An important and often challenging part of self-love involves body image. I have so much compassion for how difficult this can be for people. I can vividly remember a time when I was 13 years old and my ballet teacher gave me a tap on the belly and asked if I had eaten a watermelon. That was a very inappropriate and damaging thing to say to a young girl. In ballet it is important to pull your belly in-and-up for good posture and support. Instead of helping me with this advanced technique that would better my dancing and teach me to become strong and injury free, she was basically saying my stomach looked fat. I remember feeling confused and hurt.

If you feel like you have poor body-image, the road to change can take some time. But I can tell you from experience that when you feel good in your skin, attractive and strong, it is awesome! Happiness increases, relationships often get better, healthy lifestyle-choices continue to rise and the space that was occupied with negative self-talk is now free for something else that is rewarding and worthwhile.

Here are four tasks you can undertake right away to begin this journey:

1. I want you to make a list of 10 great things your body does or has done in the past. Things like: carries me from place to place, birthed a baby, works and stays strong all day, plays a sport, lifts heavy things, my hands create, my hands heal people. You get the picture? After this list is complete, tuck it away somewhere where you’ll bump into it or can get it out to re-read or add to.

2. Once a day I want you to stand in front of a mirror – full-length if possible – and choose a part of your body you like and then compliment yourself out loud. The alternative is to do this in the shower. You don’t have to suddenly like your legs, stomach, etc. It’s ok to start small, especially if it’s challenging. “I like the small spot right above my hip bone.” The goal is to eventually move that self-appreciation across the myriad contours of your body. If you hear a rude internal voice call a part of your body fat or unappealing, simply take notice and let the thought drift away. The more you can use different modalities of expression the better. Try saying, “No thank you. I am not giving attention to that thought today, because it doesn’t serve me.” When you’ve said your compliment for the day you may move on, no need to linger if it feels hard. See if you can do this for a month. Notice if it gets easier and if the negativity begins to disappear.

3. If you exercise and have goals around weight-loss or a size of clothing, give yourself permission to let go of this for a month or two. Put away the scale if you use one. When you get to your exercise location of choice, your gym, yoga mat, a run – whatever it is – take a quick moment to be grateful. Take a moment to intentionally express gratitude for this opportunity to exercise, and thank your body for showing up and following through with your exercise plan. “I’m grateful for this hour to focus on getting stronger. Thank you for getting out of bed so early to do this.”

4. When a client feels like they won’t be happy or love their body until a certain weight or look is achieved, I am eager to help them change that pattern. I believe in setting goals and I know the human body is capable of great change, but ultimately our physical changes are fluid, never-ending and achieved over time. Our healthy journey is forever, right? We don’t reach a goal and then stop. We reach and then maintain that goal while adopting a fresh one. Let’s commit to being happy, grateful and satisfied each step of the way, not merely at milestones.

I wish you well with continuing this practice of self-love. Next week we will talk about deconstructing cravings and how to make healthy and loving food choices.

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