Last fall, Sara and I went to a seminar at UCLA about women’s body image. We were two of only four people who showed up, the other two of whom had to be there to fulfill the obligations of their roles in school organizations.
This brings some attention to our values as a culture. So many people spend hours and hours (not to mention loads of money) trying new diets, exercises and fitness fads. It is much more rare now to find people reflecting on what is going on inside that is making them feel the need to spend so much time and money chasing things that don’t necessarily make them feel great about themselves.
We all spent the afternoon discussing the media’s “thin ideal,” women’s bodies in American society, the prevalence of eating disorders, and airbrushing and photoshopping illusions. The seminar ended by introducing strategies for overcoming these unrealistic “ideals,” discussions with real women on these topics, and an overall summary of better ways to view and appreciate our bodies.
The following list was given to us that day, and today we would like to share these ideas with you in the hopes that you will love your body for everything it is capable of, because only then can you be truly satisfied inside and out.
- We are born with a natural love for our bodies. Watch how infants suck their fingers and toes and how they don’t worry about their body fat. Imagine being so in harmony with your body, again.
- Think of your body as a vehicle to your dreams. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it. Create an inventory of all the things you can do with your body.
- Be aware of what your body does each day. It is the instrument of your life, not an ornament for others’ enjoyment.
- Create a list of people you admire who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Notice the non-physical attributes you appreciate about them.
- Consider your body as a source of pleasure. Think of all the ways it makes you feel good.
- Enjoy what your body can do: stretch, run, go on a swing, laugh, dance, walk, sing, hold someone’s hand, read a book, jump over a puddle, catch a ball…
- Put signs on your mirrors that remind you to pay attention to WHO you are instead of the attributes of your physical appearance.
- Affirm that you can accept your body just the way it is, even if it is not perfect.
- Walk with awareness of yourself as a person, not a size.
- Don’t let your size keep you from doing things you enjoy.
- Remind yourself: your body is not a democracy — you’re the only one who gets a vote.
- Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
- Replace the time you spend criticizing your appearance with more positive, satisfying pursuits.
- Did you know that your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, liver every six weeks, your skeleton every three months? Your body is extraordinary.
- Be the expert on your body: challenge fashion magazines, dieting advertisements, messages about bulking/muscularity, cosmetics industry, or Metropolitan Weight Tables.
- Let your inner brilliance and individuality shine.
- Be your body’s best ally and advocate, not its enemy.
- Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.
- Every evening when you go to bed, thank your body for what it has helped you do throughout the day.
- Find a method of movement that you enjoy and do it regularly, not to lose weight, but to feel good.
- Think back to a time in your life when you liked and enjoyed your body. Get in touch with those feelings now.
- Look at family photos. Find the beauty, love, and values in those bodies and faces. Hold those close to your heart.
- If you had only one year to live, how important would your body image, appearance, and weight be?
- Make a closet inventory. Do you wear clothes to hide your body or to follow fashion trends? Keep the clothes that give you feelings of pleasure, confidence, and comfort.
- Beauty is not just skin-deep. It is a reflection of your whole self. Love and enjoy the person inside.