Learning to view our bodies with any kind of positivity is a challenge in a culture that is obsessed with being young, thin, healthy, and beautiful. The only way most of us can call a truce with our bodies is through hard work unpacking body shame and its many layers (some of which might have nothing to do with our actual bodies, but that’s a different post…).
As a quick disclaimer, let me say that body positivity doesn’t necessarily mean loving your body. If you get there, great, I hope you do. But many people won’t, and that’s okay. Body positivity is rooted in a respect for your body, which not necessarily the same as loving or even liking it.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some tips to help you in your journey to learning body positivity.
1. Immerse yourself in body positivity.
It is so, so hard to make changes all on our own. Especially when pretty much everything in our culture reinforces body shame. So seek out the work of body positive and fat acceptance influencers. Read books, listen to podcasts, subscribe to blogs. If you’re a Christian, read Scriptures in the Bible about the goodness of our bodies (hint: we are created in the image of God and our bodies are His temple).
By immersing yourself in all this, you’ll not only start counteracting all the weight-biased, diet culture messages we’re bombarded with, you will also start to see how totally possibly it is to make peace with your body. Which, I completely understand, might feel unattainable at this point.
Guess what? All of the influencers I’ve read and listened to felt the EXACT SAME WAY at some point. But with time and hard work, they were able to accept themselves. That’s the kind of inspiration we all need when it feels impossible.
2. Stop picking apart your body.
You probably have some nasty body-checking habits that you might or might not be aware of. Do you weigh? Pull or pinch at your fat? Spend forever checking every angle in the mirror when you get dressed? Whatever your habits are, you need to stop—pronto. Listen, I know it’s hard. When we feel anxious and insecure, those habits are supposed to help us feel better. But typically they don’t, and we end up feeling worse. And on the rare occasion we do feel better (like when you get on the scale and get a little boost from a lower number than yesterday), they absolutely feed body shame.
If you’re not convinced that it’s toxic, ask yourself if you would feel proud if a little girl watched you and emulated whatever your habit is. No? Then it’s not good for you either. Full stop.
3. Wear clothes that you like.
Clothes are made to fit our bodies—not the other way around. Physically, you can feel more comfortable by wearing sizes and styles that fit and better serve your body—which is what clothes are designed to do. They are supposed to keep you warm and protected and make you feel good. Any that don’t, aren’t serving you and need to go!
It might not be possible to overhaul your wardrobe all at once since that would be expensive, but even if it’s a piece here and there, start purchasing clothes that are fun instead of buying clothes that cover up your supposed flaws. And forget all the rules! Fat arms can wear sleeveless tops. Thighs with cellulite or calfs with spider veins can wear shorts. Mommy bellies can wear two-piece swimsuits.
And yes, as shocking as it is… you can even wear horizontal stripes if you want.
4. Diversify your social media.
Ok, this is similar to tip number one and is part of the immersion process, but this is important in a unique way. Our brains are trained by the images it sees over and over. And in the mainstream media, we see lots and lots of the thin ideal. Women in smaller bodies, filtered and posed just right, are the norm in media and so our brain interprets that as the norm in general.
It’s not. Not even close.
Does it surprise you to know that 67% of adult American women wear a size 14 or larger? You wouldn’t know it based on what we see and what sizes are offered in stores! So diversify your social media so you start seeing a wider variety of bodies. (Tip: If you sign up to receive my Food Freedom Therapy™ newsletter, you get immediate access to recommendations on anti-diet and body acceptance social media accounts to follow. There’s a signup form on this page.)
5. Join the movement
Body positivity is not just an individual endeavor aimed at “loving your body”. It’s a social justice movement that challenges the way current culture views and treats bodies, as well as elevate traditionally marginalized bodies. This includes larger bodies, and also bodies of color, differently-abled bodies, and many others.
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean you need to post pictures of yourself in a bikini on Instagram (although, if you want to, go for it!). It does mean that you need to see yourself as part of something bigger than yourself. This helps us as human beings feel connected to others on a similar mission and gives us a sense of purpose in the hard work we’re doing. Do you want a better world for other women? For your girlfriends, sister, daughter? Heck, even for the men you love because unfortunately, body shame is not just a female issue anymore. If so, then start thinking about how you can get involved. It can be as small and simple as leaving a supportive comment on someone else’s post or asking that coworker to stop making fat jokes.
Every movement starts with small changes that lead to big changes, and before you know it—we’re changing our world and THE world. You’re not alone and you can do this. XOXO
I’m Cherie Miller, MS, LPC, founder of Food Freedom Therapy™. I offer counseling for chronic dieting as well eating disorder therapy for Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, OSFED, ARFID, and other eating disorder issues. Contact me here or follow me on Instagram or Facebook.