Over the years I have shared a lot of my story in regards to body love, eating disorders and exercise. I will leave a list of blog posts related to this one at the bottom so you can check them out if you wish.
Over the years I’ve found loving myself really challenging but now, finally I feel that I’ve come to a place where I am truly happy with myself and my body. Well, most of the time anyway. Of course I still have wobbles and days when I don’t feel great but for the most part I’m doing really well and I wanted to share my top tips in reaching a stage of self love with you guys!
1. Diversify your feed
By this I mean follow all different types of people. Follow fat bodies, thin bodies, middle bodies, disabled bodies, black bodies, white bodies and everything else in between. Unfollow the people who make you feel crap about your body. Don’t just follow people who fit in to society’s idea (aka slim). Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being slim but not everybody is and that’s ok, but if all you see every time you check Insta are bodies that are not even close to how you look then you’re not going to be very happy. I also think it’s important to follow people who are a similar size to yourself and are rocking their body, wearing amazing clothes and practising self-love. Some of my faves are @midsizecollective @stylemesunday @effyourbeautystandards @bodyposipanda and sooo many more.
2. Ditch the diet
Diets do not work. It is a proven fact. If diets did work we would all be skinny by now but the fact is they don’t. Only between 3-5% of people who lose weight on a diet will actually keep the majority of the weight off. Diet companies such as Slimming World, Weight Watchers and every other one you can think of are BUSINESSES. They exist to make money. Now, think about it logically, if their diet worked and you lost all your weight and kept it off they wouldn’t be getting any money from you – not a very good business model is it? Diet culture is real. It is the idea that society tells us we are fat and then sells us the solution, if you want to know more read about diet culture here.
3. Intuitive eating
So if we’re ditching the diet, what are we replacing it with? Well that’s where intuitive eating comes in. Intuitive eating is the idea that you eat whatever you want, when you want it. Sounds too good to be true right? Basically it’s the idea that our bodies know what they need and we should listen. Nothing is off limits. You may think this means you’ll constantly gorge yourself on cake but actually when cake is no longer seen as “bad” you actually crave it less. Ok when you start you might eat more cake but after a little bit your body naturally balances itself out and now I honestly barely think about food. It’s not even an issue for me. If I ate chocolate before I would obsess over how bad I was but now I just move on. What’s more registered nutritionists actually recommend this for a healthy relationship with food – follow @laurathomasphd @dietitiananna for more. If you want to know more, read about intuitive eating from an expert (as I certainly am not one)
4. Say goodbye to the scales
I can honestly say since I’ve done this I feel so much better. When I was trying to feel better about myself I was doing really well for ages, then I’d weigh myself and I’d hit rock bottom again. Weight can change for any number of reasons, a big one is gaining muscle. So setting a goal based on a number is unrealistic and will just get you down. If you really, truly want to change your body then I encourage you to take progress pictures to see changes rather than looking on the scales. But honestly, you are amazing as you are!
5. Set point weight
Following on from the previous point, I have recently discovered set point theory and it makes total sense to me. Research suggests that every individual has a “Set point” and just as we have no control over our natural hair colour, we also have no control over our body’s biologically and genetically determined weight range. This is obvious when you and your best mate have near enough the same diet and both exercise regularly yet she is heavier/ lighter than you. Scientists estimate that this range is between 10-20lbs so there’s quite a lot of room for change. Look back on your weight over the last 5 years (assuming you’ve not been pregnant or had an unusual illness or something) I bet your weight has rested within certain parameters. This means that we are all meant to be different and that’s ok! And trying to get out of your set point range is going to be very difficult and make you very unhappy. On that note, we need to realise that we are going to weigh less or more at different stages of life. It made sense that when I was walking 4 miles a day to the train and back I was consuming way more calories and still was slimmer than I am now. It made sense that when I was burning 1000 calories a day breastfeeding my twins that I was slimmer than I am now. It makes sense that you’ll be slimmer when you work on your feet all day than when you sit at a desk. Activity levels differ throughout our lives and that’s just a fact. Don’t punish yourself for it.
One of the times I feel the most confident in my body is when I’ve just finished exercising. When I’ve pushed myself to run an extra mile or I’ve smashed my PB time. It feels amazing and I’m so proud of my body. What’s more, exercise has so many benefits. It’s good for the mind, body and soul. So find an exercise you enjoy…don’t run if you hate it. Take your pushchair for daily walks, do yoga, swimming, rowing, boxing. There are sooo many options. But my best advice would be try not to focus on changing how you look, focus more on how it makes you feel. Strong, confident, fast etc. Exercise really is so great and body acceptance doesn’t mean you have to stop working on yourself physically, it just changes the mentality behind it. A great person to follow on Instagram for this is @thefashionfitnessfoodie
7. Remove triggers
You know that person you follow on Instagram who constantly goes on about their weight? If it’s getting you down, unfollow them. If someone starts talking negatively about weight on a YouTube video, skip past that bit. If your friends and family are going on about dieting either find an excuse to leave the conversation for a bit (go to the toilet, check on kids etc) or try and zone out and go somewhere else in your brain. It might not bother you but sometimes the progress I’ve made can be hindered when I hear others speaking negatively. If it does then I try to remove the problem. I will also never talk negatively about my body to anyone else and especially my daughters. I want them to see me as a positive, happy role model and not feel inadequate if they grow up to not fit society’s beauty standards.
8. Bad days are ok
You won’t feel good about yourself all the time, bad days will come. It’s a journey and not a 3 steps to success programme. There will be days when I’ll see a photo of myself and get really down, but I always try to talk myself round. I also speak to my husband about it and he helps me to see things in a different light. The point is, don’t feel like a failure if you don’t crack this right away. I’m sure nobody does.
9. Realise your worth outside of your looks
You are so much more than what you look like. Sometimes we can be so caught up with “working on our bodies” we forget to work on our minds. For me I am a first class university graduate, a writer, a mother, a sister, a friend, a wife, a Christian and so many other things. I’m kind, caring, generous, silly and many more things. My outward appearance is just a shell. I’m not saying people are wrong who care about their appearance at all – I love make up, clothes, getting my hair bleached and all the rest of it but just remember it isn’t the only thing you are.
I hope my story helps you change your mindset. I would encourage anyone to read the book Body Positive Power by Megan Crabbe & to listen to podcasts by Laura Thomas to start the ball rolling.
If you’ve read this far, thank you! I know it’s long but I am passionate about this and I really did try to make it more succinct!
(P.s the last 2 photos are to show how awkward I am at posing!)