The way people talk about body positivity makes it seem so simple: just love yourself and you’re good to go. However, that simplicity creates a stigma around healthy habits; instead of encouraging people to make choices to do right by their bodies, people think healthy choices are made to change their appearance and fit society's warped standards.
That’s what caused me to feel stuck. I wanted to love my body for how it was, but I also wanted to be healthier, stronger and fitter. I wanted to take care of my body, but didn’t see how I could do that without appearing as wanting to change it. The truth is, I felt like I was failing whenever I made choices to be healthier because I thought that meant I didn’t love myself enough as I was.
But it doesn’t actually work like that.
Body positivity and physical health are two sides of the same coin: we take care of ourselves because we love ourselves and vice versa. The difference between this concept leading to a negative relationship with your body versus a positive one is the reason behind your actions. As long as your reason is to respect your body, you are working towards a positive relationship with it.
But how should you show your body respect? Here are the top three ways I do.
- Exercise consistently, but rest when needed
We're told from a young age that we should have an hour of active movement every day. While we don’t always have time to set aside a full hour, we still need to make it a point to keep our bodies moving. The easiest way to do that is to do what you enjoy. Maybe you like lifting weights, so you make time to go to the gym. Or maybe you like yoga, so you do at-home YouTube workouts. Maybe you like walking, so you start every day with a twenty-minute walk. It doesn’t matter how you move, just that you move consistently so your body can become stronger and feel good.
That being said, rest is respecting your body’s needs as much as movement is. There will be days where you don’t have time to exercise or don’t want to. There's a fine line between pushing yourself and pushing yourself too far. You deserve to take rest days when you feel the need for them. Movement is taxing, and some days the best thing you can do for your body is to let it be.
- Eat well and don’t restrict
I don’t know about you, but I am an absolute sugarholic. If it were up to me, I would eat nothing but ice cream and cookies all day long. It's not a bad thing to have those desires; there’s food that’s good for the body and food that’s good for the soul. You need both.
What doesn’t work is taking away the foods that are good for your soul. Food is so much more than fuel; we use it for socialization, for comfort and for enjoyment. There are ways that you can honor both aspects of food, the fuel part and the mental part, but you shouldn’t try to eliminate the foods you like because you think they're bad for you. It’s about finding a balance and finding the healthy foods that you love so that eating remains a positive experience.
- Show it gratitude
It seems a little silly, but sometimes I literally talk to my body, saying “good job” or “thank you,” so I am actively reminding myself that my body is good. By taking the time to recognize what I'm physically capable of — whether it’s a hard workout or getting through a long day — I aim to see myself as more than just my appearance.
I think it’s important to retrain your mind. Society constantly tells us that our bodies aren’t good enough, which takes a mental toll and makes it hard to find things we like about the way we look. Start with focusing on being grateful for what your body is capable of and work towards changing how you describe yourself. Take time to look in the mirror and call yourself beautiful and strong. Look at the parts that you don’t always love and find something positive to say about them. It takes a lot of work, but it’s possible to change how you view yourself.
We need both body positivity and physical health to have a good relationship with our bodies. By choosing to do things that keep our bodies and minds healthy, we are choosing to act out of respect for ourselves. Respect can be a game changer — I know it was for me.