October 14th is “Love Your Body Day“.
To be honest, I’m breathing a sigh of relief that summer is in the rear view mirror. While I love the easy-breezy feel and long days, I’d get pangs of anxiety about having to reveal my vampire white, tree trunk-type legs and ‘bat wings’ because of my skimpier wardrobe. Now that fall is here, I can better hide my imperfections under my curvy bootcut jeans and sweaters and not feel so painstakingly self-conscious.
None of my friends would actually know that I worry about this, and truth be told I’d be kind of embarrassed to tell them. Objectively speaking, I probably come across as a relatively confident person who doesn’t seem super-concerned about my appearance (e.g. I’m usually dressed casually without a lot of makeup and my hair thrown up in a bun). And I don’t discuss weight that often, because I don’t like to showcase my insecurities and flaws, but WOW do I secretly get down in the dumps about the way my body looks and feels sometimes.
In the grand scheme of things I know that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a size 2 or 20 as long as you’re healthy, but sometimes I wish that my body type was different. Whenever I see a woman with a long, lean body I get sort of envious about how great she looks in EVERYTHING, and annoyed that I’m naturally kind of short and stocky. There’s only so much you can change with diet and exercise.
Then I snap back to reality, scoff at my vanity and think about the ‘big picture’ of how lucky I am to be healthy. Yet despite this outlook, I still find myself muttering horrible things to myself about my appearance in the mirror.
Me and my daughter Anna
I didn’t quite realize how self-critical I was being until my 5-year-old daughter started repeating my comments aloud (and in front of my husband no less!). I was horrified, not just because of the bad example I’ve been setting for my daughter, but because she’ll realize what a hypocrite I am. Since birth, I’ve been telling her how perfect she is and how she should love herself, while I’m busy tossing clothes around my bedroom screaming, “I’m too fat to wear this!”
Do you know just how damaging consistent negative self-talk is to your health? Simply seeing and saying negative words stimulates the release of destructive stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters, according to Mark Waldman and Andrew Newberg, M.D. authors of Words Can Change Your Brain. These neuro-chemicals immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing and communication.
And the more you focus on these negative words and phrases, the more you can damage key structures that regulate your memory, feelings and emotions. You’ll also disrupt your sleep, your appetite and ability to experience long-term happiness and satisfaction.
Recently, a Tumblr blog went viral that was a reminder to love and embrace your body, no matter what size you are, as long as you’re healthy. Brittany Miles battled and overcame an eating disorder, and her path to self acceptance and perspective on weight is refreshing. In celebration of her positive attitude about body image, I spoke with Maria Bucaro, author of Love Your Body Now! Lose The Weight of Self-Hate Gain the Yummy-ness of Goddess-ness about 8 key steps you can take toward appreciating and respecting your body RIGHT NOW.
1. Stop talking about dieting, getting “stuff” done to your body and all around complaining about how you don’t like what you see in the mirror. Stop thinking about it, stop talking about it with other people and especially stop talking about it with yourself. “Talking about what you don’t want just keeps getting you more of what you don’t want,” explains Bucaro. “Start talking about what you like about your body, what makes you feel good and ask a friend how you can support each other in feeling good.” Focus on what you do want and you’ll get more of that in your life. Bucaro just completed 100 days of celebrating loving her body along with some other women. She also has a Facebook group where you can get inspired and support each other in body image issues.
2. Assume responsibility for everything that is going on in your reality right now. When you do, then you have the power to alter your reality by changing your thoughts. No one’s opinion matters. Only your opinion matters, which means you get to decide what is beautiful. You get to choose how you see yourself. “If you want to see yourself as beautiful, then consciously begin to see yourself as you want to be,” advises Bucaro. “Begin creating the beauty you truly want by holding the intention of beauty, knowing that you are beautiful right now.”
3. Be kind to yourself and your body. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. It is not about punishing yourself with physical exercise for the sake of losing weight. It is not about lifting weights and suffering. There is nothing wrong with lifting weights or going out for a run, if you’re happy to do it. It’s about what feels good and is joyful. Your body is craving movement, not punishment. Your body is craving love, not battle. Treat your body well. Explore what you love to do. For example, Bucaro loves to swim, ride her bike and take nature walks. Think about what turns you on and lights you up…and go do it.
4. Listen to your body. It knows what it wants. “Sometimes in order to hear my body, I need to ask it a question,” says Bucaro. “The question can be, ‘What do I want to eat? Do I want another glass of wine? What kind of movement do I want to do today?’ “This really works and it might take a little time to hear what the body is saying, mostly because that little voice that we all have is trying to override what the body is really saying. Be still and listen.”
5. Physically love your body. Your body is filled with pleasure centers. We often focus on the pain, or what is feeling unpleasant. “Begin to focus on what feels good and your body will respond,” suggests Bucaro. Rub your eyes, stroke your hands, caress your belly (yes, even the rolls!) or whatever feels good for you. At the same time, talk to your body, expressing gratitude for all that it does for you.
6. Before you get out of bed in the morning, choose one thing each day that you love about your body. Is it your eyes? Your shoulders? Your hips? Your lips? What do you love about your body? Love it right now. “Exaggerate how much you love it – go on, no one is watching ( and if they are, who cares!),” says Bucaro. “Throughout the day, think about the part that you love, and when you use that part and appreciate it, do the happy dance!”
7. Jiggle the jiggle or whatever you find disturbing about your body. Have fun with your body and love it. In other words, lighten up! “This is something we do in the Love Your Body Now workshops and it’s amazing how powerful this is,” explains Bucaro. Put some music on, and look at what you don’t like. Now turn it around and make it your friend. Big nose? Wrinkles? Fat? Weird toes? Dance with it, laugh with it and have fun. It’s the only body you’ve got, so enjoy it and be kind! “If you want to take it to the next level, do it with a friend,” suggests Bucaro. “BUT make sure it’s a loving and supportive friend who understands what you’re doing.”
8. Gratitude. Think about all of the things that your body is doing right now, without you even having to think about it. Blood is being pumped and oxygenated, waste is being taken care of, food is being digested, breathing in and out with out stopping, even when you’re asleep (and so much more!). “Arms hug, legs carry you to loved ones, lips kiss and smiles can change a life,” Bucaro reminds us. “Heart opens, hands hold and caress and comfort, eyes look into your loved ones soul. Ears hear the music of your baby’s giggle and the music of a symphony. You’re a part of that symphony of life. Express gratitude for yourself, your life (whatever it may look like), and for those around you.”
You are unique, beautiful and blessed. Love your life and love your body now.
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