“and i said to my body. softly. ‘i want to be your friend.’ it took a long breath. and replied ‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.”
― Nayyirah Waheed
The way that we perceive our bodies is largely influenced by our perception of how we stack up against our peers and media ideals. We can never be thin enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, or so it seems. In fact some of us base our entire happiness on how we look. It may come as no surprise that the majority of Americans (and a higher percentage of women compared to men) suffer with a negative body image. Studies have shown there is more discontent with our bodies than ever before. Poor body image not only decreases general life satisfaction and happiness, but it can also be potentially deadly if it fosters eating disorders, depression, anxiety. It's time to change this!
How do we support our daughters (and sons), colleagues, and friends, who feel too ''fat'' or too “thin” and ''ugly'' compared with their friends? How do we boost our body image when media images of airbrushed beauties pollute our judgment of what’s real and what actually matters? Because what actually matters is that we love the body we’re in. Simply losing weight or surgically augmenting our bodies to look more like the images in mainstream media are highly unlikely to make us happier. The pursuit of athleticism, healthy nutrition, positive thinking, time in nature, and focusing on gratitude every step of the way are places to start.
Mirna Valerio is the whole package when it comes to body positivity. Mirna is an ultrarunner, author, teacher, coach, and overall awesome human. In Mirna’s body-positive memoir, “A Beautiful Work in Progress,” she discusses the concept of “marginalized bodies.” A marginalized body is one that doesn’t necessarily conform to or acquiesce to socially accepted body criteria. Marginalized bodies are not being represented in mainstream media in a positive way. As an ultrarunner, Mirna has been body-shamed and fat-shamed too many times. And when I hear that, it makes me cringe and want to pull my hair out. I mean, how many of you reading this right now have run a 50-miler or 100-miler? Mirna has run several. She is an inspiration for generations. Her book is available on Amazon.
Positive changes in lifestyle and mind-body habits over the short term and the long term can lend a boost not just to body image, but to overall life satisfaction and happiness. Taking thoughtful steps to end the negative mind chatter, is the way to love how you look, at any size. Here are a few tips to help love the body you’re in every day:
Fitness: Moderate daily exercise helps to boost confidence and self-esteem, regardless of body size. Mind body fitness practices such as yoga, dance, and Tai Chi are highly encouraged.
Nutrition: Think plant-based, healthy, not deprivation. Along with healthy foods, staying hydrated with water (not soda) plays a vital role in feeling and looking better. Of course we're biased, but we love Healthy Skoop plant-based Breakfast Protein and Daily Detox Greens!
Strengths: Accentuate and appreciate your personal strengths, physical and mental/emotional. Share your gifts and talents and see beyond any perceived physical limitations.
Gratitude practice: Every night before you go to bed, write down at least three things that you appreciate about your body. Give thanks for the many tasks that your body does for you every day.
Dress for success: Wear clothes that fit your shape. Avoid wearing overly baggy clothing that not only make you look bigger, but you end up feeling (and looking) frumpy and like you don’t really care about your appearance.
Surround yourself with positivity: Positive friends, images, and working on your own optimistic thoughts, you'll be that much further along the road to body bliss. Stop participating in negative self-talk and stop enabling friends, your spouse, or children when you notice them doing the same thing. Counter the negativity with kindness and positive words.