5 Practices to Love Your Body: The Psychology of Body Acceptance
We’re all about finding more body love and really getting into some tactical practices that you can do to move the needle in how you feel in your own skin.
5 Practices to Love Your Body: The Psychology of Body Acceptance
Drawing on the science of cutting edge psychology and ancient teachings of mindfulness, we dive into 5 practices for body love. These are tactical practices that you can do right now to find more body love, more body acceptance, and to just feel better in the skin that you’re in.
Today we are going to dive into 5 practices for body love.
These are tactical things that you can do right now to find more body love, more body acceptance, and to just feel better in the skin that you’re in.
We’re drawing on the science, cutting edge psychology, and ancient teachings.
I’m so glad you’re here for this episode about finding more body love and really getting into some practices, some tactical things that you can do to move the needle in how you feel in your own skin.
This guide is another totally free resource from me to you and it really outlines each practice for you.
I love providing these resources for you because you can listen and really soak it in, but then take the next step and take some action.
Grab the guide here, there’s a beautiful place to take notes, to reflect, and you can pick one practice.
I’ll give you 5 options, but you don’t need to do all of them.
You can pick one and really focus on it, practice it, put it into your life and see how you start to feel different.
As practicing begins to change the way your brain is wired, and you start to feel different, you may want to adopt another one or you might just stick with one.
Let’s put this stuff into action.
On body love and body acceptance:
I did an episode a few months back called, How I Learned to Accept My Body.
It was a discussion into my own personal journey around body acceptance and I received so much feedback from that episode that I wanted to continue the conversation.
This month we’ve talked with Ashley Neese about using breath work for body love, and we have a couple more episodes coming up with the same theme.
I want to continue having this conversation because I hear from you all the time in my Instagram messages, email, and Facebook group that this conversation is important to you and this is something you really struggle with.
That fully loving and accepting the body that you’re in is difficult.
According to the stats, that’s very typical.
I was diving into the research on body acceptance and body image and I found that up to 88% of women are dissatisfied with or so far as hate their bodies.
What in the world?!
I understand that, though, and I think I see that when I look at my peers and friends and just the ways that women talk about themselves and their bodies.
We’ve normalized it so much that we think it’s the only way and there’s an isolation around it, because this is a conversation that’s happening in your own head on a daily basis to the point where you might not even notice that it’s happening.
So, as always with all the work here at the Feel Good Effect and Real Food Whole Life, my point is never to shame you; it’s about bringing some of this stuff out into the light so we can talk about it and move toward solutions.
Depending on your history, if you’ve struggled with and eating disorder or you were picked on for your body growing up or if you just struggle with your body it’s changed over time, it can be challenging.
I know that for myself, body acceptance has been challenging, particularly in my 20’s as I gained weight, lost weight, and then after I had Elle (which I’ve talked about a lot) I gained a lot of weight.
Note: this is not just about weight.
Weight is an important piece to talk about with this, but body acceptance and body image have to do with more than size, it’s the changes in my physical body, the weight, and just how I felt about myself that I really struggled with after having her.
Even today, as someone who is visible in the wellness industry, I can find myself getting caught up in the comparison game, especially in fitness and wellness particularly, where most women are very, very small.
That’s part of what they’re selling, and I am not quite that size so if I start comparing myself to them and thinking that’s what wellness has to look like, but I don’t look like that, it can send me into a spiral.
I try to be honest with you guys that this is not about perfection, that I’m not perfect, that body love is not a perfect thing, that I don’t expect myself never to have a bad day, or never think a negative thought— that’s not the expectation.
But overtime, I have found a lightness and an acceptance, and even a love for this physical body that I’m in.
And really, it’s through these practices that these changes happen, so I want to be able to share that with you.
Practices for body love:
These practices that I’ll share with you are based on cutting-edge psychology, science, and also mindfulness and ancient teachings around acceptance and compassion.
This is the conversation I want to have around bodies and I think that in the general population, media, and social media that there’s the body-positive movement that I’ve talked about before.
I love the body-positive movement, but this is a slight detour from that group, because I’m talking about body love.
To me, body love is simply about finding body acceptance, quieting that inner-body bully, and feeling truly comfortable in your own skin.
It’s not about making excuses, giving up, or taking the easy road, and it’s not even about leaving behind all self-improvement.
We talk a lot about finding that middle ground between self-acceptance and self-improvement.
The amazing thing is when we’re able to squelch that inner bully and find a kinder, gentler way to be, it’s actually linked with more health, happiness, and overall well-being.
We feel better, but also we’re able to reach our health goals when we come at it from this loving place.
There is often this assumption that if we bully and negative self-talk ourselves enough, it will motivate ourselves to change.
I know many of you are afraid that if you give up the negative self-talk and the bullying, that you won’t be motivated anymore, and when you hear “self acceptance”, that’s what you think I’m talking about.
But it’s not.
Acceptance just means, “this is what’s happening right now. It is what it is at this moment”, and you spend a little less energy on fighting and beating yourself up.
And you take that energy from your spiraling and you put it toward these practices and/or toward other things that have nothing to do with your body, like reading, spending time with your family, participating in hobbies.
If we could harness all of the energy that goes into the inner-body bashing toward other things, we would be so much better off.
So again, you don’t have to sit here and feel guilty if you know this is an issue for you, let it go and we’ll talk about the 5 practices.
Before we get there, I have to say as I always do: we have to let go of the striving mindset as we approach these practices, which are perfectionism, all or nothing thinking, and comparison.
And that’s the risk of talking about body love, body acceptance, or even body positive is that we into it with a striving mindset and it kind of backfires.
We think we have to be perfect at it, that we can’t have a negative thought or a bad feeling about the way we look.
Or we think that we have to practice this every day so we go all or nothing, we’re going to do all 5 of these practices and never miss a day.
Or we get stuck in the comparison game where we’re looking at other people and how they’re implementing these kinds of things and we think someone else’s way looks different than ours, so we must be doing it wrong.
Hit pause on this driving mindset, hit pause on perfectionism, all or nothing thinking, and comparison, and just find a different way to be as we navigate these practices.
Remember, you can grab the Simplified Guide to Body Love to go along with this episode.
It has all 5 practices written out and a place for notes so you can just listen and have it there for you.
5 Practices for Body Love:
1 | Gratitude.
We talk about gratitude on the show all the time, but this is gratitude specifically related to your beautiful body.
Practicing gratitude is an amplifier, meaning that it allows you to enjoy all the good and amazing things, in this case, about your body.
Intentionally practicing gratitude also increases mindfulness, which over time will actually allow you to appreciate all the good things about your body without working so hard to do it.
The interesting thing about our brain is that we tend to see threats, danger, and bad over good and positive.
This is a protective aspect of our brain, but then knowing this is true we kind of have to work hard to balance it out.
Think about when you look in the mirror in a dressing room or at a photograph of yourself, does your brain immediately pick out all the flaws, all the ways that you don’t like what you see?
Part of that is just how your brain is wired, but part of it is how you practiced responding to looking at yourself.
The amazing thing about gratitude is that it will help you rewire your brain to see the whole picture.
It doesn’t mean that you’ll never see a flaw, it just means that you’ll be able to acknowledge, see, and feel the good parts that you’re ignoring in those moments.
What it is: practicing the good, in this case, as related to your body.
What it’s not: it doesn’t mean you don’t have painful or negative thoughts or emotions or that you never have a bad day.
It’s helping expand your reality to include the good things that are actually there.
How to do it: get really specific.
I think one of the challenges people have when creating a gratitude practice is that they’re so general.
“I’m grateful for my body” is a great place to start, but if you can get more specific, you’ll find that it has a more powerful and faster effect.
I would also encourage you to find gratitude for things that aren’t so focused on the way your body physically looks.
For example, you might find gratitude for the way that your heart is beating, the way that your breath feels going in and out, the way that your legs carry you from place to place.
It’s fine if this seems a little inauthentic or forced to you at first, because if you’re not used to doing this, it’s going to feel awkward— just embrace the awkwardness, because it’s a practice and over time your brain will change.
Not only will you change your brain start to look for the specific things, you’ll be amazed at the number of ways you’ll find gratitude all the time, and it also won’t feel so awkward or forced, it will feel more natural and authentic to you.
Tip: another science-based part of this practice is to write it down.
Start a body gratitude journal and at the end of the day or in the morning, just write down three things about your body.
If three is too many, start with one.
And if you miss a day, come back the next day.
I encourage you to make this a practice that you do more days than you don’t because when you write it down, you’re forced to notice it, and as you’re forced to notice it your brain expands in its ability to see the big picture.
If you get stuck and you can’t think of anything, that’s great information too because if you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, it’s probably time to really hone in on this practice.
It might help to deemphasize how your body looks and focus more on what it does for you or how it feels, expanding the definition of what body love means can be so powerful.
Just start doing it, don’t overthink it, 1-3 things a day about your body that you’re grateful for.
2 | Forgiveness.
If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode with Ashley Neese, we talked about how to breathe for body love, about forgiveness, and using breath to actively practice self-forgiveness.
This is not one that’s talked about a lot out there in general popular media, although I hope it starts to take hold.
This has been pretty game-changing for me and one that I didn’t realize was even an issue until I started really thinking about it.
For me, this really stems from my own relationship with my body through my struggle with infertility, miscarriage, and illness; it’s taken me a long time to realize that I was angry at my body.
Why is it failing me, why is it broken, why won’t it do what I want it to do?
And this anger and lack of forgiveness was causing me a lot of pain and suffering.
Maybe for you it’s not related to childbearing, maybe it’s aging, or the way that you’ve eaten or exercised or not in the past; we all have stuff around bodies, and some of us are carrying around a lot.
Note: if big stuff comes up here, I would highly recommend working with a trained professional, this isn’t medical mental health advice, it’s just science-based practice.
If this is something that you feel like you’re really struggling with, I would highly recommend that you find a mental health professional to work with you on it, because that can make such a big difference.
For the purposes of our practices, a forgiveness practice is really the act of consciously forgiving yourself for past actions or behaviors.
Allowing the past to be in the past.
“Forgiveness means taking healthy responsibility for what’s happened”.
It’s about creating space for new beginnings in the present moment.
What it is: it’s a practice of forgiving yourself for past behaviors, actions, or experiences related to your body.
What it’s not: it’s not releasing personal responsibility, you can own your past without allowing your past to determine your future.
How to do it: find a quiet space, focus on your breath, breathing in and out, and actively forgive yourself for what behavior or action you’ve been holding onto related to your body.
This has been really powerful for me and something I’ve had to work through.
It doesn’t happen overnight, none of these do, but it’s been pretty amazing and I’m excited to be able to share it with you.
There’s more on this in the free guide and I’d recommend this episode with Ashley Neese and her book, How to Breathe, for more on breathing for forgiveness.
3 | The Feel Factor.
The Feel Factor means reframing the relationship you have with your body, from how it looks to how it feels.
Obviously we’re always going to notice how our body looks, but can we at least add in this other part of how it feels?
What it is: it’s tuning into how your body feels and then engaging in activities to allow your body to feel good.
What it’s not: this is not about obsessing, chasing perfection, or all or nothing, feeling like we have to feel good all the time now and everything we do has to make us feel good.
This is about adjusting our perspective to add this emphasis on feeling into the picture.
How to do it: ask yourself this simple question, “How does my body feel?”
You can just start with that question, but I’ve found that getting specific really helps this hit home.
To get more specific, ask, “How does my body feel before, during, and after?”
For example, how does my body feel before, during, and after a third cup of coffee?
This is one of the ways I’ve adjusted how much caffeine I drink.
It’s not about restrictive rules or doing something because somebody else told me caffeine is good or bad, it’s really about this loop, “how do I feel before, during, and after?” and not having shame but just having feedback.
It’s a constant experiment, dialogue, and loop, there’s no right or wrong, it’s just what actually works for me.
It’s just about creating this loop within yourself where you’re looking and asking: “How can I feel really good in my own skin?”
It can be a little tricky, especially if you’re used to following other plans or those of you who are Seekers (find your Wellness Personality here) and want to jump on the next big thing, this one requires a little more self-study.
“Keep asking, listening, and making adjustments. Allow this process to be iterative, creative, and experimental. The more you ask and listen, the more you’ll learn exactly what you need”.
4 | Embrace your humanness.
“Having compassion for yourself and your body comes from embracing your humanness”.
Knowing and embracing that you’re human is a fundamental part of self-compassion.
(I highly recommend my conversation with Dr. Kristin Neff on cultivating self-compassion)
I think when people hear self-compassion they don’t really know what it means, and part of it is just knowing that you’re human and knowing what that means.
It means knowing that “the human body is perfectly imperfect, ever changing, and never was meant to fit an impossible standard of perfection”.
What it is: it’s practicing self-compassion by embracing the idea that human bodies are perfectly imperfect.
How to do it: in moments of body bullying, embrace your humanness.
Know that human bodies are perfectly imperfect and try to talk to yourself in the way that you would talk to a loved one.
Flip the script and reframe the narrative to the way you would talk to a loved one.
Be kind. Be on your own side.
Tip: for some people, scripting this out actually helps.
It might feel a little bit forced at first and that’s totally fine– it’ll feel forced because you’ve not done it and you don’t have this dialogue yet.
But if you constantly find that you are beating yourself up because of your belly or your hips or you think you’re not toned enough or cellulite or wrinkles (I could go on and on, right?), literally write out a different script.
It might help if you think about a daughter, a son, a best friend, a parent, or a partner and that they’re struggling with this, what would you want them to say to themselves?
Take that guide and write out the script.
How would you want someone you love to talk to themselves and acknowledge their humanness?
5 | Triggers and inputs.
This is really about starting to pay attention to body bullying triggers, and then working to change the inputs.
What it is: it’s awareness of the inputs that set off body bullying.
What it isn’t: it’s not blaming others (the media, influencers, social media) for the way you feel about your own body.
It’s easy to blame everyone else, and to a certain extent I’m right there with you, but we also have a lot of choices.
This is about owning your own power and making different choices.
How to do it: start paying attention to moments of body bullying and ask, “what set this off?”.
It’s a beautiful moment to notice that you’re in a cycle, so what happened that triggered that moment?
Was it putting on a piece of clothing that no longer fit?
Was it scrolling through social media?
Was it watching TV?
Was it going to an event?
And then work on changing the inputs.
Work on changing things you can control.
For example, donate the clothing item that no longer fits, stop torturing yourself with a pair of jeans you wore before you had a kid.
Follow people on social media who inspire you in ways other than their bodies.
I love all the body positivity people on the internet and I follow some of them, but I also follow people who aren’t just talking about their bodies all the time.
Consider curating what you’re looking at and diversify with people who have other things to share.
Watch different shows; you have a lot of choice when it comes to what you consume, so use it.
These practices definitely aren’t about saying mantras about how you love yourself.
This idea is really about taking what we know from the research, science, psychology, and ancient teachings, and giving you some really tactical tools.
I would pick one and put it into practice, start doing it more days than not.
See how it shifts.
The goal is never perfection, it’s not full body acceptance and body love and you never think about it again, it’s just about finding a different way to be and embracing a little more gentleness and a little more kindness.
Grab the guide and let us know how it goes.
Free guide: Simplified Guide to Body Love
How I Learned to Accept My Body
How to Breathe for Body Love, with Ashley Neese
How to Find the Middle Ground Between Self-Acceptance and Self-Improvement
The Secret to Staying Gentle (when life gets messy)
How to Breathe, by Ashley Neese
How to Cultivate Self-Compassion, with Dr. Kristin Neff
3 More Feel Good Effect Episodes You’ll Love
How to Stop the Weight Struggle & Create a Lifestyle of Wellness, with Danika Brysha
How to Nurture Self-Love in the Age of Digital Media, with Erin Treloar
The Secret to Overcoming Comparison and Competition Online, with Natalie Franke