Over years of mindful attention to my body I have developed these 5 simple practices to improve body image and self-love. It doesn’t take years to see the benefits of incorporating self-love practices but the longer you practice the deeper you go on your healing journey. I am lending you these experiences in hopes of helping you along on your own path.
I grew up always thinking there was something wrong with my body. We have a culture ( and I grew up in a family) that really likes thin. My family was thin and I was not. I am a feminine person and all the examples I saw of feminine women were thin and long and lanky. I was made fun of at school. I felt there was no place that people were not watching what I ate and wondering why I was eating it. I felt that my not thinness was my fault. My body image was really inaccurate. I didn’t have a clear understanding of what I actually looked like or that my body was capable or beautiful.
In my late teens I met my now husband. The years that followed were really healing for me. I learned to see myself through his eyes and learned to love what I saw. I learned how strong my body was during pregnancy and childbirth. I looked at my baby daughters and saw how beautiful they were, too. By then, I was doing lots of mindfulness, yoga, and whole food practices. I over the years I came to love my body, and create an environment where my children could love theirs. I saw my own healing reflected in my daughters’ confidence. I really thought I was done. I mean, I knew the past still hurt a little but I loved my body and treated it with love and respect. I honored it for all it did for me and all it allowed me to do.
So it was a major shocking surprise when cutting into some homemade bread 15 years into my mindfulness practice I heard a whisper in my head “ This is not for you”. I knew in a flash that I had been saying this to myself about every piece of food I had put into my mouth for as long as I could remember. I had to sit down. I made this bread. I made this bread from grains I drove hours to procure and then ground into flour and let rise and baked all so it would be the healthiest bread I could “feed my family.” Whoa. I had never intended any of those organic veggies or carefully choose fruits for myself. I was going to eat them, but they were not for me. My little quiet inner voice had long ago decided that any food I ate was too much food. No bite of food was ever acceptable. Wow. After about 20 years of thoughtful concern for my body, I had finally found the nugget of truth.
I immediately sat down and came up with a plan to change this voice. For months afterwards I sat quietly before eating anything and reminded myself this food was to nourish me. I can honestly say I now never consider that I don’t deserve some foods or shouldn’t eat something. I share this story because I think its important to realize that when on a mindful journey the puzzle changes with each bit of healing we do. As we heal or awaken in someway, everything shifts to allow us deeper access to ourselves. This major “ah ha” moment came after years of practice and while I was studying food and nutrition for the integrative health practice core of my MA. There was lots of peeling and awakening that led to finally hearing what my heart was saying.
Every practice and mindful moment of listening provides us with the opportunity to S.H.I.N.E. ( soothe, heal, inspire, nourish, elevate). We need to absorb these principals into ourselves, for ourselves, in order to share them best with the outside world. Below is a list of 5 simple practices that can help shift your mind and heart around the issues you face regarding body image and self-love. I have included a link to an additional free resource, an article from the winter SHINE 2019 offering.
#1 Hang a full-length mirror in your bathroom.
We just don’t see our bodies in the nude very often. When we do, we tend to be standing in front of a mirror for inspection. Having a full-length mirror in the bathroom allows you to catch a glimpse of yourself as you move about caring for yourself instead of standing straight and looking for imperfections. Having more exposure to your body will help you become more comfortable with your body’s appearance and help to dispel false images your mind creates. The privacy we feel in the bathroom allows us the space to be less defensive and more gentle with ourselves.
#2 Look for people who look like you
Before going out to shop for jeans and bathing suits, do a quick google search for people your shape and size. Look for people who look happy and confident and who are wearing a style you like. Spend some time looking at these images before you shop or get dressed. It is amazing how much better we feel about ourselves in our skin and our clothes when our ideal is relatable and relevant. This is why we want more diversity in models, right? So go ahead and make your own album of images that represent you and what you are looking for from your clothes. If you have a picture of yourself that you like, put it in there!
This is so simple and so profound. Touch your body gently. Just like looking in the mirror, we don’t often touch ourselves with love. Here is a link to an article ( Winter SHINE 2018) that outlines the process and benefits of self-massage.
#4 Eating Mindfully
Eating mindfully is becoming a popular concept and for very good reason. Of everything we hurry in American culture, food and eating is at the top of the list. One simple way to start this practice is simply by taking a few moments to sit still and breathe before you eat. Take time to be thankful for the food in front of you and think about all the benefits your body will receive from the food. You don’t have to analyze what you are eating or why. Just remember that you are being fed and nourished by the processes of eating. A short prayer or mantra can be used here to help condition you to receive your food. “ This food is for me, this food is nourishing me”.
#5 Do something you enjoy
Your body does miraculous things all day long. It does. We often take our bodies for granted because they are so amazing, we just forget. What is something you do that really reminds you that you have a body and that it is awesome? Maybe it is going for a swim or doing some yoga, dancing to music in your kitchen, or feeling the sun or wind on your skin. Take some time to think about this and then pick something you love doing in your body and make sure you put it on the calendar. Make sure it is something you can expect and look forward to regularly.
The best way to encourage positive body image is to take the time to enjoy our bodies. They are right here with us everyday, our partner in everything we do, we can take the time to honor, love, and respect them.