How I Learned to Accept My Body
This episode is about body-love and acceptance.
We will unpack body image and talk about how to accept yourself the way you are right now.
Robyn tells her story about her body image journey and offers a few mindset hacks and tactical tips to find peace, center, and calm about the way you look.
How I Learned to Accept My Body
Read on for tactical tips on how the way you think affects the way you see your body, how to change the way you talk to yourself, why we should consider what we are really measuring, dressing for the body we have now, how to get honest with the way you’re approaching food and movement, and why we should just get in the picture.
In today’s episode, I share exactly how I learned to accept my body.
We will unpack body image and talk about how to accept yourself the way you are right now.
Today’s episode is brought to you by our Wellness Personality Guide, which goes so well with this episode.
It helps you understand the way that you’re thinking and how the way you’re thinking might be affecting the way you view yourself, your health, and your body.
Take the quiz and grab the guide here!
This is been one of the keys for me to accept my body: understanding how my mind works, managing my mind, and taking advantage of my personality type to live my healthiest, fullest life and ultimately find that acceptance I was looking for.
On inspiration for this episode:
I’ve been thinking about recording this episode for a long time, and I have a lot of resistance about it.
Sometimes talking about body image (or my body in particular) is really uncomfortable.
As much as I’ve been able to find the peace and acceptance, it just doesn’t feel completely natural to talk about it.
I’m definitely (believe it or not) a very private person and an introvert.
The thing about a podcast is that you can maintain your introvert status by sitting alone in an office, talking to people without ever going out into big public spaces.
Coming from a professional background in education, health change, behavior change, and psychology, you would never go into a professional setting and start talking about personal health issues or body image.
It’s been a really interesting transition as I’ve started talking more and being more visible in the wellness space, to push myself and to have these more open, honest conversations about the things that maybe feel a little more personal.
I’m choosing to show up today because this is such an important topic and I love the conversation that is happening right now around body image, but I feel like there’s some missing pieces and that’s why I want to add to the conversation.
And the extra push I needed came from our Real Food Whole Life Simplified Reset Facebook group.
We have an incredible group of women participating right now; they’re focused on food, mindset, and really ditching all or nothing thinking when it comes to wellness.
In this group, we have a Facebook Live once a week when anyone can ask any question and I can just dive deep into unpacking some of the issues.
One of the questions was “How do I accept my body right now?”.
What a beautiful question.
I’ve been asked so many times but it just came to the forefront in that group and I wanted to be able to share it with you all here as well.
I do want to mention, though, that if you’re someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, that you would seek professional treatment.
We are talking about body image, but we aren’t getting into how to recover from an eating disorder and if talking about bodies or body image is triggering for you in any way, this probably isn’t a good episode (just skip it and come back next week!)
On my journey:
When I was growing up, I was just a tall child always above average in height (and I still am!).
I grew so fast that I was a super long, lanky kid and then a super long, lanky teenager.
And I also played sports; I played competitive basketball that had me weight training, running, or practicing in some way oriented in achievement for 2-3 hours most days.
And so that long, lanky streak just continued all the way through college and I never even considered the idea of what my body was.
I never thought about body size, but I was always a little self conscious of showing my body.
And then college hit and I really struggled.
I made a lot of poor lifestyle choices, struggled with mental health issues, and gained a lot of weight.
So when I finished college and got married, I was able to really tune in and figure out what my body needed.
I was in my early 20’s so I was able to get fit again, get back to exercise and healthy eating, and pretty quickly I returned to how I used to be.
Fast forward about 10 years.
I ended up working about 60 hours a week at a great, but high-stress, job.
I did a Master’s program and then enrolled in a Doctoral program, adding school on top of work.
I know some of you can relate to that- not putting myself first, not taking care of my body, not moving, not eating well.
And then I had multiple miscarriages, adding the stress, the emotional trauma, the weight gain from those events.
But then I got pregnant with my daughter and she was giant!
She was 10 pounds and I gained a lot of weight while I was pregnant.
When she was born I was struggling with body image- I could hardly stand to look in the mirror, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, I was stressed, and I knew I needed to make a lot of lifestyle changes.
And that was really the birth of what is now, Real Food Whole Life.
But, the story I want to tell was about 3 months after my daughter was born.
I knew I needed to start moving my body again, but it had been a really long time- at least 10 months to a year since I had really worked out.
I went to a studio with mirrors on three sides of the room and I ended up in the front of the class.
The whole time I was looking at myself in the mirror and I was caught in this disgusted, shame cycle.
It makes me so sad to talk about that, but it’s true.
I was looking in the mirror and all I was thinking was how disappointed I was in myself, how I had really just let myself go, how I had failed, and how far I had to go.
I left the studio and I got in the car with my husband and just started crying.
I was so embarrassed and so ashamed and I was comparing myself to all these beautiful, fit women and thinking “what is wrong with me?”
My husband was just so generous and said “you don’t need to worry about anyone else, you are an amazing human, you are an amazing mother, and if it’s important to you to start taking better care of yourself, let’s start there”.
I wish I could go back to that version of myself and tell her that the shame, and the embarrassment, and the self-hatred are not required for change, and in fact, just make the whole experience so much less pleasant.
“You are worthy, regardless of your body size. You are a human, who has a body. You are not your body”.
And I totally understand and am right there with you if you want to make changes for your health, but just know that you are worthy, regardless of what your body looks like.
When I was preparing for this show, I looked over the stats I keep on body image and it’s just devastating.
Only 15% of teenage girls are happy with their bodies.
Body size and self esteem are highly correlated for girls, but not for boys.
If you listened to last week’s episode with Dr. Kristin Neff, she talked about self-esteem and some of the issues around self-esteem, like attaching your self-worth to outcomes outside yourself.
For example, self-esteem attached to what your body looks like.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and yes we are fighting an uphill battle here, but I want to share with you that now, 5 years later, I do feel a sense of peace and calm about my body.
Of course I have bad days here and there, I think it’s also important that we don’t lay perfectionism over body-acceptance; you don’t have to be perfect.
On mindset hacks and tactical tips to find peace, center, and calm about the way you look:
1 | Know how you think + what your personality type is.
The number one thing for me that has made the biggest difference in accepting my body is understanding the way I think and my individual personality type.
This goes back to our Wellness Personality guide, grab that resource for yourself here.
It’s really about knowing who you are, how you think, and how the way you think may be affecting the way you feel.
There are a couple ways these personalities can show up, and usually it’s perfectionism, comparison, or overwhelming guilt.
Try to be aware of how perfectionism might be showing up for you around body image and that “never good enough” mentality.
There are also stats out there about women who fall in the average range, but think if they could just lose 10 more pounds they would be happier.
But we know it’s not true- when they lose those 10 pounds, the very next thing that happens is thinking, “if I could just lose 10 more pounds…”.
It’s never enough.
Be aware of that thought pattern around perfection, around never enough, around trying to achieve an unrealistic standard, and knowing that that it is a way of thinking that can be changed.
Comparison shows up similarly.
On one level there is comparison to other people.
If you’re someone who is constantly looking at photos of airbrushed models and comparing yourself to them, then it’s a really good indicator that you maybe need to change what you’re looking at.
The other way comparison shows up (that I think is even more damaging) is comparing yourself to a different time, different version, or different season in your own life.
This shows up a lot around transitions- maybe you had a baby and you’re comparing your body now to your body before you had that baby.
And on top of that we have this constant drumbeat of bouncing back after having a baby, as if there’s this world where your body can actually go back to the way it was before it physically carried a human in it.
Newsflash! That world does not exist.
Maybe you can think of a person in your life or someone on social media who has that perfect bounce back, but for the majority of humans, that’s not reality.
Your body physically changes and that’s okay, but to be constantly comparing yourself to where you were before just sets you up for this cycle of disappointment.
Or maybe it’s that you’re aging- aging changes our bodies and that’s totally normal and natural.
It doesn’t mean you can’t continue to take care of yourself with exercise, muscle development, or eating really well, but also knowing that change is a normal part of the human experience.
There’s also this overwhelm part of the personality where you’re just totally overwhelmed by all the things you feel like you need to do to change, you’re not sure where to start, or you’re overwhelmed by the fear of this downward spiral where you never get “control” of the way that you eat or the way that you take care of yourself.
That fear stops you in your tracks and keeps you stuck in this shame spiral about your body.
It is helpful to understand your personality type, understand if it’s perfectionism, comparison, or overwhelm that is really shaping the way you’re thinking, and then understand that the way you think can be changed.
It’s not an easy process but it’s totally possible, and the first step is just knowing the way you think.
2 | Bring awareness to the way you talk to yourself.
Notice the way you talk to yourself in all those places that bring up negative self talk (getting ready to go out, dressing rooms, etc.).
It can kind of feel not so great when you really start to bring awareness to the way you talk to yourself because you notice that you’re kind of a bully.
But here’s the cool thing: when you start to notice how you talk to yourself, you realize that maybe there’s a different way to talk to yourself (and there absolutely is!).
It’s not who you are, this version of yourself that says these mean things about your body.
That’s not who you are, that’s just what you’ve learned over time- it’s the brain’s response to how you look.
And it’s totally possible to change it.
3 | Tactical tip: talk to yourself like someone important is listening.
Think about someone in your life that is really important to you.
When you’re saying these things about your body, whatever mean thing or shame spiral you find yourself in, imagine saying those things to someone else, either about them or about yourself.
You find that you wouldn’t want to say those things in front of them or to them; it’s hurtful.
And then flip the script, rewire, and start saying some nicer things.
It doesn’t mean you have to start saying “I love my belly” or “my hips are really amazing today”, it can just be more about bringing attention and awareness to saying kind things overall.
And that can really be about the things your body does for you everyday: how amazing it is that your legs carry you from place to place, or that your lungs fill with breath every single day and allow you to breathe and move through life, or that your arms can pick up that baby that changed your body.
Start to change that conversation in your head from all the things you don’t like, to kindness and gratitude.
Here’s the interesting part: when you practice something over and over, your brain gets very efficient at it. The neurons fire together and it becomes very efficient.
Over the years, you’ve gotten very efficient at looking at your body and saying unkind things and finding all the flaws- it’s just how your brain has gotten wired.
It’s your first automatic response.
But, if you start practicing talking to yourself like someone important is listening, then you can actually start to rewire your brain.
Over time, those reactions and thoughts will become more natural and you will find the sense of peace that you’re looking for.
4 | Consider what you’re measuring.
If you are scale obsessed, measuring tape obsessed, or before-and-after selfie obsessed, just consider what you’re actually measuring.
You’re really just measuring the shape of your body, and that’s fine if that works for you, but if you find it constantly makes you feel like you aren’t enough, you have a choice to change that.
“The problem with using the scale or tape measure to measure success is that is putting so much emphasis on the shape of your physical body and no emphasis on all the other ways that health can show up”.
I ditched my scale and instead, I like to start my day with three questions as part of my 5 minute morning:
How do I want to feel today?
What do I want to focus on?
What do I want to let go of?
And then maybe checking in in the evening: did I feel how I wanted to feel today? What did I focus on and what was I able to let go of?
To me, that’s a better measure of wellness.
5 | Dress for your body right now.
I know that there are so many women right now with multiple pairs of jeans in their closet that they think maybe they’ll fit into one day, and until they do, they can’t be completely happy.
This comes back to considering what you’re measuring.
You’re measuring and comparing yourself to a version of yourself that’s not here.
Buy a pair of jeans that fit, get some workout clothes that make you feel really good, and ditch the past version of yourself, ditch those old jeans that make you feel bad, and just dress the body you have right now.
6 | Get honest with how you’re approaching food and movement.
I think when we use the word acceptance, we think it means giving up.
But I don’t think it means that at all.
At the end of my yoga classes, I like to talk about the concept of surrender.
Surrender does not mean give up, it doesn’t mean wave the white flag, it doesn’t mean throw in the towel- it simply means to be in this present moment.
Surrender control of the breath, surrender control of the mind, and just be in this moment.
By being in the moment, you’re able to go out into the world and continue on your path of self improvement.
“Acceptance just means to know that you are where you are right now, and that you can approach that from a place of kindness, a place of mindfulness, a place of self trust, and by coming at it from that place with self compassion, that you are able to put yourself on this path that is so much more joyful, and so much more well.
And that maybe can actually help you ask these questions and get really honest with how you’re approaching food and how you’re approaching movement”.
It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition.
I think we can say “I accept my body the way it is” and say “my body deserves real food, my body deserves movement”.
Instead of coming at healthy eating and movement with a diet-mentality or a punishment, I come at it as a way I nourish myself and as something I deserve.
My body shows up for me, so I’m going to show up for my body.
7 | Get in the picture.
Start getting in every picture!
Have you ever looked back at pictures of yourself, and thought, “I look amazing!” or “look how young I was!”, and then remember, “I had no idea at the time”?
Maybe you can shift the way you think and apply that future self to how you see yourself now.
Or maybe you can look at that picture the way someone who loves you looks at it, or the way a child might look at it, and let this be your practice.
Know that you have a choice to come back and practice looking with love and kindness, practice looking from the future with appreciation, practice looking through the eyes of someone who loves you for you.
“You are beautiful, you are worthy and you are so much more than your body”.