"I inhabited my body instead of observing it."
I'm all about body positivity practices that require self reflection and deep emotional shifts. Therapy? Sign me up. Journaling? Yes, please. Painstakingly dismantling the lifelong belief systems informed by internalized misogyny? Hand me a glass of red wine and let’s get to it.
This work is important and valuable and effective in profound and multifaceted ways. It’s hard. It’s worth it.
As much as I love digging deep, there’s also something to be said for the body positivity practices that don’t require any soul searching and, in fact, hardly any effort at all. The seemingly small choices we make every day can have a major impact on our relationships with our bodies.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been focusing on the simple, day-to-day habits that cultivate a more positive relationship with my body. Small shifts. Easy changes. Here are a few of them that helped the most:
Ditch your full-length mirror (or keep it in a place where you don't walk by it constantly).
I got rid of my full-length mirror during a recent move and didn’t get around to replacing it right away in my new place. In the weeks I went mirror-less (except for a bathroom mirror positioned so I could only see my chest and face), some pretty amazing things happened. I found myself being less nitpicky about my body in general. The constant inner monologue in my head about the size of my stomach and the cellulite on my thighs quieted. I dressed in ways that felt comfortable and creative.
I inhabited my body instead of observing it.
Were some of my outfits a little off? Probably. Did I leave the house with an unnoticed rip in my tights once or twice? Yes, but the benefits of my accidental mirror-less exercise far outweighed the drawbacks. I know it’s not realistic to recommend we all throw our full-length mirrors in the dumpster forever, but I highly suggest that we find a place for them that’s less intrusive. Don’t have the mirror hung on a wall you walk by many times a day. Keep it in the closet. Use it when you need it.
See how that feels.
Cook at home.
The world is crazy and scary and uncertain and we’re all busy and plugged in and overwhelmed. Want to slow down and calm down? Cook yourself a meal. Put on some good music and a cute apron, and chop the vegetables, braise the meat, grate the cheese. Pay attention to the colors and smells and flavors. Then sit down and enjoy every single bite.
The practice of preparing your own food, of nourishing your body, cultivates self-compassion. It forces you to slow down, get out of your head, and be in the moment. No matter what you cook, when you cook for yourself, you’re sending a message to your body: “I care about you enough to take the time to nourish you.”
This one habit can make a huge difference in your relationship to your physical self. And also? It’s delicious.
Turn your Instagram feed into a celebration of body diversity.
I used to follow a bunch of popular lifestyle bloggers on Instagram. My feed was overflowing with young, thin, white women leading impossibly photogenic lives and dispensing questionable “wellness” advice. I told myself the content was inspiring, but in reality, it was the opposite.
So I changed up my following habits.
I flooded my feed with fabulous women of every size and shape. Women who are bold and stylish and unapologetic and real. My daily interactions with Instagram are so much more positive now. I feel like I’m part of a community that inspires and challenges and respects me. I see women who look like me. And women who look different than me. I see diversity and acceptance and belonging.
Want to change things up for yourself? I’d highly recommend following accounts like @effyourbeautystandards, @bodyposipanda, our very own @beyond_before_and_after and then click “follow” on all the suggested similar accounts that pop up.
Streamline your closet.
Those jeans that are painfully tight? The blouse that won’t button? The cardigan that makes you feel frumpy? Get them out of your damn closet. Stop looking at them every day or trying them on and feeling bad when they don’t fit.
If donating them feels too drastic and permanent, put them in a box and store them out of sight. Getting dressed every day shouldn’t feel like a punishment or a puzzle. Make sure your closet contains items that fit and feel good. Give yourself that gift.
Be your own media gatekeeper.
Toxic messages about women’s bodies are EVERYWHERE. Radio ads for liposuction. Music and movies that treat women like pieces of meat. Billboards for diet pills. Magazines chiding celebrities for having cellulite and stretchmarks.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized two things: 1) how sensitive I am; and 2) how much control I have over what media I expose myself to.
I don’t have to listen to radio commercials. I don’t have to watch misogynist movies or listen to fat-phobic talk show monologues. I don’t have to subscribe to magazines that can barely hide their disdain for my body type.
When I made the decision to stop being passive about my media intake, I saw an almost instant boost in my moods, self-esteem, and body image. When it comes to media consumption, be your own gatekeeper. Be proactive about protecting yourself from the messages telling you you’re not good enough. These days, you can’t afford not to.