a bad thing, it was considered selfish.
Media prioritizes weight and body image stigmas but drops the ball in terms of what it truly means to love yourself and prioritize your wellness.
We spend a lot of time obsessing over our body image and weight, placing rules around how we live, making love for ourselves conditional, and creating unhealthy habits that end up harming us in the longer run.
Negative thoughts and feelings about our body and our weight can lead to the development of eating disorders, mental imbalances, body dysmorphia, and social anxiety disorders (7).
Practicing body positivity will increase your self-awareness, lead to better habit building, and help you define what wellness means to you.
Rewriting your narrative and embracing body positivity may help your physical health by:
- Encouraging mindful movement.
- Promoting more self care and stress management.
- Addressing how diet plays a role in mental and physical health.
- Creating habits for sustainable wellness goals.
9 Ways to Love Yourself and Lose Body Negativity
Learning to appreciate and embrace yourself starts with practicing acceptance of who you are right now.
So slow down, take a deep breath; choose to believe in yourself and take things one step at a time, don't feel like you have to do everything at once. If one of these tips resonates with you more than the others, focus on that first.
There will be times when you feel frustrated. You’re going to want to quit. You will mess up and fail, many times. But all of this, even the bad days, are how you grow and get better.
The only way to keep going is to keep going. It’s not about doing this thing perfectly, meeting the medias beauty standards or fitting in, it's about doing it for yourself and learning to love yourself in the process.
1. Define Your Health and Wellness
We are taught to think that wellness is simply the absence of illness...and solely dependent on our physical health, but it is so much more.
Wellness is a holistic concept, it's a personal journey for us all, integrating our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being (8).
Body positivity rejects weight stigma and media portrayal of body image; release any negative thoughts about your body needing to meet anyones expectations.
The concept of wellness means living your life to its fullest, and cultivating a life that allows you to become the best version of you, for you.
What does wellness look and feel like for you? What do you want to feel like in 2 years?
Is it conquering your job, building confidence in the gym, overcoming a chronic illness, or as simple as having enough energy to get through your day? It is losing weight sustainably to prevent chronic disease?
Remember, wellness and weight aren't linear, and there are a ton of other factors to consider when asking the question, "am I healthy?".
To help define your wellness take a piece of paper and write out these categories: physical, social, environmental, emotional, spiritual, occupational.
In each of the categories define what wellness looks like to you, then rank yourself based on how you feel right now and how you want to feel in the future.
- In the categories you ranked highest, what actions made you feel this way?
- In the categories you ranked lowest, what steps or rituals could you start to move you closer towards your vision of optimal wellness? What can you do similar to where you ranked highest?
The self-care rituals we choose to cultivate should nurture our wellness, not illness, and ultimately life can feel like a balancing act. These positive rituals may include:
- Eating a nutritious meal
- Joining a gym or incorporating mindful movement
- Taking a shower
- Getting a hair-cut
Look back at your wellness wheel, the areas that you ranked lower may be the ones you need to show yourself some more love in.
2. Connect with Yourself As Your Are Now
As you’re constructing new rituals to support your new self-love and body-positive intentions, you’ve likely turned to following some new, like minded social media accounts.
While this can be a great tool for motivation, sometimes, social media can end up making you feel pretty down on yourself. It’s easy to get sucked into all the #fitspo posts when we’re being bombarded with images of the “ideal body type” or people’s “online persona” on a regular basis
The body positive movement is about promoting acceptance of all body types, without judgement.
Before you start thinking to yourself - “how can I be like that?”- remember that most of the images portrayed in media aren't real life, they are fabricated and staged to fit the persona or ‘social media’ marketing.
Also we often don’t know their personal struggles, their history, and everything else beneath the surface, and anyways, who cares; this is your story to tell, your life to live, not theirs.
I bet that you are pretty damn amazing all on your own. And it's 100% okay if you don’t feel like that all the time, but when we compare ourselves to false concepts we’ve idolized in our minds, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment.
Repeat after me. “I am courageous. “I overcome all obstacles”. “I am capable of much more than I realize”.
This is your story. So stop comparing yourself to others and find some excitement and curiosity in paving your own road.
Try out a basic body scan to connect back to your body and get comfortable where you are at right now.
This may be uncomfortable at first but these feelings can be temporary, focus on how you want to feel and bring more of that into your awareness right now using mindfulness practices like the body scan.
Mindfulness practices cultivate self-awareness, and may help improve our capacity for self-compassion while reducing stress, depression, anxiety, and other negative emotional states associated with self-judgment (9).
3. Incorporate Positive Self-Talk
The saying goes, "you are not your thoughts". And it's true, we are not our thoughts, but we are what we choose to do with them.
Becoming aware of the thoughts and feelings we have is half the battle of shifting to a more beneficial mindset.
Awareness is a powerful tool, simply put it's the act of being conscious of something or an action.
We all have varying ranges of awareness, some of us are hypervigilant and obsessive, this could manifest as restrictive eating, while others are zoned out and on autopilot, engaging in unconscious habits, like mindless snacking in front of the TV.
Be real with yourself, when you find yourself caught in a negative-thought loop, take a step back before making a judgement or reacting to the thoughts. Practice mindful awareness by noticing what’s happening in the moment when these thoughts are arising both internally and externally.
Once you begin practicing awareness, you can slow down the momentum around negative thoughts, and show yourself some love by letting them go and replacing them with more positive ones.
This can be extremely powerful in cultivating positive-self talk, a practice that will help you grow your self-confidence.
So here is a fun little exercise:
- Catch your negative thought: be aware of your inner dialogue. "I am out of shape and disgusting"
- Challenge your inner critic: ask yourself, "compared to what" and "what evidence do I have that this isn't true"
- Get neutral: take baby steps towards a positive thoughts and give yourself permission and compassion with neutral awareness and be willing to let go of perfection. "I have been working a ton and I am exhausted" or "My priorities have been focused elsewhere".
- What would a friend say: most of use would never talk to a friend like we let our inner bully talk to us. What would you say to a family member or friend thinking this? "you shouldn't be so hard on yourself"
- Replace the thought with a positive one: now what would you like your inner voice to stay instead? "you have been doing the best you can lately" or "I haven't been feeling my best, and thats ok, maybe I can rethink my health goals"
Put sticky notes with positive affirmations, write on your bathroom mirror, set reminders for yourself in your phone, whatever you have to do to to let yourself know that you are amazing, worthy, and wake up each day with a choice to love who you are right now.
Have you heard of the saying your are the wolf you feed? Feed the wolf that’s all about self-acceptance, kindness, love, and compassion.
4. Surround Yourself with People Who Help You Thrive
Building new life-changing rituals is so much easier when you don’t have to go through it alone. Surround yourself with a community that is motivating, supportive, and positive and encourages you to practice forgiveness and self-compassion.
Asking for help is sometimes easier said than done, but getting into a circle with people who have a growth-oriented mindset will create a safe space for you to blossom into the best version of yourself.
Feel empowered to seek guidance from mental health professionals as well, a poll by the American Psychological Association reported that 9 out of 10 people say they are likely to consult or recommend a mental health professional if they or a family member are experiencing discomfort or struggling with their mental health (10).
Remember you are here to live this life for you, it’s not selfish to put your mental health, spiritual health, and wellness before your job or anything else in life; it’s self-care.
How you build a support system is ultimately up to you and can be based of your health and wellness goals, but here are a few ways to get started:
- Get a friend or family member to join you on your journey by starting a book club together with a focus on books about positive mindsets and self-love such as Mindset by Carol Dweck
- Partner with a personal trainer, life coach, health coach that resonates with your goals
- Sign-up with a studio or gym who hosts group classes that you enjoy, this could be yoga, pilates, painting, strength exercise, or even dancing
- Join a community on Facebook like our TrifectaME page to celebrate your wins and share your challenges
- Seek out a therapist or counselor for emotional support and safety
For more in-depth mental health resources visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) or National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).
5. Move Your Body Every Day
Build self-confidence and continually surprise yourself by moving your body everyday, but try to do it for you, because you love it, not because you’re trying to reach a certain weight or look a certain way.
You never know until you try right? Being aware of your physical capabilities and finding a movement routine, hobby, or exercise that aligns with your values will change your life.
Getting involved in any movement activity may connect you with a like-minded community as well!
Just get out there and move. A sense of accomplishment can be a great motivator for change, but don't think you have to start big.
If you're goal is to run a mile straight, start first by interchanging walking and light jogging. Jog for a minute, walk a two minutes, then start jogging for 2 minutes.
Start moving right now, get up and shake out some of the tension in your body; wiggle your toes, your legs, your hips, your arms.
This is called a shaking meditation, or Trauma Releasing Exercise (TRE) and it’s an integrative neurophysiological approach to help mitigate the experience of excess stress; essentially a mindfulness tool used to help us practice letting go.
6. Make a Gratitude List
Gratitude can be defined as the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to you, it’s a broad sense of thankfulness for experiences, people, nature, or whatever brings you joy (11).
There is no denying that experiencing gratitude and appreciation tends to foster positive feelings, which in turn contributes to our overall happiness, decreased depression and increased satisfaction with ourselves and life (11).
Going back to thought awareness, some studies have shown that when you focus on more positive emotional words and begin using less negative ones, you’re more likely to feel better (12). It shifts our thinking away from toxic negativity, such as resentment and frustration, to focusing on all the things that makes us happy.
Cultivating self-gratitude may look like:
- Buying yourself some flowers.
- Write a list of things you are grateful for.
- List qualities about yourself (physical and non-physical) you love.
- Pause before eating and show appreciate for your mea.
- Downloading a gratitude app or meditation app.
Try out this exercise for a body-positive gratitude practice: Write a letter to your body, it’s been with you your whole life, tell your body what you’ve been struggling with, verbalize what it’s been like.
Then shift this narrative and focus on how your body has carried you this far in life. What can you thank your body for?
7. Nourish Yourself with Good Food
Instead of focusing on ‘your diet’, emphasize your nourishment; eat food that makes you feel good both inside and out.
This is your body, your journey, you get to define what that means to you.
The unfortunate negative association with the word 'diet' infects our relationship with food from the moment we are told or feel something isn’t quite right and then react and tell everyone around us, including ourselves, I need to diet.
The word ‘diet’ is almost the opposite of the body positivity movement, as ‘diet’ culture has dominated society’s beauty expectations creating stigmas around body image and weight.
But just like there is no wrong way to have a body, there is no universal right way to eat; we all metabolize food differently and have individualized lifestyles.
There are a ton of diets out there, paleo, keto, vegan, whole-foods, flexitarian; whatever you choose remember it's not about what you call your diet. Plan your nourishment around your health and wellness goals.
Partner with a registered dietitian, health-coach and/or nutritionist to increase your knowledge and awareness around food and your relationship with food.
Nourishment can be more than food, movement is a way to nourish our body, and practicing mindfullness can help nourish our soul.
If you're not sure where to start:
- Practice mindful or intuitive eating as ways to explore your current diet and reshape your relationship with food and your body.
- Explore mindful eating workbooks such as Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, MD. or Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful by Susan Albers, Psy. D.
- Keep a 3 Day written food log and look at when you eat, what you're eating, how much, and how you feel before and after your meals.
- Build a bookmark folder of recipes you love online.
- Check out your local farmers market for season inspiration.
- Take a cooking class.
8. Wear Clothes That Make You Feel Like A Boss
We all know what it is like to be uncomfortable in our clothes, to put them on and hate what we see in the mirror.
First off, let’s not think about clothing sizes, they literally don’t matter.
We can be a size X in one brand and then Z in another, sizes are 100% subjective, and the clothing industry is constantly changing just like you.
The numbers on the tag don't prove or signify anything beyond the meaning we choose to give them; take back your power and forget about the numbers; including the one on the scale.
Build your own personal style and spend time finding clothes that fit comfortably and make you feel like a boss.
If you've been telling yourself "I can't wear that because..." or "I have to wait to wear this until I am....", this is the sign to give yourself 100% permission to wear what you want right now; don't put off feeling good in your body now because you've set an conditional expectation for something coming in the future.
Even if you don't feel it right now, you are worthy, whole, and complete just as you are no matter what you wear.
Put this into practice, go into your closet right now and pick one outfit that makes you feel like the best version of you. Build a mood board of styles you like including specific brands, patterns, or other inspiration and start slowing piecing together clothings that make you feel empowered and confident.
Bonus, if you can't find anything this a sign to give yourself some love and rethink your wardrobe.
9. Practice Self-Compassion and Self-love
Learning to love yourself and your body isn't easy. There are days when you'll feel like you want to crawl out of your skin, never get out of bed, or really feel the weight of your body holding you down.
Give yourself a break, and show yourself some compassion. Life can be challenging, and the least we can do is give ourselves a big ole hug and remember to take things one step at a time.
What's that saying, "Rome wasn't built in a day" and "everybody starts somewhere"; this is a process and all that matters right now is your commitment to yourself and how you feel.
Create a self-love mantra to practice every morning when you wake up, something you can say to yourself in the mirror or think while you're getting out of bed. Have this mantra be your go-to when your inner-critic shows up to judge yourself.
Some of our favorites;
- I am enough, and worthy of love just as I am
- I love myself now, just as I am, because there is only one unique me
- I am strong and each day I get stronger
- I choose to be happy
- I have everything it takes to get through this
- I am not my emotions
- I am loved, just the way I am right now
- I will continue to learn and grow
- I choose self-love
Ready to show yourself a little more love?
Start building new healthy rituals that honor your wellness with small but meaningful changes.