Our body is the vehicle through which we experience the world. And yet, so many of us are unsatisfied with our bodies. We are caught up more in its structure, than its function.
The other day, I witnessed my neighbour’s nine year old daughter complain about her legs looking fat. I was shocked inside out. She was, in fact, genuinely distressed about getting too fat. I tried to think back to when I was nine. All I worried about was running round, peering into bird nests, collecting flowers, leaves and building little model houses.
Another time, a mother at my toddler’s preschool complained about her three year old saying “these clothes are too tight on me mommy, am I getting fat?” I’m willing to bet that this came from her child having heard an adult say it before. Kids are like a blank canvas that mirror our insecurities. So I wonder, what unconscious messages are we sending to the future generation?
I’m not judging. I’ve been struggling in the same rabid waters of self-doubt and loathing. When you and yours are looking at photos of airbrushed celebrities and dangerous images of ‘thinspiration’, maintaining a healthy body-image can become an ongoing uphill battle. Our bodies are somewhat of a engineering masterpiece to be celebrated rather than a source of negativity to worry about.
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I am grateful for the flawed, imperfect body I’ve been blessed with. As flawed as it may be, my body allows me to move, run, jump, and walk. It also allows me to feel sensory pleasure, to travel, to grow and to learn new things about the world everyday. My imperfect body allows me to enjoy difficult workouts, soothing massages and even to do things like driving, cooking and playing with my daughter. There are so many things we take for granted with our body. For a long time, I’d look at the stretch marks, the sagging skin, and see nothing but the loss of a strong, youthful body. But I’ve learned to appreciate the body I have – exactly as it is right now.
Rather than an object to be used, abused, loathed and criticized, I choose to view my body as a temple, a shrine. A monument to my life. Each scar, each stretch mark telling a beautiful story about my life. These scars give my life meaning. These imperfections make my body beautiful.
When all is said and done, I am grateful that I look like no one but myself. I am grateful for the ability to nourish my body with healthy foods. I embrace my flaws. I embrace my scars. For it is the flaws, the scars, the imperfections that make my body so exquisitely perfect.
We’ve rounded up some extra resources to support you in today’s gratitude journey of appreciating your body and cultivating a healthier body image.
Affirmations are powerful. Use them frequently, and you will subtly alter your thought patterns to bring you over from negativity about your body into a more positive, imperfect body-loving state of mind. Check out the following affirmations from Happy Life Circle
- Today I love my body fully, deeply and joyfully.
- My body has its own wisdom and I trust that wisdom completely.
- My body is simply a projection of my beliefs about myself.
- I am growing more beautiful and luminous day by day.
- I choose to see the divine perfection in every cell of my body.
- As I love myself, I allow others to love me too.
- Flaws are transformed by love and acceptance.
- Today I choose to honor my beauty, my strength and my uniqueness.
- I love the way I feel when I take good care of myself.
- Today my own well-being is my top priority.
If affirmations are powerful, dialogues are doubly powerful. They have the power to spread, to educate and perhaps even go viral, both online and offline. That’s how societal change happens – and what better way to start a dialogue about body image than with your own child. Read the following excerpt from a powerful letter written by mommy blogger Gemma Hartley to her little girl. I highly recommend that you read the rest of the letter. If you are a parent, it will move you, change you and inspire you. Its that powerful.
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There is beauty in the fact that your body is strong and able—that you can run and jump and swim and dance and cartwheel and kick and whatever else you choose to do. Your body is powerful and amazing. Appreciate all it does for you. Embrace it as it is. Love it. Love yourself.
My body is strong. Amazing. It has brought life into this world. It has housed you and your brother, kept you safe and warm and healthy even before I knew you existed. These scars and marks on my stomach tell a story. A story of love. If that is not beauty, I do not know what is. My body has nourished you and comforted you. This stomach which is not lean and flat, this face which has aged so quickly; all these things sing of my love for you. How could I not celebrate this body? How could I not think it beautiful?
-Gemma Hartley, author of Journey of Love blog
Finally, here’s an authoritative list of ten ‘will powers’ from National Eating Disorders Association by Michael Levine, PhD and Linda Smolak, PhD to help you improve your body image.
- I WILL ask myself: “Am I benefiting from focusing on what I believe are flaws in my body weight or shape?”
- I WILL think of three reasons why it is ridiculous for me to believe that thinner people are happier or “better.” I will repeat these reasons to myself whenever I feel the urge to compare my body shape to someone else’s.
- I WILL spend less and less time in front of mirrors—especially when they are making me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious about my body.
- I WILL exercise for the joy of feeling my body move and grow stronger. I will not exercise simply to lose weight, purge fat from my body, or to “make-up” for calories I have eaten.
- I WILL participate in activities that I enjoy, even if they call attention to my weight and shape.I will constantly remind myself that I deserve to do things I enjoy, like dancing, swimming, etc., no matter what my shape or size is!
- I WILL refuse to wear clothes that are uncomfortable or that I do not like but wear simply because they divert attention from my weight or shape. I will wear clothes that are comfortable and that make me feel at home in my body.
- I WILL list 5 to10 good qualities that I have, such as understanding, intelligence, or creativity. I will repeat these to myself whenever I start to feel bad about my body.
- I WILL practice taking people seriously for what they say, feel, and do. Not for how slender, or “well put together” they appear.
- I WILL surround myself with people and things that make me feel good about myself and my abilities. When I am around people and things that support me and make me feel good, I will be less likely to base my self-esteem on the way my body looks.
- I WILL treat my body with respect and kindness. I will feed it, keep it active, and listen to its needs. I will remember that my body is the vehicle that will carry me to my dreams!
Reflection is a powerful tool for when you are stuck in a self-destructive body-hating thought pattern. Consider your responses to the following questions. Write them down in your gratitude journal.
- What makes you proud of yourself? It could be about your body, it could be about anything else. The point is to see that you are a person that is much more than a sum of his/her body parts.
- Start noticing the good things about other people. Their body, their actions, no matter how flawed, start noticing, rather than judging other people that you encounter, observe or interact with during your day. If the opportunity presents itself, take the initiative to compliment them on it.