Board Certified Sport Dietitian, Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, 2017 IM CHOO Amateur Female Champion, 12x Ironman finisher including 4x IM Kona finisher, Triathlon Coach, 25-year Vegetarian, Writer/Speaker
Making peace with your body
Today is International Day of Peace, which is "devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples."
The theme for this year is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace."
In honor of making peace, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about making peace with your body. Ultimately, when you are at peace with your body, you are a better human. When you hate your body, you may find that you also hate life. This is not the way that you should be living.
Accepting and appreciating your body will improve your quality of life as you are not spending your days trying to fix yourself, but instead, you are focusing on doing things that really matter in life - like your career, your hobbies (ex. sports), your close friendships, your family and personal life experiences (ex. traveling).
Here are a few tips to help you make peace with your amazing body.
1. Figure out your internal dialogue - Every day, we have thoughts. Often, thoughts lead to actions. When you are feeling upset about something related to your body, verbalize it - don't just think about it and assume that immediate action will make you feel better. Consider how many body-related thoughts you experience each day and after you say those thoughts out loud, get to the root of why you feel that way about your body. Many times, thoughts about your body have nothing to do with your body but instead, the rest of life. You had a bad workout, you are stressed, you didn't sleep well last night, you feel overwhelmed, etc. yet you blame all of this on your body??? Don't believe everything that you think and most of all, don't act on every thought (ex. That's it - I'm starving myself tomorrow because I'm too heavy!") When your mind tells you something negative, don't let your thoughts control your behaviors. Instead, create a better dialogue in your head that is more proactive to healthy living and eating habits and above all, lets you think more positive about your body.
2. Stop the comparison game - Just because someone else weighs less than you, this doesn't make you fat. Don't let the weight of someone else make you feel bad about your own body. It's dangerous to constantly compare yourself to other people because you will never feel good enough or happy enough. It's so easy to compare the worst about yourself to the best (assumption) of someone else. The more positives you assume are in another person, the more negatives you will make up about yourself. This includes a past version of yourself as well. Sometimes the best strategy for stopping comparison is to change your surroundings. You should be surrounding yourself with people who make you feel great about your body and your life. Are there people who you need to remove from your social media channels or stay away from at the gym or at a race? You are unique and an important person in this world, just the way you are. You never need to be compared to anyone else because you are YOU and just fine the way that you are.
3. Understand your feelings - When you have a negative thought about your body, ask yourself what else is bothering you. Body hatred is an easy way to dismiss other issues in life that may be bothering you. Instead of obsessing about your body and using diet and exercise to numb emotions and to gain control over a situation, explore the deeper reasons of your stress. It's important to experience happiness and joy in your life but using food and exercise to cope with deep feelings to make you feel less stressed are not healthy coping strategies. Choose self-love not self-hatred.
4. Positive affirmations - Life will often give you many opportunities to either love your body (you nailed your workout) or hate your body (ex. looking in the mirror, feeling bloated). It seems appropriate to suggest that you should simply minimize the occasions when you experience the most body-hate in life but in reality, there will be times in your life when you can not escape an experience where you will immediately put blame on your body. It is important to remain body positive as much as possible....especially if you are a parent. If you find yourself constantly talking about your body as fat, ugly, chubby, disgusting, etc., you are not describing a positive reflection of yourself. What are you thankful for that your body allows you to do? Constantly remind yourself that your body is more than just a number or a look.
5. Do things that make you feel great about your body - If running is hard on your body, you are not going to find joy in running when you are looking for a way to feel happy with your body. Regardless if you are an athlete training for a sport or a fitness enthusiast, you should choose activities that make you feel connected to your body and grateful for your body. When you feel connected to your body, you will be more likely to acknowledge your strengths as an individual but more so, you will feel happy as you use and move your body. Don't let other people persuade you to do something that truly doesn't make you excited to workout or train.