I love the body positivity movement.
I love that we’re embracing all shapes and sizes and body types and the extra skin and fat and cellulite.
I love the message “love your body”.
The problem is that it’s so, so much easier said than done.
We’re told to love our bodies – stretch marks and all. Because a miracle happened within the embrace of those stretch marks.
But when you’re living in a society that screams “love your body!” then whispers “but change so that you don’t look like you had a baby” it can be hard to not wish your body looked a certain way.
This can lead to feeling like you’re not good enough and can make your postpartum recovery that much harder because you’re under this insane pressure to “bounce back”.
The good news is there’s hope (as there always is).
And you can get to a place of greater peace with your body.
Throw “Love Your Body” Out the Window
The first step is to appreciate that you don’t need to love your body.
Loving your body is hopefully where you get to in the end. But for right now, neutral is what you want to focus on.
You see, it’s so simple to say “love your body! You’re a mom! You’re a rockstar! You’re a miracle maker!”
But those words fall on deaf ears when you’re still looking in the mirror and thinking those nasty thoughts.
It’s also easy to say “just focus on how you feel, not how you look.”
And I agree. But I also appreciate that for a lot of us we like looking a certain way. And that’s okay.
It’s okay to want to look a certain way – just not at the expense of your physical or emotional well-being.
I focus a lot on function over aesthetics but I get that sometimes you just want to look like your old self again. Or look different. Or have the abs and the booty and the legs and all the things.
And that’s okay. You’re absolutely entitled to look however you want.
I want you to be happy.
But that means ensuring that looking that way will actually make you happy.
You hear the stories so often.
Woman gets plastic surgery and still looks in the mirror and cries.
Woman loses 50lbs then gains it all back (and then some) and she feels like such a failure.
Woman has a baby and feels so much pressure to bounce back she ignores the fact she leaks a little during burpees because she’s so focused on looking like she never even had a baby that she’s forgetting to check in with how this actually makes her feel.
We all know that there’s external pressure (#fitmom) to become a nearly impossible ideal.
We all know there’s a bias toward “beautiful people”.
And we all know that loving ourselves really has nothing to do with how we look.
It’s that feeling of being okay with not being perfect and having the confidence to do the things and wear the bikini and have the fun anyways.
But how can you actually get to that place?
Well – like I said – I actually want you to throw the idea of loving your body out the window (for now).
One thing I’m constantly reminding my clients is that “love your body” is a really lofty goal. Especially if you’re coming from a place of barely being able to look at yourself in the mirror without crying.
It’s like telling someone who wants to lose weight that they should try to lose 25lbs in their first week.
Holy overwhelming, impossible goal, right?
So let’s take baby steps.
And how we do this is by working on getting to neutral first.
Yes. I don’t even want you to focus on liking your body.
Just focus on getting to a place where you don’t hate it.
Where looking in the mirror doesn’t make you want to cry.
Where trying on pants doesn’t cause a ridiculously depressing emotional spiral.
Where catching your partner looking at you doesn’t make you stress out over how disgusted they must be over every dimple of cellulite.
Where you can say “Meh” and move on with your day.
Where you can say “I may not look like a model, but that’s okay”.
Where you can say “Yup. There’s some cellulite there.” And put on the shorts anyways. Even though you may not feel 100% confident wearing them.
That’s where we’re headed.
Here are some ways you can help make that happen.
1. Follow More Diverse Instagram Stars.
When you’re constantly seeing the same body type over and over (especially if you’re only following the “ideal” body type that less than 5% of women have) then you’re not doing your body-loving quest any favors.
Start adding some more diverse body types into the mix.
Ashley Graham, Megan Jayne Crabbe (AKA bodyposipanda), Mirna Valerio (AKA themirnavator), Jessamyn Stanley, Katie Willcox (AKA healthyisthenewskinny), Jenna Free (AKA youaintyourweight), Louise Green…
These are just some examples of women you can follow that will ensure that you aren’t just seeing the same body type again and again.
When you see the media’s idea of what a woman should look like, more than you see what women actually look like, of course you’re going to feel inadequate.
So stop the madness and treat yourself to some new follows.
2. Check Your Mood
When we’re in a bad mood it’s a lot easier to fall into the “I hate my body trap”, right?
So before you fall deep into the rabbit hole of self-deprecating thoughts, get honest and ask whether you’re feeling so bummed out about your muffin top right now because your overall mood is in the dumps.
Then do something to make yourself happier.
Go for a walk.
Play with your kiddo.
Phone a friend.
Something you know will give you a boost and don’t let those depressing thoughts dig their claws too far into you before you realize what’s happening.
3. Get Clear About What’s Actually Realistic For You
In a Psychology Today survey 89% of women aged 13 to 90 said they wanted to lose weight.
The average woman weighs 140lbs. Most of these women want to weigh 125lbs.
But let’s be honest. Where is that number coming from? It feels like it’s an arbitrary number that many women believe sounds good on paper.
The problem is that for a lot of these women that number may actually be impossible. Literally impossible. Unless they starved themselves.
We all have different heights, genetically predisposed muscle mass and fat, and even time and energy to devote to reaching that goal.
So get honest.
Is that number actually realistic for you?
Or would it be better to focus on another number – or something else entirely (like how you feel, how your clothes fit, how much easier it is to carry your kiddo + a load of laundry up the stairs…)?
And if you decide it actually isn’t realistic, take steps to stop focusing on it and set your sights on another – more realistic – goal.
4. Be Choosy About Who You’re Chatting With
Have a friend who’s constantly making negative comments about other people’s bodies?
Or maybe it’s a family member who brings up how she needs to lose 5lbs – at every meal?
Or there’s that fitness coach who makes “motivational” comments during class about “sweating out the fat” or “pushing through the pain to get those abs”.
Most of the time these people are just as insecure (if not more insecure) about their bodies as you are. And their judgments and comments are coming from a place of self-loathing and pressure to look a certain way themselves.
So I’m not suggesting you berate them for their words or ditch them entirely (although it would be relatively easy to go to a different group fitness class).
Instead just be honest and more assertive with them.
Change the subject when they start making judgmental comments.
Say, “I hear you. It can be hard when you have a goal and you’re not reaching it. I’m actually on this kick of trying to focus more on being healthy and feeling awesome and focusing less on how I look. Wanna join me?”
Or, “Let’s talk about something else. I’m working really hard to focus more on being healthy and feeling good over looking a certain way.”
Or talk to the fitness instructor after class and let them know you’re in this space of focusing less on how your abs look so you’d love it if they could come up with some different motivational pep talks.
5. Write a Letter to Your Son or Daughter
I know the last thing I want for my daughter is for her to have any body image issues.
I try really hard to surround her with realistic, positive messages as much as possible.
I’m sure you can relate.
Which is why it can be incredibly powerful to write them a letter telling them why they don’t need the perfect body to be happy and successful in life.
Maybe you even give it to them at some point when they’re older (or right now if they’re old enough to appreciate it).
Remind them that how they feel is much more important than how they look.
Tell them it’s okay to want to look a certain way, but not at the expense of their happiness or health.
Teach them the costs of pursuing perfection and let them know you love them (and so many other people love them) just the way they are.
This will probably fire up a desire in you to keep focusing on positive body image (for their sake and yours).
And I hope it’ll also remind you that you deserve to feel just as confident as you want your kiddos to feel.
6. Ask Yourself “Is That 100% True?”
“My body is the worst! I have the fattest thighs ever!”
“I have so much belly flab I can’t wear a bikini.”
“Since giving birth the only thing I can wear is yoga pants and a t-shirt. Everything else looks terrible.”
We tend to get extreme with our hateful comments towards ourselves. And sometimes all we need is to check-in and recognize that these statements aren’t even close to the truth.
Your body isn’t the worst. You were able to grow and nurture a tiny human. That sounds pretty incredible to me.
Anyone can wear a bikini. Anyone. Belly flab doesn’t make it impossible to do that (even when it feels like it does).
There are plenty of amazing outfits that you could feel awesomely confident in if you just try them on – even if that means going up a few sizes.
These reality checks help you keep things in perspective.
Yes. Your body may not be perfect, but it’s certainly not the worst.
So when you find yourself making these outrageous exclamations reel it in and simply ask “Is that 100% true?”
7. Give Yourself As Much Grace As You Give Others
You like other people who don’t have perfect bodies. You’re attracted to people who don’t have perfect bodies. Other people are attracted to people who don’t have perfect bodies.
We all have flaws and it’s not fair to hate your body because it’s not perfect.
Your worth is not so tied to how you look that if you don’t look a certain way you’re worthless.
This black and white thinking traps us in this idealistic vision of how we’re supposed to look.
So get out.
Give yourself as much grace as you give others.
You would never (I would hope) talk to your kid the way you speak about yourself.
Remember, you deserve the same amount of love and compassion.
Just Be Cool About It Not Happening Overnight
You can get to a place of being neutral, liking or even loving your body. But it won’t happen in an instant.
When you’re coming from a place of self-loathing and years of hateful comments about yourself you can’t just recite “I love my body!” in the mirror twenty times and instantly transform into this uber confident mama.
It takes patience and practice and finding the tools and strategies that work for you.
So experiment. Play around with these ideas. Remember that you’re not always going to get it right.
And overall stop focusing on loving your body and start by getting to neutral first.
I highly doubt anyone “loves” their cellulite.
But I’m positive several women have become indifferent to it because they’ve realized they can still feel awesome and wear the clothes and do the things without the cellulite stopping them.
So yes. It’s not an easy journey but the reward of being able to look in a mirror without picking yourself apart is absolutely worth it.
You deserve this.
You deserve to stop hating your body.
You deserve to stop stressing over every flaw.
You deserve to get to a place of peace.
So get started. Try your best. And please remember that a small step in the right direction is better than none at all.
P.S. Have a mom friend who’s constantly stressing over her postpartum body? Send her this post and encourage her to come on this body neutrality journey with you.