My concept of my body has gone from incredibly dark and downright deadly to a place of self-love and acceptance. I was obese as a child. Later, as a teenager, I countered this tendency by developing anorexia nervosa. (I battled the disease for five-years and there were times when the disease nearly won.)
The idea that self-worth and validation could come from within was a foreign concept to me. Ultimately, this led to disappointment and terrible damage as I starved myself not only of nutrients but of kindness, compassion and self-care. During my recovery, I managed to break through the toxic misconceptions about body image that I’d been absorbing for my entire life up to that point. Now, with a wealth of personal experience and hard-earned knowledge under my belt, I want nothing more than to share what I've learned.
Here are seven steps to self-acceptance and self-love that I know for sure:
1. Forget the idea that everyone has to like and accept you.
Because it just won’t happen! None of us can please everyone, and when we become hung up on the opinions of others to define our worth, we’re fighting a losing battle. Concentrate on liking and accepting yourself, and you’ll find that others will follow suit.
2. Make peace with what’s on your plate.
So many of us place emotionally loaded terms onto our meals like “bad foods” and “cheat foods.” Once we start associating a food with negative emotions, it’s hard to be around that food and not be triggered in some way. This keeps us locked in a cycle of fear/guilt/shame around food which, in return, perpetuates a cycle of negative body image.
3. Accept the shape of your body.
Bodies are so beautifully diverse, and unfortunately when we see so many distorted and digitally altered bodies in the media, we lose sight of the fact that different people have different proportions. Self-love comes when we accept our body shape and work with it, rather than trying to fight against it. What's more, don't compare yourself to the girl in the magazine … the girl in the magazine doesn’t even look like the girl in the magazine! Work on embracing the differences in every body that make each body unique and beautiful.
4. Move with a sense of love and fun.
When you view exercise as a punishment, it’s much harder to find the motivation to keep your body moving. Instead, find an exercise that makes you feel alive and gives you a sense of fun. Try something with lots of great music like Zumba, something mindful like yoga or a social activity like cycling in a group. Move your body because it feels good and all bodies love to move!
5. Stop trying to be flawless.
So many women become so fixated on the idea of ridding themselves of their stretch marks, cellulite, wrinkles and flaws. But to be human is to be deeply flawed, and when you can see that all those little quirks about your body don’t detract from you—and are actually an awesome part of the story of you—suddenly, it becomes so much less important to keep shelling out your hard-earned money on procedures to “fix” yourself.
6. Forget the scale.
Don't let that little number bully you. How you feel is a lot more important than how much you weigh. You know instinctively when you're not in a healthy place. When you feel good, energized and comfortable with yourself, that’s healthy.
7. Silence your inner critic.
You know the nasty voice in your head that tells you that you’re not good enough, smart enough or beautiful enough? That voice is a liar. And unfortunately, the more you listen to it, the louder it gets until eventually you can’t even hear the positives about yourself over the negative din. The good news is that your inner critic can be tamed. With practice, using cognitive behavioral therapy or other methods, you can train your brain to counter the negative with an inner cheerleader.
Anastasia Amour is a body image activist based in Australia. She is dedicated to giving women the tools they need to make peace with their bodies.