Are you one of the millions of people who are dissatisfied with their bodies? When looking in the mirror, do you see the beautiful person others describe you to be?
When I was in third grade I told my mom she was beautiful. I told her she looks like Princess Diana (and she did, hair, fashion and all).
My mom replied, “Let me show you a picture of the most beautiful woman in the world.” She went to her dresser and pulled out a newspaper clipping of Mother Teresa.
In 1993, Mother Teresa was 83 years old. I looked at the photo of her wrinkled face as my mom explained all the wonderful things she did for people. She sacrificed everything to feed the hungry and provide help to the poor. ‘Oh, I understand now. To be beautiful means to help others.’ It made perfect sense; inner beauty is what really matters.
Somehow my focus shifted back to appearance in high school, when I began to diet and exercise excessively. I developed an eating disorder and suddenly my priorities had changed. In recovery, I now remember that powerful message from third grade. I now remember what I had lost for about ten years while struggling with body-image.
Beauty comes from your actions, not your appearance. To be beautiful means to help others.
It may feel impossible for you to accept and love your body the way it is right now. You may only focus on your insecurities or your ‘flaws.’ People have become conditioned to believe that they aren’t attractive enough, thin enough or muscular enough. They believe they aren’t good enough.
In fact, a study by Glamour Magazine revealed that a shocking 97% of their female readers think disapproving thoughts about their bodies throughout the day. This problem of negative body-talk starts early.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 42% of first to third grade girls in the United States want to lose weight. Women aren’t the only ones affected by negative body-image either.
Reported by the New York Times, more than 90% of boys age 12-18 lift weights to change their body type. In addition, 38% use protein supplements to change their body shape, and 6% actually report using steroids!
If the average person feels that their body is unacceptable, or is uncomfortable in their own skin, then certainly the models and celebrities who are ‘flawless’ must feel good about their bodies, right?
In fact, 40% of fashion models report struggling with either anorexia or bulimia. Many others will not report their eating disorder out of shame, embarrassment or fear of losing their jobs. Instead, they suffer in silence.
In a world where body acceptance is scarce, and celebrity role models often have eating disorders, how can a person come to love their own body just the way it is?
Even the concept of accepting your body seems taboo, as if you should always be striving to lose weight or get in better shape. We live in a world where ‘good enough’ is simply no longer good enough.
It’s time to change all that.
It’s time to start living and stop hating!
Now is the time to rebuild your love for your amazing body and what it can do.
You deserve to be happy and comfortable in your own skin!
No longer should you look in the mirror disapprovingly.
You should be able to smile at your own reflection.
You are beautiful just the way you are.
It’s time to start believing that you are good enough.
As someone who has gone from hating their body to loving and accepting it, here are my 22 ways to love and accept your body:
In your search for self-acceptance, find role models you can actually imitate. Don’t turn to airbrushed images of models. Find someone real and inspiring. Follow their actions, admire their work ethic, and imitate their open-mindedness, determination or generosity. Choose role models for reasons other than appearance and you will be even more inspired by them.
As mentioned above, avoid looking at images of airbrushed models. Those photos are often unrealistic versions of what models and celebrities really look like. If a company is trying to sell you their product, they aren’t afraid to use an image that has been altered.
Unfortunately, what they’re really selling is an unattainable standard of beauty. Next time you see a fitness or fashion magazine, try to question the reality of the ads and articles. Plus, you’ll be saving yourself the time wasted reading bogus articles such as, ‘Magic Fat Cures!’ or ‘How to Lose 110 lbs in 2 days!’ We all know fad diets don’t work, so it’s best to steer clear of all that in the first place.
Television is no better than magazines, as far as promoting unrealistic beauty standards. It seems that every show features extremely thin people, especially women. The characters in television shows are just that: characters, even on reality TV.
Remember that they are paid to look a certain way and have lots of people helping them maintain their appearances. Each celebrity most likely employs a personal trainer, dietician, stylist and personal shopper. Plus the lighting and camera angles are intentionally set in the most flattering ways. If you compare yourself to professional athletes, you have to remember that their job is to stay fit. It isn’t practical for people in other professions to have the body of a professional athlete. In addition, TV commercials are full of empty promises about ‘getting the body of your dreams’ and ‘living the life you deserve’.
Here’s the reality: In order to have the body of your dreams and live the life you deserve, you can’t buy into the hype. You must learn to love and accept your body without their ‘quick fixes’ and ridiculous diet programs.
By talking about it, this doesn’t mean to complain about your body or appearance. It means to confide in someone that you are feeling down about your body image.
Maybe they have some advice or will offer a different outlook. They also might confess that they sometimes feel the same way about their own body. By speaking about your insecurity, you resist internalizing it. Acknowledging how you feel out loud can help you overcome negative self-talk.
Try and make a conscious effort to begin the day on a positive note. Monitor the tone of which you speak to yourself. Try and avoid negative self-talk and instead focus on the things that make you feel good about yourself.
There has to be something you like about your body. Start by focusing on that and allow the positive view to change the way you look at the rest of your body. Be grateful for the body you have and try to think of how lucky you are to have it!
You would never call your friends ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’, so why speak to yourself that way? The most important relationship you will have throughout your life is with yourself. Nurture that relationship with kindness and compassion. Treat yourself like a good friend. Don’t be overly critical, because you certainly wouldn’t treat your friends that way.
It’s too easy for your thoughts to be consumed by body-image and appearance. After all, the external influences are everywhere: magazines, television and even other people can spark feelings of self-depreciation. But in life, we all know that appearance is not the most important thing. Try listing the things that matter most to you and bring enjoyment. Here are just a few on my list: family, friends, having fun, laughing, being outdoors, meeting new people and playing with my dog. What things are really important to you?
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. ‘Be yourself, don’t compare yourself to others.’ True, you shouldn’t compare yourself to other people because it can make you feel inferior. But you also shouldn’t compare yourself to others and allow yourself to feel superior either. This doesn’t help your self-esteem.
Either way, when making comparisons you are bound to put someone down, whether it’s yourself or the other person. No matter who loses, the important thing to realize is that life is not a competition. It is possible for everyone to be equally beautiful in their own right.
By properly fueling your body, you are practicing self-respect and self-care. By restricting, dieting and binge eating, you are not showing respect and love for your body. Balanced meals offer the energy needed to enjoy your body and feel your best. Try having a source of carbohydrate, protein and fat at each meal. When one or more of these energy sources are missing from your diet, energy levels and mood can be unstable.
Exercise is a great way to build a healthy relationship with your body. Feel it move; enjoy the stress relief and psychological as well as physical benefits of being active. Be careful not to over-exercise though, because that can cause serious negative effects. Listen to your body and get the right amount of exercise for you.
People are not meant to sit inside all day. Some people even suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder if they don’t get enough sunlight! Whether you are sitting on a park bench and taking it easy or going for a hike in the woods, try being outdoors more often. It may cause you to appreciate your body’s responses to warm sunlight, a cool breeze or the sound of birds chirping.
In addition to eating balanced meals, make sure you are eating enough. Dieting and restriction cause many negative effects such as low energy, depression and even damage to internal organs. In addition, restriction leads to binge eating, which does not add to a healthy body-image!
The definition of weight is, “The force that gravitation exerts upon the body.” Why do we place so much importance on the gravitational pull of the earth upon our bodies? Some people weigh their bodies multiple times a day! The number on a scale should never be a representation of your success or failure. It doesn’t measure your self-worth. It only measures the force of gravity on your body. If you want to measure yourself, look at how many friends you have, or what kind of friend you are to them. Measure your generosity and thoughtfulness. Measure your real success such as education or having kids. Throw away the scale, because it can’t measure the complex and beautiful person you are.
When you are truly passionate about something, there’s no room for negative self-talk. If you are an artist, then paint! If you love children, be around them more. If you love feeding the hungry, go volunteer at a shelter. If you are religious, get more involved at church. If your energy is devoted to your passion, there’s less energy for criticizing your body.
Stop for a minute and think of the amazing things you can do. If you’ve had children, think of how incredible that is! Focus on your talents and how your body allows them to happen. Whether you are an artist or an athlete, your body is allowing for those incredible tasks. Also think of the 5 senses. Enjoy them and be thankful.
By wearing clothing that makes you feel comfortable and attractive, your confidence will likely increase. Squeezing into your one-size-too-small jeans will not help you feel at ease. Neither will hiding behind clothing that is too big and baggy. Try to find balance in your wardrobe and wear what makes you feel good.
This may be difficult to do at first. You may only be able to come up with one thing the first try, and that’s ok. Practice finding your positive attributes and it will get easier with time. Look over this list when you need a boost of confidence.
Not only will it make you feel bad, it isn’t good for anyone. Have you ever heard someone make fun of others out of insecurity? It isn’t good for the person doing it, the others around them or the person being criticized. No matter how innocent it seems, always try to avoid criticizing your body and anyone else’s too.
When you receive a compliment, do you shy away or try to negate it? The best way to receive a compliment is with a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ and possibly even a return compliment. Don’t just dismiss it as someone being nice. Take it to heart and believe what they said.
Are you working out and dieting until you look perfect? Do you want the perfect legs, abs, arms, or other body part? There is no perfect body, but your body is already perfect for you. You can strive to be healthy and strong, but don’t strive for perfection. It is an unattainable goal that will only lead to feelings of disappointment and failure.
The next time you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about your body, try to stop and be thankful. Your body has carried you through to this point, so why be so harsh? Thank your body for allowing you to do what you do. Be grateful that you have this body, because it’s the only one you’ve got and you will live in it the rest of your life. It has probably allowed you to do some amazing things!
When trying to accept yourself the way you are, it can seem like other people are already there. They look happy and comfortable, so why can’t you feel that way too?
The truth is most other people don’t accept the way they look either. Almost everyone has something they would change, and we all have insecurities.
You are not alone in the journey of self-acceptance.
I hope you found some inspiration in these 22 ways to love and accept your body. Remember, you are an exceptional, interesting and beautiful individual worthy of love. Each person is different, so what you perceive as ‘flaws’ are really just reasons why you are unique.
Don’t fall for false claims that a diet or workout routine can bring you satisfaction and self-acceptance. Never aspire to unattainable standards of beauty.
Keep in mind that the most important relationship you will have in life is the relationship with yourself.
Be your own best friend.
Treat yourself with kindness and love.
My name is Jen Knaebel. I'm a recovery coach here at Bulimia Help. I've made a full recovery from bulimia and now spend my time coaching others through the process.
A daily checklist to help you stop bingeing, stop purging and make peace with food.
The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.
Copyright © BulimiaHelp.org. 2013. All rights reserved.