In my previous story on body acceptance, we learned why it might not come naturally to take care of our bodies. I highlighted how this happens from societal messages to marketing to our own self-imposed stories and experiences.
I also mentioned that we don’t take care of things we don’t like. When we don’t value something, we mistreat it.
So, how do we get to a point where taking care of our body feels automatic and organic? Maybe even joyful? To feel more at home in our bodies, I think we must first see them as a home while we do the meaningful work of developing more self-worth.
Like others who have battled body image matters, finding a way to connect taking care of ourselves with performance is a first step. My yoga practice helped me understand I was not my body, or what it looked like, but that my body could assist me with experiencing the world and being fully present day in and day out.
Only when I made peace with my body, and started appreciating it for everything it does, could I start to believe in the importance of self-care.
Only when I made peace with my body, and started appreciating it for everything it does, could I start to believe in the importance of self-care. From my legs that carry me to my eyes that see to my lungs that breathe — and all the other wildly human and seemingly unexciting parts of my body doing exactly what they need to do so I can enjoy life — it was my turn to return the favor. No wonder I’d want to take care of something that is so life giving to me.
Instead of thinking our body is the issue and trying to micromanage that (which we know really doesn’t work), try cultivating what a sense of belonging means for you. Many of our insecurities, desires and frustrations manifest into concerns about our bodies that we pick apart and attempt to exert control over. Instead of giving them power, learn to voice your needs, feel your feelings, and honor what your body actually needs emotionally, psychologically and physically — so you can ultimately just simply belong.
The inspirational blog Beauty Redefined has a quote that often rings in my head; “Loving your body is not believing your body looks good, it is knowing your body is good.”
So how do we start to foster a true sense of taking care of our bodies? Here’s a handy list of ideas:
1. TURN AWAY FROM IMAGES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL BAD
Social comparison happens almost instantly (advertisements, social media, magazine covers, etc.) yet we can turn away from these and choose not to continue to look at them. We can craft our social media to only follow the accounts that make us feel better, not worse.
2. PRACTICE GRATITUDE FOR YOUR BODY ON A DAILY BASIS
It’s when we lean more into what our bodies can do than what they look like, that we can move past the fixation on the physical. Maybe it’s not about liking or loving your body, or thinking it’s beautiful, but truly accepting it, in all of its human ways, for housing you.
To foster gratitude, keep a daily journal. Writing down these three categories everyday may help:
- Three things I’m grateful for
- Three things I like about myself
- Three ways I will (take care/honor/value/you pick the word) my body today
3. THINK PAST “FITNESS” AND “DIET” AS THE ONLY WAYS TO “TAKE CARE” OF YOUR BODY
Taking care of your body does not mean forcing it into an unachievable mold set by pop culture that leads restrictive eating patterns and excessive exercise.
- Move because it feels good and gets your blood and oxygen flowing.
- Sweat because it’s a privilege to be able to move and have a body that sweats to cool itself.
- Exercise because it increases endorphins, helps with anxiety and depression and reduces the risk of chronic issues like heart disease.
- Eat because you need fuel and nutrients.
- Eat because you love the time you spend with friends and family.
4. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
When I think of a body that is well cared for, I think of a body that sleeps, loves, laughs, plays and is fed a diverse range of foods that are satisfying, filling, enjoyable and nourishing to body and soul. To listen to your body is to pay attention to when you need rest, when you need quiet, when you need more sleep, when you need a walk around the block, when you need affection or physical touch, when you need time with friends or family or when you need to be alone.
5. TAKE A MOMENT TO LOOK AT AND BEGIN WORKING ON UNDERLYING ISSUES OF EMOTIONS AND NEEDS
When we nurture our body’s actual needs (to feel safe, loved, like we belong, etc.) we do more for our nervous systems and internal processing than just relying on the physical or biological aspects.
THE BOTTOM LINE
To make your body a home might not happen overnight or in a week — it’s a process. Make amends with your body and practice self compassion along the way. There’s no better time to start working toward a more fully integrated life for you and your body than today.