How I Learned to Love My Body and Why You Should Too

Growing up, I always struggled to accept my body. As someone who is a little more muscular than the average girl and with a naturally athletic build, I was always disappointed that I couldn’t look slimmer. I tried diet fads, non-stop work outs, restrictive eating, and every other idea under the sun to try and achieve an unattainable body type. One day, I got fed up with my constant self-criticism. Why shouldn’t I love my body as it is? 

My journey to loving my body turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be. I assumed that the day I decided I to accept my natural body, all my self-esteem issues would disappear. Boy, was I wrong. However, though it was a difficult journey, it was worth it in the end; it took a lot of time, mental pep talks, and lifestyle changes, but I eventually made it.

So, how do you learn to love your body? Honestly, I don’t have a concrete answer. It varies greatly for every person. But here are some of the small, yet important, steps I took towards self-acceptance that I hope can help you too.

First off, decide how you want to be remembered. I know this sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. One of the most influential things someone said to me during my journey was, “Do you really just want to be remembered as the skinny girl, or do you want to be remembered as the girl who chased her dreams and achieved what she set out to do?”

After this question, I immediately realized that I wanted to be remembered as someone who held the world in her hands. Corny, I know. But this simple question changed my entire outlook on life. I realized that if I continued to spend so much time scrutinizing my body, I’d lose out on  time I could be using to achieve my life goals.

Next, I threw out my scale. This was the best decision I’ve ever made. We often think the number we see on the scale defines our health. Typically, we associate lower numbers with better health, but this can be so misleading - in fact, when I was at my best shape as an athlete, I was technically “overweight” due to my muscle mass. I was tired of letting a number dictate whether I was happy or not with my body. By getting rid of my scale, I, myself, could decide if I wanted to eat more or less that day. To this day, I don’t know my weight, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Instead of letting a number tell me if my body is acceptable, I tell my body that it is beautiful.

Okay, my third suggestion may sound super corny, but I promise it helps. Every day when I wake up, I look in the mirror and compliment one aspect of my body. If it’s difficult, you can start with something simple like, “I like the shape of my lips.” Gradually, you can work toward complementing the areas you’re more self-conscious about. The thought behind this is that if we say good things about ourselves to ourselves, we will learn to focus on the positive aspects of life, and thereby improve our quality of life. Moreover, I’ve changed the way I talk about my body. Rather than speaking negatively like saying, “I am fat,” I instead say, “my body has fat, just like everyone else’s.” Doing this changes a negative judgment into an objective fact, which is something that you can’t criticize.

Another way you can address negative thoughts is by giving them a positive spin. For example, I’ve always struggled to accept my lower stomach, an area that seems to bulge no matter how much I work out. But, when I was talking to my best friend one day, she said, “It bulges because that’s where all your power as a woman comes from. That’s where your uterus is, the very thing that allows us to create life. And if that’s not kickass, I’m not sure what is.” My lower stomach is now one of my favorite parts of my body.

My last and final suggestion is to donate all of the clothes you know you don’t fit into anymore. Hoarding these clothes in the hopes that you will one day be skinny enough to wear them again just reinforces the mentality that your body is not acceptable the way that it is. We all gain weight as we get older - it’s just a part of life. Most of us don’t have time to be three-sport athletes or spend 2-3 hours at the gym. And, guess what? That’s okay. Rather than letting the fact that you no longer fit in your high school jeans hang over your head, donate them knowing that someone who needs them will now have the opportunity to wear and love them.

Learning to love my body has been one of the most important and transformative things I’ve ever done. My mood and self-esteem have improved significantly, and I no longer crave validation from others; instead, I found that I can receive more meaningful validation from myself. I love my rolls, I love my muscular, bulky legs, and I love the scar on my eyebrow. Why? Because those are the things that make me, well…me, and I think that’s pretty frickin’ spectacular.