In the wake of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, New Year’s resolutions and the Kardashians' omnipresent domination of social media, it’s admittedly tough to feel body-positive all the time. This, of course, does not mean that loving (or learning to love) your body isn’t worth the effort!
Body positivity is a seemingly simple concept. “Love yourself!” “If you don’t love your body, who will?” “Size doesn’t matter!” All of these are valid notions, but they’re much easier said than done. Body positivity doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s perfectly okay; self-love is a journey that is constantly evolving. There are some ways to jump-start the process, though. Energize your efforts to love yourself and your body with these helpful tips.
We reached out to Emily Cook Harris for some professional input on ways young women can get going right now on their journey towards body positivity and self-love. Cook Harris is a personal trainer and the founder of EMpowered, a lifestyle coaching and fitness organization that seeks to promote health in ways beyond just working out. With these suggestions in your back pocket, body positivity is just a matter of you deciding whether you’re going to take action or not.
1. Ditch the scale
Like your age and GPA, the number on the scale really is meaningless—or, alternatively, it’s only what you make of it! It certainly is not indicative of your health, and is not a productive way to form a beneficial relationship with your body. This idea is equally as important as the notion that you’re not your size. As anyone who has ever worn jeans is well aware, this number hugely fluctuates from brand to brand, anyway, further signifying its triviality!
On the ineffectiveness of the scale, Cook Harris says that “all the scale’s telling you is your body’s relationship to gravity.” She emphasizes that it’s important not to give the scale the power, and that the solution to that dilemma is often to throw the scale out altogether. According to Cook Harris, “a lot of people use the scale to ask ‘Am I going to have a good day today?’ Throw the scale out the window. You tell it!”
This is what’s important about your body positivity journey. It’s about, as Cook Harris says, “shifting the mindset.” Changing your attitude towards health and towards your body is just as important as actually improving your health.
2. Avoid “#fitspo”
Often, a quick venture onto Instagram’s search page displays the trending tags related to fitness, exercise and dieting. #Fitspo and #thinspo, short for “fitspiration” and “thinspiration,” respectively, are just a few of the terms that have made their way into fitness jargon. These realms of the Internet are flush with quotes and misleadingly colorful images promoting fitness and a “healthy” lifestyle.
While these terms were surely coined with good intention, they have come to be affiliated with body shaming, as they often promote “bikini bodies” and aren’t about personal, physical and mental health so much as image. The term “thinspiration” has actually been banned from Instagram for “[promoting or glorifying] self-harm.” If you do keep tabs on any of these pages, unfollow them and erase them from memory—they’re not good for you or your physical or mental health!
On the dangers of this kind of orientation towards body positivity, Cook Harris says that the inclination is often to “compare ourselves to other people. Comparison kills creativity, and your own motivation to do things for you...if you’re looking at thinspo and you’re sinking down and feeling bad, you’ll never feel any desire to take action.” Find positive role models who you can look up to “for their proactivity, their spread of positivity,” Cook Harris says. Knowing the difference between motivators that actually make you feel good and those that make you feel less-than is crucial.
Additionally, don’t feel inclined to start a drastic fad diet; while they often seem miraculous and to have instantaneous effects, they often do your health more harm than good. You have to “focus on actions, not outcomes,” says Harris. Building actions into your routine is much more sustainable than trying “quick and dirty binging and crazy dieting,” because these are just temporary fixes.
“Look at [your health] as more of an add-on than a take-away. Add in the positive, healthy behaviors, something you can practice that’s an action as opposed to ‘this week, I’m not having bread,’” Cook Harris says. As soon as you start looking at health and your body as subtractive concept and only think about changing it, it becomes impossible to carry on any long-term practices. “Make it about the enjoyment. You’ll feel truly better when you do it this way,” says Cook Harris.
3. Follow body positivity Instagrams and blogs
Rather than pay attention to fitspo and thinspo, why not subscribe to some accounts that are all about loving the body you have and helping yourself get healthier, mentally and physically?
Honor Curves is a Canadian self-love and body positivity advocate who says that “with the right combination of love and kindness, each person can shed themselves of their darkest lows and body woes, and enjoy who they are RIGHT NOW.” Curves documents not only her awesome style trials and errors, but also her reflections on defying societal notions of beauty. Her Instagram is full of funny and touching quotes, news and photos surrounding body positivity and self-love.
This Instagram is overflowing with adorable body positivity mottos and quotes, often set to soothing backgrounds and with aesthetically pleasing fonts. Perfect for your daily dose of self-love!
For those days when you’re feeling especially down, sometimes it takes more than flowery quotes and seemingly unrealistic optimism to bring yourself out of a dark place. Fuck Yeah Body Positivity is a Tumblr dedicated to just that: a firm push in the direction of self-love. This blog has various different self-love related components: gifs, text posts, articles and statistics—anything you could possibly want to make yourself better about you in just a few clicks. As stated by the blog’s founder, “you are beautiful and this is a blog for you.”
This is another Tumblr that offers images, writing pieces, songs, and other resources all surrounding body positivity. In an effort to “embrace and celebrate young people for who they are,” the brother-sister duo that runs this blog puts up various posts emphasizing the voyage that self-love is and how important having a good relationship with yourself is.
4. Encourage your friends to be body positive, too
This one is easy! Complimenting your friends for the features (body-image related or otherwise) they might be insecure about creates an atmosphere of self-love that can only help improve the relationship you have with your body. If you’re surrounded by body positivity, it’s hard to deny that you’re beautiful. Why not send a text or comment on a profile picture right now? Everyone loves a little day-brightening compliment, and hopefully the favor will get returned!
5. Start every day by telling yourself what you do love
This might be the most important and effective way of coming to love your body. While you’re getting ready in the morning, it’s easy to drift to thoughts of self-criticism while putting on outfits or looking in the mirror. Try forcing yourself to be positive and do something good for you and your body! Fake it ‘til you make it! Body image is all about how you define beauty and how you conceptualize your own self-love. Before you get your day started, tell yourself five (or more!) things you do love and cherish about yourself and your body. This is an effective way to start your day off right and subconsciously be positive in all that the day brings.
It’s vital to remember that body positivity is a process. There are no easy ways out, no shortcuts, and no quick fixes. Self-love isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding. “Focus on the actions and you’ll get there,” Cook Harris says. “Stop worrying about when you’ll get there. You may start the journey and it may feel like something small at the beginning, but you can build up,” and when you look back on your progress, you’ll be that much happier with the work you’ve done and the place you end up in.
Body positivity is closely tied to other issues of insecurity and self-love. This means these things are impossible to get over or improve unless you realize that your body is very much lovable. Remember that so-called body standards are completely made up, and you have the power to change them. It’s only a matter of taking the first step. As Cook Harris says, “pride comes from hard work and knowing you did your best. Pride is putting in the work and feeling good about it. Focus on the damn thing, and you’ll get it done and you’ll be proud.”
As Cook Harris says, body positivity and health in general have to come with an attitude of “‘it’s for me, not for anybody else, and I’m going to do it because it’s good for me and I want to embrace being healthy.’” You come first, and if you are able to love your body, complete self-love is one step closer.