Wednesday, June 13, 2012

20 Ways to Love Your Body

Me - age 17, taking the plunge. My body is awesome.
After reading Bodies by Susie Orbach, I have been inspired to start a Body Love Revolution. I've written the prelude to my manifesto:

20 Ways to Love Your Body

  1. Make a list of all the things your body does in a day. Watch yourself as you do them. Thank your body. Do more things. Do kid things like hopping and rolling and somersaults. Feel your body. Amaze yourself. Your body is amazing. Your skin replenishes itself every 30 days. Your brain develops new pathways. Your liver completely regenerates. So do your bones. Every single minute you are a different person than the last. Take a deep breath. New molecules just entered your body. New you. Pretty stinkin cool, right?
  2. Make a list of people you admire and why you admire them. Notice that none of the reasons are because they have a magazine body. Start praising yourself for the qualities you want to see more of and stop berating yourself for not fitting into size zero jeans.
  3. Make a list of things you admire about yourself. Post it somewhere. If it includes things about appearance, make sure they’re things you didn’t “earn” or change or can possibly lose. I like my eyes. They are definitely going to age, but I hope that the shine in them will stay with me until my energy goes back into the system when I die.
  4. Stop dieting.  Dieting doesn’t work. In fact, “Girls who diet are 12 times more likely to binge eat.” - Reflections on Body Image (a UK study on body image well worth a read). The diet industry makes a lot of money by keeping us believing that it works. It doesn’t. And besides, weight has nothing to do with your worth or your beauty.
  5. Turn off the bad radio station.  You know - the radio station that is stuck in your mind that plays a constant track of “you suck” in various ways.  You may have come to think this is part of who you are, just the way it is or necessary.  It is not.  Your body does not deserve to be gossipped about so badly. Notice the thoughts. Take a deep breath, and try something new. I mean it. Stop saying “I need to lose weight” or “I hate my belly" or "Oh, I wish I had legs like yours."
  6. Tell yourself the truth. It might feel weird at first and remind you of Stuart Smalley, but it’s true. We need reminding. Our beliefs are built on actions, so the more you act as though you believe your body is amazing, the more you will actually believe it. And the truth is, your body is truly amazing just as it is. Your unusual toes and your dimpled belly and that weird pocket of flesh that pokes out between your arm and your bra - all good, normal, wonderful parts of your body. Stand in front of the mirror and say, “Thank you” to the universe or a goddess or your own self. The truth is that you are really damn lucky to be here at all. Enjoy your trip on this blue boat with this particular collection of cells and information.
  7. Stop weighing yourself. I know - you think that if you stop weighing you won’t know if you’re fat or not. Guess what? Weight doesn’t matter. New research reveals that weight has little to do with mortality risk. Moderate exercise is what matters. Being fat and fit is better than being skinny and sedentary. Pow! Step off the scale. Sigh with relief. You’re going to want to get on it again tomorrow. Don’t. Repeat Way #6.
  8. Stop looking at magazines. All those retouched images of impossible bodies create cognitive dissonance. The “reality” you see projected does not fit with the reality you see in the mirror. Usually, we choose to believe the magazines. But that is not the truth. If there is something that needs changing - some habit that is hurting you, work on that. But don’t let it be about matching your body to a magazine. Those images are professionally lit and photoshopped and completely altered. They are not reality. It’s seductive to believe it, but it’s just not true. Put it down until you can hear your own truth louder than the images shouting at you.
  9. Eat when you’re hungry. Feed your body. It needs food to live. Don’t starve yourself or think that hunger is a sign of strength. It’s not. You need food. Go now, if you’re hungry. Eat a banana. That feels good doesn’t it? Your body says thank you.
  10. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. Figure out what’s making you want to eat when you’re not hungry. Then notice how you feel after you eat when you’re not hungry - the reason you ate is still there and now you’ve added guilt to the mix. Let go of the judgment but remember the feeling.
  11. Eat the food you’re hungry for, and taste every mouthful. I love Michael Pollan’s three key food rules: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. When we stop and think about what we really want and what really satisfies, we don’t usually conclude that Hamburger Helper or McDonalds is going to hit the spot.  But a fresh summer salad with grilled corn, garden tomatoes, cilantro, brown rice and a lime and honey vinaigrette - that’s delicious and feels good (and doesn’t take long to make). Or maybe some Thai green curry with asparagus and snap peas with shrimp or chicken or crispy tofu.  Now, that’s food. And treat yourself sometimes. This contradicts Way #10, but rules are sometimes meant to be broken. Enjoy a slice of cake or a lovely scoop of homemade ice cream. Damn. That is good. So much better than munching on crap all day.
  12. Cook something delicious just for you. I know, some people don’t love cooking, but try to make something just for yourself - something you really want to eat - something you had in a restaurant that inspired you. Or just slice some fresh avocado and sprinkle it with a little lemon pepper. Enjoy it. You did it. If you need ideas for quick and yummy food, ask me. I love to cook and talk about cooking.
  13. Stop when you’re full. This is a tough one. We all know it, but a little more sounds awfully tempting. But think of how your body will feel when you’ve overfilled it - sluggish and crowded. Give yourself a few minutes and see if you still want a little more.
  14. Sit with the yuck. You’ll notice that when you just sit and suffer those awful feelings of anger or fear or anxiety or sadness or shame, when you sit and just feel them in all their horror, you are still okay. And really they’re all just fear. So, why are you afraid? Meditation is a great way to bear witness to your thoughts. It’s scary at first, and painful, but you can do it. You can bear it.
  15. Move. You don’t have to kill yourself. You don’t have to be Jillian Michaels. Stop putting that pressure on yourself. But move. Go for a long walk. Swim some laps. Be deliberate about raising that heart rate. The key words are moderate, regular and aerobic.
  16. Dance. This is different than exercise. This is emotional and liberating. It relieves tension and relaxes the mind. It can be done alone while doing the dishes or slowly with someone you love or wildly with a group of friends. It requires nothing more than a song in your head. Dance. And dance some more. I promise you’ll feel better. And your body will smile.
  17. Rest. Relaxation is essential to our health. We live in a culture that values doing more and pushing ourselves, but we must stop and relax. Schedule it into your life. Enjoy every single minute. It doesn’t work if you don’t enjoy it.
  18. Sleep. Listen to this four minute talk by Arianna Huffington. How to succeed?  Get more sleep. I’m learning this more and more. It’s so hard to put myself to bed early, but the rewards are immense. I’m more productive, more focused, more satisfied with myself and more happy when I’ve had enough sleep. Everything works better.
  19. Stop repeating the madness. This is something I’ve thought about long before I was ever even pregnant, but now that my kids are reaching an age where they’re repeating things I say and processing the culture around them, I see the influence so profoundly. It matters - all those little things we say. My niece said to me recently, “Stop talking about your knees. I hate my knees now. You and mom passed that along to me. Thanks.”  Damn. How absurd. Knees. And now that my daughter knows I was dieting to lose the old weight, she checks my arms and says things like, “Mom, I think they’re getting smaller.” This scares the crap out of me. Do I want her growing up thinking that she should judge her own body? Should she judge others? Do I want her thinking that her mom is somehow less because her arms are more? We’ve got to change this culture by changing ourselves. Let’s protest by loving our bodies. Let’s shock the world by boldly treating ourselves kindly. Let’s try to create a world where our kids can love theirs. I’m taking an oath to never diet again. I’m promising to do my very best to do these things - to love my body immensely. I’m done with the insanity. This body is the only one I’ve got. I’m going to rock it proudly.
  20. Share the love. It’s not enough that we do this on our own. If we really want to be liberated, we have to share the liberation. Tell your friend about your dieting boycott. Tell your mom about how much you love her soft hugs. Who wants a bony mommy? Tell your sister about how her knees are beautiful too. Host a scale trashing. Buy Bodies, read it, then give it away. Cook food for people. Ask someone to walk with you. Send this post to someone you love. Start a body love revolution!


    Melissa Clark said...

    I'm in!!!! Did #18 by heading to bed @ 8:30 last night after falling asleep on my Spanish lesson. :). Glad to be sharing this crazy journey with such an amazing friend!

    Heather Minter said...

    Me too! We are fortunate indeed! Having trouble with #18 myself. And the no weighing - I'm having trouble letting it go. Need those meditations to change the inner messaging. It feels so scary to let it go - but Marco does just fine in the world and never once says to himself, "Do I look okay in these 15 year old sweatpants?"

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