For many of us, this past year has been full of stress, uncertainty and rapid changes that may have made it difficult to adapt. These factors can affect the relationships we have with food, our bodies, physical activity and the way we see ourselves. One way to combat negative self-talk and negative body image is to practice body acceptance.
Body acceptance is about more than just accepting how our bodies look at this moment in time. It’s also about accepting that our bodies are meant to change. Our bodies are meant to change shape, change size and age. It’s also important to remember that it’s okay and normal for our eating habits, activity levels and body weight to change over time and in response to stress.
Showing our bodies appreciation for everything they’ve gotten us through can help us cultivate a more positive relationship with ourselves. Here are 5 ways you can honor your body and practice positive body image.
Honor your biological cues
Our bodies communicate with us through sensations. It’s important to listen to these sensations in order to honor our biological cues like hunger, fullness, energy, mood, etc. For instance, if your stomach is gnawing at you, it may be time to sit down for a satisfying meal. Similarly, if your body is feeling tired or groggy, it may be time to rest, even if it means missing out on a workout.
If you’re not sure how to identify your body’s cues, that’s okay. Many of us may be out of practice listening to our bodies, especially if we’ve been experiencing higher levels of stress or anxiety.
Practicing mindfulness can help. The Rec Center offers free online meditations that can help you practice mindfulness around your thoughts, body and more. Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is also offering a free Healthy Living Workshop each week during the summer to discuss a variety of topics related to body image, mindfulness, sleep, nutrition and more.
You can also practice mindfulness on your own through journaling, breathing exercises, free online resources and more.
Evaluate your relationship with movement
Participating in regular movement (i.e. physical activity or exercise) has proven benefits for both our minds and bodies. It can be a great outlet to reduce stress, improve our health and find community. However, exercise can also be used in ways that are harmful. In some cases, we may use exercise as a way to exert control over our bodies, alter our appearance or use it to determine what we are allowed to eat that day. Here are a few ways to evaluate your own relationship with movement and exercise:
Shifting our focus and energy to activities that make us feel good, relieve stress and allow us to create a deeper connection with our body can help in cultivating a positive relationship with physical activity. It’s also important to remember that all forms of movement count toward your physical activity. Going for walks, practicing yoga and other low-intensity activities share many of the same benefits as high level exercise.
Be your own ally
If you find yourself critiquing your body in front of the mirror, positing positive affirmations or showing your body gratitude can help. Grab a notepad or sticky notes and write down positive aspects of yourself. Include things that aren’t related to your appearance or weight. You can also focus on the functionality of your body over its appearance. Then, put them on or around your mirror. As you start to recognize more positive things about yourself, add them to your affirmations. Practice saying them out loud each day when you look at yourself in the mirror.
Here are just a few examples:
Be intentional about who you follow
Who do you follow on social media? Whether you keep up with close friends and family or celebrities and meme accounts, it’s important to know who you’re following and how they may be affecting you. Take a look at your accounts and ask yourself:
Pay attention to how the images, videos, slogans and attitudes you see on social media are impacting how you feel about yourself and your body. If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to hide them from your feed or hit unfollow. Removing this type of content from your view can help you feel a sense of relief and will free up space for accounts that make you feel good. Instead of spending time feeling down, focus your energy on creating a feed that empowers you and makes you feel good about yourself!
Reach out for support
If you or someone you know is struggling with negative body image, here are a few resources that can help.