Body issues. We live in a society that puts a lot of stock in the way we look–often specifically our body shape. The mainstream tells you to exercise and eat right for a “beach body.” At a young age, we begin to feel the relentless pressure to look good: to commit to the gym 3-5 times a week to torch calories, and have yourself a processed, powdery protein shake to recover. Get to a yoga class a few times a week to get a “yoga butt.” Go on a juice cleanse so you can drop 5-10 pounds. Get fake boobs. Whiten your teeth. Highlight your hair. Go tanning. Follow these steps, and still, you may never feel you measure up to society’s standards, because it is a false satisfaction. I have never seen a bold, pink headline read, “Love Yourself!” on the cover Marie Claire.
Knowing this doesn’t make me immune to the pressure. Of course I wish I were skinnier. I have a solid athletic build, and there is nothing I love more than eating. I think I especially enjoy raw, vegan treats because I give myself license to eat four times the amount I normally would, almost guilt-free. You will never see me in short shorts or skirts, because I have fat knees. I don’t wear skinny jeans because my thighs aren’t slim, and my calves are… Diesel. I am sad that I feel this way sometimes, and I am on a journey to fully embrace my body just as it is, right now.
My daughter is five. She has the same exact body that I do, and I think that she is beautiful. It would break my heart if she thought otherwise. I want her to love and appreciate good food, to exercise to keep her body healthy, and do yoga to do yoga. To cultivate the substance of her soul rather than an image that “looks good.” I want her to know that her body is comprised of all kinds of traits passed on to her from her ancestors from Ireland, Germany, Scotland, Wales, Poland and even the Iroquois Nation. Her strong, sturdy body was passed down from potato farmers and such, and now it is a vehicle to carry her soul through this life. It is her one and only. I want to fully know this, too.
The following are three practices to embrace the body you are in.
Stop or mostly refrain from reading tabloids and beauty magazines. Notice if your are a glutton for TV reality shows featuring beautiful women that lack integrity. Enjoy the smut time to time, but don’t make it your world. Surround yourself with media that feeds and nourishes your soul. Notice if you compare yourself to magazines and television shows. Skip commercials when possible, because they do a good job convincing your that something is wrong with you, and you need things outside of yourself. Judging and comparing will always rob you of your own happiness. Famous people these days aren’t necessarily people you want in your inner circle or who would inspire a better you.
My favorite and most successful practice to being a happier person in general is keeping a gratitude journal. Each day, I write three things I am grateful for on that day. Make one of these things something about your body. Magically, acknowledging your body with gratitude will shift your perspective. Try this for thirty days, and watch what transpires.
Find a picture of yourself as a young child, and place it somewhere you will see each day; your bureau, a bathroom mirror, wherever. How will you feed this child? Will you starve him or her? Would you give this child junk food and soda? Would you tell this child they are fat? Ugly? How will you treat this child; will you feed him or her with words of confidence and love? Will you put that child on the couch in front of the TV all day? Will you make that child run on the treadmill for two hours because she ate too much ice cream the night before? Will you show this child all of the marvelous things you can do in that body in the sun, on a beach, in the mountains, or strolling down the road past budding flowers?
I hope through these practices you may love your body as it is, on a journey of good health!
Also by Jessica Riley-Norton: Sweet Summer Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
Related: How to Feel Confident in Your Body
Photo: rocketdog1180 via Flickr; Jessica Riley-Norton