It can be hard to appreciate your own body. It does a lot for you, it is the vessel that carries all aspects of you. But also it may not look or feel as you want it to. And let’s be honest, the goalposts are also constantly changing in terms of the 'ideal body', which might leave you feeling a little less than. Enter body appreciation.
What is body appreciation?
It means having a favourable opinion of your body and respecting it, resisting stereotyped beauty standards and appreciating the functional aspects of the body. I like to think the key here is respect. Although body appreciation is on a spectrum and you may be working towards loving your body, it can be hard. And so, the very foundation is respect.
"Body acceptance and love is expressing love for and comfort with the body, even if not completely satisfied with all aspects of the body. Body acceptance and love is not narcissism or vanity." - Tylka and Wood-Barcalow, 2015
Tylka and colleagues proposed four main components of body appreciation:
Possessing a favourable opinion of your body regardless of size and perceived imperfections.
Being aware of and attentive to the body’s needs.
Engaging in healthy behaviours to take care of the body.
Protecting the body by rejecting unrealistic beauty standards.
Now, I know that reading a list and knowing what you should do doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. We’re bombarded by endless social media and messages about what our bodies should look like - or be capable of. Here are some tips to help you cultivate body appreciation.
Cultivate your social media feeds
If someone makes you feel less than, unfollow them. Even if they don’t seem to do it on purpose. It’s your feed. And if they’re a friend you can always hide their posts but remain following. Diversify your following - finding body positive pages can be helpful, too.
Find your style
I used to be that person who only wore black clothes (I was a wannabe emo teen) and it wasn’t until I started accepting my body that I dressed in colourful clothes that brought me joy. Or if you find yourself saving an outfit until you look a certain way, here’s your invitation to wear it now.
Start to compliment yourself and others on non-physical attributes
When you notice yourself commenting on your body, replace it with something about your character, personality… and if you practice this with others it’ll become second nature - and lead the way as to how they should treat you.
Know that body neutrality is a very real thing
Maybe you don’t love your body, maybe you won’t for a while. But moving towards a position of neutrality about your body helps move away from negative thinking and allows you to respect your body where it's at.
Find a form of movement you enjoy
Now I'm biased towards yoga, I know, but it is a very introspective form of movement. You’re too busy on the mat remembering to breathe while moving to notice anyone else. There’s a whole range of movement styles that have nothing to do with what your body looks like, but instead what it is - and could be - capable of.
Find a form of self-care that helps you connect with your body
Maybe it’s the classic face mask or another grooming process, maybe it’s getting rid of clothes that no longer serve you.
If I appreciated my body, how would I treat it? What is the first thing I would do?
A note here that body acceptance isn’t stable - even the researcher’s in this area agree. Some days you’ll feel different about your body. And that’s 100% normal - accepting this fluctuation is part of the process. It may be worth journaling/noting down when any negative talk about the body occurs and anything that may trigger it.
If you would like some support in working through your relationship with your body, send me a message or book a discovery call.
(This article was originally published on Nutritionist Resource)