“I finally realised that being grateful to my body was key to giving more love to myself” – Oprah Winfrey
I recently read an article about the high percentage of women that speak badly about their bodies. A survey was done with over 300 women and it came back with 97% of women reportedly said negative things about their body. What was the biggest surprise to me was that these women have a “I hate my body” moment every day. Some of these women would have up to 13 negative thoughts about their body every day. What? Every day? I couldn't believe that they would have so many negative thoughts EVERY day. These are thoughts of attack on their weight, their body image and their self-worth.
I can recall when I was in my teens and early 20's that I always criticised and berated my body. Whenever I looked at myself in the mirror I would start with criticizing my face, my skin, then move down to my breasts and further down to my tummy, my thighs, legs and lastly my feet. I managed to find fault in every area of myself. I recall thinking to myself, that I shouldn't look like this and my body needed a lot of work and I must work hard to get it in looking and feeling like it ‘should' be. I’m not sure exactly when or how it developed, but I had been comparing my body to others for a while. I was never happy with my body and it was never good enough. There was always work to be done, a diet to go on, exercises to do and goal weights to achieve.
Saying hurtful and bad things about my body to myself didn’t motivate me at all, it became unproductive and took me further and further away from what I wanted to achieve.
It lowered my self-esteem, self-worth and body image.
It didn't do anything to change or find a sustainable long term solution.
It simply encouraged me to put restrictions on my appetite and push my body into forced exercise.
Would I accept that kind of verbal abuse from a boss perhaps? Would that motive me to work harder? No, it wouldn’t. I wouldn’t accept it from somebody else, so why accept it from myself? I had a light bulb moment: If I was to continually and habitually feed my mind with weeds how did I expect to blossom?
I got tired of the “I hate my body” game. It wasn’t getting me anywhere and I decided to make a change.
I started with changing my attitude. The biggest game changer came about when I exchanged hating my body to being grateful for it. When you exchange hate with love, it’s a good start, right? Not only did it create a higher appreciation and happiness, it also changed the way I took care of myself. I found myself being more aware of what my body needed and I would ensure that I took care of it. It started a journey of learning more about breathing, stretching, food, exercise, resting and relaxing. I also tried tai-chi, pilates, yoga and other types of activities. I found that the more I respected and appreciated my body, the happier and healthier I became.
“Honour the physical temple that houses you by eating healthfully, exercising, listening to your body's needs and treating it with dignity and love” – Dr Wayne Dyer
I believe that if you love your body, you will take better care of it. So, if you continually and habitually do the self-hate talk to your body, here are some tips to shift your thinking to create a healthier and happier body:
Identify where the negative thoughts come from. Listen out for them and work backwards and work out where the thoughts came from. Was it a comment that someone said to you recently, or years ago that you are holding on to? Let that thought come and say thank you and send it on its way. Acknowledging your thoughts and say thank you will stop you feeling guilty for having them. When you send it on its way, you clear your mind for better thoughts.
Make peace with your body. Forgive yourself for being harsh and for not loving your body. We are consistently being bombarded and distracted by the latest fad diet or the celebrity who got her pre-baby body back in a week. You have a body that works. What is the ideal body anyway? Don't let anyone decide for you what an ideal body ‘should' be.
Appreciate and be grateful. Your body is your vehicle that has you living, loving, laughing, walking, talking, working and contributing. Learn to appreciate your body as a gift – the gift to see, to hear, to touch, to feel and taste. Your body is a miracle machine that unlike other machines, works hard to heal itself. Be thankful for what it has given you so far and what it is capable of giving you.
Mirror work. I have learnt to say thank you when I look in the mirror. Thank you for a body that carries me without any assistance, for providing fuel for me to go about my day every day, for giving me the opportunity to do my work and be my best, for giving me the most precious gift of bearing my children and be able to take care of them. My list of ‘thank yous’ goes on and on. I have found that by being grateful and appreciating my body, it sets off positive thoughts and actions. I am more encouraged to take very good care of it. Every time you stand in front of the mirror, practise giving thanks. Make sure you look yourself in the eyes when you say thank you, so that your soul hears it too.
What if you are not happy with where your body is at right now? Having negative thoughts about your body is not treating it with the love and dignity it deserves. Listen for what your body needs and give it with lots of love. Be generous just as you would if it was your child you were giving to. If you change your thinking and focus on being healthy – getting the right amount of nutrition, exercise, sleep, rest and relaxation – this will encourage positive actions that will lead you to healthy and happy habits.
There is no better time than right now to start honouring yourself and your body. Start with how you talk to yourself. Saying good, nice, loving and encouraging words to yourself every day is the best place to start.