Love Your Body More in Three Simple Steps

We live in a culture that tells us that our bodies are not good enough and never will be. A culture that, as my friend CJ Legare says, works hard to steal our self-esteem, cheapen it, and sell it back to us at a profit.  They are selling, but we don’t have to buy.  The following exercise did more to improve my relationship with my body than anything else I’ve done:

1. Make a list of things that you appreciate about your body (your awesome hair, your beautiful eyes, the curve of your whatever, the fact that your body breathes for you, allows you to think, moves all that blood around all the time etc.)  This should be a pretty long list.  If you’re having trouble, e-mail me and I’ll help you out.  I’m serious – make a list, write it down.  I’ll wait….

Ok, now that you have a list (you do have a list right?  You didn’t just skip ahead):

2.  Start to notice the thoughts that you have about your body.

Really pay attention to when you think about your body and what you think about it.  When do you blame it, when do you give it credit?  When do you thank it for what it does, when do you accuse it of not doing enough?  When do you think that it’s beautiful, when do you think that it’s flawed.  Don’t judge your thoughts, just notice them.

3.  Start replacing negative thoughts with positive ones from the list that you created in step 1.

This will take some work in the beginning – you’ll have to pay attention to your thoughts and then make a concerted effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  At this point, it’s ok if you replace negative thoughts about one part of your body with positive thoughts about another.  What is important is that anytime to think something negative about your body, you interrupt that thought and replace it with gratitude.  While you’re at it, start looking for opportunities to proactively appreciate your body. Soon, it will become a habit.

Bonus steps:

4.  Notice the things that you typically don’t like about your body.

5. Think of something (anything!) to like about those things.

For example, you might hate the shape of your ass – but you would have some problems if you didn’t have one at all so hey, thanks body for having an ass where an ass is supposed to be.

You might hate your feet but if you can walk I’ll bet you enjoy that and I’m given to understand, from conversations with friends who are amputees, that walking without feet is pretty difficult so hey, thanks feet for walking – I really appreciate it.

6.  Replace negative thoughts about parts of your body with positive thoughts about the same parts of your body.

Lather, rinse, repeat and start having a little gratitude for your amazing body and everything it does for you.

Still feel like your body is just a limitation to be overcome?  Check out Conversations with my Body

For more on this topic, check out The Un-Roast Post over at Eat the Damn Cake

Published in: on June 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm  Comments (20)  

20 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is great! Thank you so much!

  2. Love this. I actually have something on my blog (Eat the Damn Cake) called the “un-roast.” Everyday I think of something I love about my body and post it at the bottom of an entry.

    So maybe we should talk or something…. :)

    • You’re blog is fantastic – LOVE the story about the naked trolls on your ballet tights. Congratulations on you upcoming wedding, we should definitely talk or something!

  3. You have perfect timing with this one, I know just the group of ladies to share it with!

  4. Thank you so much for this post!!

  5. Having a body that does so many things for us its great. Never let negative thoughts about your body affect your lifestyle, it can lead to depression and low self-esteem. I learned to always be grateful for everything around us.

  6. I just can’t do it. My body is killing me as I have developed type 2 diabetes. No, I won’t take any of the drugs that lower blood glucose, because that is all they do. They do not treat the underlying disease. If I lost weight would it help? Who knows? Maybe that, too, only masks what is going on underneath. Besides, I am steadily gaining.

    • Hi Patricia, I hear you – I know for me it can be really difficult when my body is doing something that makes me feel like it’s betraying me. When that happens to me I always try to remember that my body and I are a team and it’s us against a problem (not me against my body). Have you maybe tried working with a holistic practitioner about how you might support your body while it’s trying to do with this really difficult thing?

  7. Hmm… knocking into something with my stupid clumsy butt doesn’t lead so naturally to thinking about how awesome my circulatory system is nearly as naturally as it leads to how much I hate being uncoordinated and clumsy and big. Sorry, I have lost all pretense of not being whiny. I will go away now, since I can’t take any more of how I am doing it all to myself with my wrong thinking and logic and actually being influenced by external factors.

    • I think you may be missing the point of the blog. It seems like you want to tell me how you can make the techniques I use not work for you (for example, you could choose to focus on feeling like your butt is big and clumsy because it’s not natural for you to think about how awesome your body is). It is a completely valid choice to do the exact opposite of what I do. This exercise was a suggestion for how to improve your body image. If you are happy with where you are, your self-esteem and your body image then I think that’s awesome. If you aren’t happy with those things, then reading my blog will give you insight into the techniques that I have used to get to a place where I am happy with my life, my self-esteem and my body image. They are just my techniques, other people have other techniques. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live, it’s just that I seem to have something that a lot of people want (high self-esteem, body image and a great life) and so I’m telling people how I got it in case it’s helpful for them. Most of my blog is about how I make conscious choices to do the things that I believe will get me where I want to go. Of course I could just as easily choose to focus on negative things and take myself to a place of low self-esteem, poor body image and hating my life. I just don’t choose that. I respect other people’s right to choose that or anything else.

  8. I love this post! Focusing on what my body is capable of doing instead of how it looks is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

    I really do think dancing is a key step to this, and I wish everyone would take a couple of dance classes and see for themselves. At the beginning of the class I’ll still stand in front of the mirror and be like “IS IT OKAY THAT I’M MAKING PEOPLE LOOK AT ME IN THESE SHORTS??” but by the end I flatly don’t give a fuck about the shorts or the people’s poor eyes because I’ve just spent an hour focusing on my body as a tool of expression, and damn if “bikini body” is the most important thing that I as a human being could possibly express.

  9. I love your blog. Hopped here from the Shapewear discussion (especially appreciated your description of their “attempt to steal our self esteem and then sell it back to us at a profit.”) and am bookmarking this post for future necessity! It’s amazing to me, now that I’ve started paying conscious attention to my negative self-talk inner monologues, that (a.) I would never let anyone ELSE talk like that about me, so why am I letting ME do it?! and (b.) according to the inner monologue, I must be a shape-shifter, because my body can go from just lovely to [very bad insults] in 5 seconds. Getting better at backing up along that train of thought and choosing a new direction.

    • I definitely find it ironic that we get so offended if other people talk bad about us, yet we talk just as bad, if not worse, about ourselves. If it is not right for someone else to do it, or we would not do it to other people, why do we do it to ourselves? I love your “shape-shifter” comment. I must be one as well. I am glad that you are getting better at backing up the thought train and choosing a new direction. I am working on that as well.

  10. Thank you so much for this beautiful post! Like many survivors, I have struggled all my life with intense self-loathing and find it a real challenge to treat my body with loving kindness. (All the more reason to try, really. We must move towards that which scares or reviles us most if we ever hope to find balance.)

    When I fell in love with dancing (up to fourteen hours a week), a lot of the extra weight dropped off in spite of my huge appetite. I found a large irregular lump in my breast and went in for a mammogram and ultrasound. That terrifying experience changed my opinion of my body like nothing else ever has: this is my one and only body, I want to keep it healthy, and I feel possessive and protective of it like never before.

    What a profound blessing that I am healthy after all; my breasts just feel much more lumpy without as much fatty tissue as they used to have. Thank heavens for life and breath and health!

  11. This is great but one thing I struggle with is comparing myself to others, especially (strange as it may sound) my boyfriend. He loses weight without effort simply by the nature of his work which is physical, and has skinny legs typical of many men. I often think it’s not fair that being thin is so effortless for him while it’s an apparently unachievable goal for me. It’s really hard to like myself when I see other people I’d rather look like! I’m just sayin’.

    • That’s the first step Laura. Realising that no two of us are the same, and we can’t be comparing ourselves with other people. It’s like comparing two completely different things. Diversity is denied a lot in our culture, because there is a lot of money to be made in making us all think we have to be the same, look the same, do the same, have the same as each other. But the truth is, we’re all completely different, and the only thing we can measure ourselves against is… ourselves.

  12. I have to admit when I first read this, I stared at number one completely stumped. I couldn’t think of a darned thing.

    Then I tried to read ahead, and laughed when you called us out on skipping. Okay fine. Open up Notepad and try to come up with something. Anything.

    My list isn’t huge. Most of the things on it are the sort of things other people have told me are great about my body, things that I can’t hear in my own voice quite yet.

    Some of it’s pretty obscure. “My cute button nose…”

    Then I caught myself trying to jump down my own throat. “Nobody’s going to care about your cute button nose when your giant whale belly is assaulting them like an out of tune marching band….”

    And I had to step back. And think about why I couldn’t compliment myself over something as simple, and in many ways as silly, as my nose, without feeling compelled to turn it into self-loathing about my weight?

    Did I really have that much baggage? What was ten years of therapy FOR, anyway???

    So I tried a few other things. “The awesome and unique color of my eyes…”

    And yet again, the angry voice chimed in with, “they’d be prettier if they were the same color, or if they actually focused on the same point in space…”

    Maybe something else…. “The curve of my hip…”

    Inner angry voice replies… “which you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t gained so much damned….”

    Oh wait… “My awesome upper body strength…”

    Inner voice snarks… “Which means that people take one look at your arms and think you live on Oreos… and none of your shirts fit right…”

    I’ve got it…. “My incredible, shapely calves. Which are ALL MUSCLE, so you can’t complain about them!!”

    Inner voice cocks an eyebrow. “Tried to buy boots lately?”

    **ARRGH!!** *headdesk*

    So I’m still trying. I’m up to eight or nine things now, and I’ve deliberately erased all the clauses and catches and snark and “yes, but…” that I was trying to add and left them as bald compliments.

    I’ve been reading through your blog a month at a time, and I generally don’t comment unless I have something to contribute (i’m not really big on Me Too posts)….

    However, I thought other people out there (hi fellow lurkees!) might be interested to know that if this feels really hard and awkward for you, you’re not alone. :)

    I can be proud of my accomplishments, my career, my personality, my spirituality, my friendships… and I’m finding that taking the same pride in my body, even in tiny things, is proving much harder.

    I think the hardest part is being angry with myself for being angry at myself for being the victim of the programming of my environment. And if THAT one made sense outside my head, let me know. *rueful laugh*

    You are made of awesome, Ragen, even if you (or perhaps **because** you DO) make all my buttons light up like a Christmas tree on a 220V circuit.

    =Betty=

    [reentering lurk mode]

    • Hi Betty,

      Thanks for being brave and taking a step out of lurking mode – I’m sure that your comment will help other people! (and thank you for the nice things that you said about me :) I’m glad that you were able to come up with a list and that you are taking the steps to learn to love your body. I never said that it wasn’t hard work, or awkward, but it has been so worth for me, I hope that it is for you as well.

      Big Fat Hugs!

      ~Ragen

  13. Just came here from the link in your post today – and I confess I got a little teary (though I’m overtired to begin with, which always makes me emotional). I’m just coming into another cycle of finally feeling like I’m making progress at dance – and then catching a glimpse of myself in those cruel floor-to-ceiling walls ‘o mirrors and realizing just what I actually look like, as seen through my own distorted body image filters. And promptly feeling disgusting and ridiculous and starting to feel like I have no business dancing because I’m so fat and therefore so gross and hideous. But of course, it’s fine for anyone else to be fat and dance, it’s just me who is gross and hideous.

    I was discussing body image stuff with a friend the other day and she was reminding me that everyone has body image issues. I remember thinking, yeah, but I bet that most people don’t actually feel that their bodies are full-on disgusting. That level of body image stuff seems like it must be more than “typical”. It’s interesting how clearly I am aware that it’s ridiculous, all in my head, and dangerous to believe – but so incredibly difficult to change.

  14. This is life-changing. Simple but powerful. I’ve been putting it into practice…especially the part about thanking my body for all of the awesome things it does. I love hiking and being outdoors, and now I wrap up my daily walk in the woods by thanking my strong thighs for getting me up and down the hills and my tummy for supporting my back and diaphragm as I stand up straight and breathe deeply.


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