Learn to love your body, no matter what

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

There’s this weird stage in pregnancy that no one ever talks about, where your body has changed enough to be noticeable, but not quite enough for it to be obvious that you’re carrying a child.  It was in this ambiguous state that I went for a beach vacation to Mexico last week… in a bikini, no less.

I’m not going to lie and say that I love everything about my changing and expanding body, or that I’m thrilled that my boobs have gone from a reasonable B-cup, to an insane and pornographic DD.  Obviously, I am in awe of the fact that there is a baby growing inside me, but connecting to my sense of body love has come with it’s challenges when I look in the mirror and see an unfamiliar form.

I see this with my clients all the time — they gain some weight, feel out of control, or have a bloat-inducing weekend of indulgence and suddenly they’re overcome with body hatred.  Their bodies become the enemy.  The irony is that body hatred is not a place from which to healthfully and successfully make any kind of changes.  Body hatred leads to crash dieting, deprivation, hours on the treadmill.  None of these tactics lead to any kind of lasting change, and they certainly don’t feel very good while you’re at it.

The fact is, our bodies are not static. They change, they swell and shrink, expand and contract. Some days we look and feel light and lithe and slim, other days we’re carrying a little something extra as our bodies voice their displeasure with how we treated them the night before.  Some days we are flexible and energized, other days we feel heavier, slower, and sluggish.  This is a natural ebb and flow.  It might last a night, a week, or even a whole season.  The key is not to jump to the response of body criticism.

When you approach your body with love, understanding, and compassion, you are able to actually recognize the pattens and behaviors that are causing the shift, and do something productive to restore balance.  Here’s how:

1. Get to the root.  It’s a lot harder to blame, criticize, and hate on your body when you understand exactly why it’s acting up. Take time to connect to the root cause of your body’s ebb and flow: Are you looking puffy from the salty chips and guac you ate last night? Are you bloated from all the desserts you indulged in last weekend? Are your pants tight because you got too busy to stick to your regular workout routine last week?  You need to know and understand your body to show it the love it needs. Work on understanding the foods and behaviors that leave you feeling awesome, and those that make you look and feel like crap.

–> Tip:  Keep a food diary for a couple of weeks, tracking not just what and when you eat, but also how you feel after your meals and even the next day.  See what patterns crop up!

2. Make time for what feels good.  A happy, nourished body feels and looks awesome, while a neglected, overstressed and undernourished body looks and feels awful.  Kind of a no-brainer, right?Work on identifying the body-love practices that feel best for you, and make time for them.  Be it a bubble bath with essential oils, an amazing yoga class, beautiful hikes out in nature, a massage, or even just rubbing some yummy smelling lotion into all your parts.

–> Tip: Until self-care is a habitual part of your life, make sure to actually schedule these activities into your calendar, and treat them like you would any other important appointment!

3. Change the script.  We all have a “bitch voice” in our heads — the voice that points out every flaw, tells us we’re fat, ugly, not good enough, or not deserving. When you hear that voice enough, it’s tough not to start believing it. But this voice is not you. The solution isn’t in eliminating this voice, but rather introducing an alternative.  Think of it as a positive, loving, and supportive counterforce — like a mom, best friend, or coach.  Every time the bitch voice speaks up, insert your positive counter-voice, telling you you’re beautiful, perfect, exactly who and where you need to be.  You may not believe it yet, and that’s ok. The key is for you to hear something other than the voice of criticism, to change the script that runs through your head all day long.  Before long, this voice becomes just as real as the voice of doubt and criticism!

–> Tip: To get into the habit, start with introducing a daily mantra. Tell yourself exactly what you know deep down you need to hear. Try “I am not a mistake. I am not a problem to be solved” or “I am strong. I am beautiful. I am enough.”

4. Dress your body with love.  When you feel frumpy and gross, the natural impulse is to hide. But wallowing in your yoga leggings, with your hair in a messy bun only makes you feel less radiant, confident, and yourself.  Instead, on the days when you’re not feeling your most beautiful, take some extra time to pick an outfit you love, do your hair in your favorite style, and accessorize. It will definitely take a bit of a push, but the payoff is so worth it.

–> Tip: My favorite way to glam things up when I’m feeling blah is rocking a bold, bright lipstick. It’s such an easy little thing, but instantly makes me feel more confident, beautiful, and pulled together.

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