We all have unique stories about our bodies, but unfortunately many of us are prevented from loving ourselves fully because of our poor body image. We’ve heard it all before–how the media perpetuates unhealthy physical standards and the pressure to be “thin” is everywhere, but the truth is this body-hate comes from a fundamental lack of self-love. It comes from a place of lacking altogether–of feeling broken, wrong, and uncomfortable in your own skin. It comes from feeling out of sync with ideals and concepts that belong only in la-la land.
I get it, I used to suffer and occasionally still do, from poor body image. I agonized for years over the shape and structure of my body. Dieting, binging, excessively exercising, and restricting- it’s all in my past, but I’ve done it. It was a dark and shadowy time in my life when I didn’t know how to love myself enough to treat my mind and body with compassion and respect.
Yoga introduced me to self-care and self-love in a truly powerful way a few years ago, and I’ve never looked back. If you’re in the thick of it right now, though, feeling intense disgust, frustration or hate towards your body, or you occasionally become fixated on body parts you dislike, there are some amazing ways to kick the behaviour to the curb! Below are my top 5 ways to boost body image!
- CHANGE YOUR MENTAL TAPE
What messages do you have on repeat in your head? If you’re constantly putting yourself down it may be time to look at changing your mental tape. Don’t judge yourself for the way you’ve been talking to yourself, but commit to catching these thoughts in your head and flipping the message. For example, if you always hear yourself thinking ‘I hate my thighs,’ flip the message to say ‘I love my strong and powerful legs.’ Inject self-love into your bloodstream right from the brain.
- CELEBRATE YOUR BODY IN CLOTHING
Wear clothing that fits your body as it is right now! Ditch the get-up from university that makes you feel uncomfortable and all squeezed in like toothpaste in a tube. In fact, do yourself a favour and either donate (or burn) the no-longer-fitting items you have and keep your closet full of clothing that you feel good in as you are, and that compliments your body as it is. I know the temptation is strong to make sweats your staple when you’re feeling down about your body, but don’t make your confidence dive lower by hiding it with shame in baggy, messy clothing.
- GET A MASSAGE
I’m sure some of you are cringing at the thought of this right now, but just know that physical touch is very healing. Think of it this way, the massage therapist has seen all different kinds of bodies and they’re looking at yours in a technical, anatomical way to see how they can make you feel better physically. Plus, physical touch releases powerful hormones like oxytocin, which makes you feel happy, safe and comfortable in your own skin.
- TUNE INTO PHYSICAL SENSATION
Notice how your body feels, and not how it looks. Get away from obsessive mirror-checking and naval-gazing and step into sensation and body awareness. I love yoga for this reason, for its ability to take me out of my head and into my body. When I’m on my mat I connect with my physical sensations and push my body to new places I didn’t know I was capable of reaching. You can also apply this body sensation technique to your everyday life. When you’re having a shower, feel the softness and moistness of your skin in the water. Next time you’re at the beach, feel the sunshine warming up your body from the inside out. Tune into physical sensation to tune out of body obsession.
Lastly, move your body and have fun with it! It’s important to workout and keep your body in good standing, but it’s just as important to unleash your inner child and get goofy. Drop the seriousness and your fear of looking bad and hit the playground to do some cartwheels, kick around a soccer ball with your little cousin, or go jump around on a trampoline. The possibilities are endless! Plus, if you drop your serious attitude towards your body during ‘playtime’ you’re more likely to develop a more fun loving, accepting attitude towards it all time. Have fun and move your body!