The other day I was at the gym, finishing up my boxing session. The instructor told us all about a health competition they were having; I have some goals I’m trying to meet, so I thought the competition might be a good motivator. As part of my entry, I had to find out my weight and body fat composition. I already knew my weight, but I didn’t have any idea of my body fat; it came in at 23.5. I thought that seemed pretty good. But as soon as I got into my car, I looked up what body fat composition “should” be. According to The American Council on Exercise, “The average woman should strive for a body fat percentage of 25 to 31 percent — although a fitness-minded woman might only have 21 to 24 percent, and female athletes can have as little as 14 to 20 percent.”
I immediately honed in on the athletic percentage. I have a goal to be in a boxing bout this year. Shouldn’t I be in the athlete zone? I wasn’t even taking into consideration the fact that I’m 49 years old; that two years ago I was 80 lbs heavier than I am now; that I have worked really, really hard to improve my health and fitness over the last two years and made incredible strides. Nope. I didn’t have 20 percent body fat. That was the first thing I fixated on. My excitement turned to disappointment.
Not to discount the experiences of men, but as women, we are particularly hard on ourselves when it comes to loving our bodies and loving ourselves. We’re just never good enough! We’ve probably all heard the adage, “You have to love yourself before you can love others.” There is some truth to that! Dr. Katrina Mayer said, “Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It is sanity.”
For years, American culture was heavily focused on weight; so much so that one’s value as a person was intrinsically tied in with how much they weighed and what size their clothes were. Thankfully, we are beginning to see a shift in this focus—from weight-focused to health-focused. The messages that women are beginning to see and hear are “do things that will help you feel healthy” versus “do things that will make you look a certain way or weigh a certain amount.” Brands like Dove, ModCloth, ASOS, Hanes (body positivity for men too!) have recognized the need to promote body positivity in their advertising by using more diverse models and pledging to not Photoshop their ads.
While companies leading out with changes like these will really push the cultural shift, it still takes time; so each one of us can work to create our own paradigm shifts, as well, by conscientiously teaching ourselves to love our bodies NOW, not when we’ve lost 10 pounds or when we fit into the jeans we wore in high school or when we get to 20% body fat (NOT a realistic goal for me).
So here are 5 ways to help you LOVE YOURSELF now!
- Practice positive self talk in the mirror. It’s been said if you’re looking for the one person who will change your life, take a look in the mirror. It might feel weird or uncomfortable or silly, but do it anyways. Look at yourself in the mirror every day and say, “I love you. You are amazing. You do incredible things for me every day.” Then name off the things that your body does for you! It takes you to work, it plays with your kids, it cooks you food, it figures out the solutions to problems, it chooses the next show you want to binge on Netflix! It does so much for you every single day. Let it know that you appreciate and love it. Brené Brown says, “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”
- Practice mindful movement. Find a way of moving that you really love and do it 3-5 times a week. Whether it’s yoga or dance or taking a walk in nature or, for me, hitting a heavy bag—if you love it, you’ll do it. For years, I struggled to move my body because I didn’t love the ways I was doing it. I had to find something that I really enjoyed doing. Now getting up early in the morning (the best time for me) isn’t as difficult—I still don’t love it; but because I look forward to moving my body and the way it makes my mind and my body feel, I can do it because the rewards outweigh the pain of having to get up earlier than I’d normally like.
- Read a good book. Browse a bookstore (those are still a thing; just remember to take your mask)—or even an online bookstore. Look through the self-help section and see what titles about loving yourself jump out at you. Honestly, I used to make fun of self-help books. Until I started reading some. If you find the right author and the right book, it will speak to you! Look at reviews and find reviewers that seem to share your same personality, then check out what they recommend. Ask trusted friends what books they’ve read that they’ve enjoyed. A good friend referred me to Brené Brown, and I have loved her unique brand of teaching about self-love and empathy.
- Surround yourself with things that you love. Wherever you spend the most time, is it an environment that makes you happy? Does your office space reflect you? Does it have pictures of the people and the things that bring you joy? Would people understand who you are by looking at your space? What about your home? Does it have light? Are there plants or flowers that make it feel alive and healthy? Does it contain sayings that inspire you? Photos of family and friends? Your environments should make you happy and reflect who you are as a person.
- Live in gratitude. When you live in gratitude—constantly feeling grateful for the people and the things you have in your life—it’s hard to spend much time doing anything but also feeling grateful for your life and your body too! Spend a few minutes each day writing down one or two things that you’re grateful for—whether it’s something that happened that day, or it’s just something that you’re thankful for overall in your life. Living in gratitude keeps you in a positive space and constantly on the lookout for ways to make others’ lives better too.
Lucille Ball said, “Love yourself first and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” So let’s start loving ourselves NOW and get stuff done.
Another thing that’ll help you get stuff done is the clean energy of Passion. And through February, Yoli is having a Say Yes to Passion promotion! Get all the details here.