Summer is here!! I want to jump up and down like a little kid while thinking about basking in the sun and feeling the heat warm my skin. Patios, pools, vacations – bring it on! There is just one person that could put a damper on all my summertime excitement: my longtime companion, the inner critic.
No more hiding under sweaters and leggings. Hello shorts, tank tops and bathing suits. “I’m exposed!” “Why didn’t I lose weight this winter?” “I had months to work on my summer body.” “Wow, she’s thin.” “I wish I looked like that.” My inner critic never finds itself speechless.
Although these criticisms get louder during bathing suit season, my body image is the healthiest it has ever been. Here are some of the tips that have been fundamental in learning how to love my body as it is.
1. Surrendering to genetics. For some people, their weight can be influenced as much as 80% by their genetics! I apply some radical acceptance here to my weight and body shape – “it is what it is.”
2. Dressing for comfort. Instead of wearing what I think I ‘should’ wear, I wear what makes me comfortable. This does not mean I am hiding under my clothes. It means I wear outfits that are less likely to trigger my inner critic. When my inner critic is quieter, I can enjoy the present moment.
3. Exercising for fun. Exercise became a way to ‘make up for’ what I had eaten. “Ok, I had a brownie at work, so I have to burn 300 calories at the gym tonight.” I started to resent exercise because it felt like punishment. Now, I let my body tell me what it needs. This means I get to enjoy a wider range of activities, and no more dreading exercise! Some days I walk, run, go to the gym or just stretch.
4. Dropping the assumptions. I acknowledged the false beliefs I had developed. Thinner people are not necessarily happier or healthier than me. When my critic starts comparing me to others, I remind myself that they are human too.
5. Appreciating my body. Instead of focusing on what I wish would change, I focus on what I am thankful for. Despite all the years of telling my body that I hated it, it is still here for me. My body carries me through both painful and joyful moments. My body allows me touch and connect with loved ones. My body is the vessel that permits me to experience every aspect of this life.
Are these easier said than done? Yes. When I first started healing my body image, I followed these steps without believing them in my heart. Over time they have become my new beliefs, and that allows for a compassionate relationship with my body. A relationship that everyone deserves.