Come the new year, many of us begin to feel the pressures of resolution-focused diet culture, even body positive activists like myself. But a new year doesn't have to mean giving your body a makeover. It can actually be an opportunity to start loving our bodies and ourselves that little bit more, no matter what weight or size we may be. Personally, I think it's so critical to our well being to love and respect ourselves, even if it can sometimes feel impossible to do. I'll admit that sometimes the task seems even more daunting than going on a diet or criticizing your stomach in the mirror.
Luckily, there are many easy ways to make this year a body positive one. Sure, there are more challenging philosophical and attitude-based beliefs about your body that you can adopt, but there are also small actions you can take that both center your experience of yourself in your body and that can lead to challenging your mindset. After all, the theory of mind-body connection tells us that what happens in our minds and in our bodies is intimately connected, even though we often think of these realms as being completely separate to one another.
Here are 11 quick and easy ways I've experimented with that should help you show yourself some love in 2016.
1. Cook For Yourself
Cooking can be an amazingly therapeutic activity and also allows you to reward your body with a meal that was lovingly made by you. Instead of ordering yet another box of Chinese takeout after work or a pizza for a Netflix binging sesh, try to make something simple for yourself. You could even try to replicate some of your favorite restaurant dishes if you're feeling adventurous.
I think you'll find that making yourself a meal allows you to fully experience your food more and changes the process of how you eat and think about food. If you're a cooking newbie, I highly recommend trying out a recipe and food delivery service like Plated. That way, everything you need to start concocting delicious meals will be delivered right to your door.
2. Write A Love Letter To Your Body
Instead of saying a positive affirmation or giving yourself a compliment, I challenge you to take your body love to the next level and write a love letter to yourself. Sit down and pour your heart out! Get all of your feelings out about your body and think of your favorite attributes. You could also use it like a time capsule, and come back to read it in a year or two just to see how your perspective has changed.
3. Move Your Body
Fitness doesn't have to be about weight loss. It can just be about endorphins and feeling a little surge of serotonin. Don't be afraid to work out, go to the gym, take a yoga class, go for a walk, or take a hike. Moving your body is not only good for you physically, but can also have internal body positive effects.
Research has shown that engaging in physical activity actually improves your body image, without bringing weight or fitness goals into the equation. Allow exercise to be about centering your mind, and don't feel like you have to do a certain kind of workout. Simply do what you personally enjoy!
The health benefits of meditation are endless and should help you relax and center yourself. When you're feeling really chaotic, busy, or stressed, this grounding exercise can bring you down from that crazy mental zone and into your physical reality. Meditating for five or 10 minutes a day seriously does wonders for my mind and body.
But meditation isn't always the easiest thing to get the hang of. Start by sitting still for five minutes at a time to see how you feel. Then gradually increase the amount, and remember that the discipline required for meditation takes a lot of time to master. I also recommend using guided meditations, especially if you find yourself getting restless quickly. You can even find meditation music with the Free Relaxing Sounds app.
5. Spend Quality Time Time With Your Body
Take time to really get to know your body, without judgement or shame. Spend time with yourself naked, look at yourself in the mirror, take your time applying your lotion, soak in a bath, do something to really get to know your body and be driven by curiosity.
6. Find Your Sense Of Style
Every person has a different aesthetic and is naturally drawn to unique clothing, styles, and textures, and that's a good thing. Instead of being a slave to trends or trying to cover yourself up, why not genuinely find your own sense of style this year? Figure out what clothing you like, not what society says you should wear. The results should lead to loving what you're wearing and feeling like the unique flower that you are.
If you need some guidance, try to do some blind clothes sampling. Wander into a few stores and find the colors, patterns, textures, textiles, and styles that you naturally gravitate toward, without thinking about trends, celebs, or bloggers. Notice what patterns you see in your preferences, and even try some things on to gauge how you feel when wearing different styles. Do a sort of mental meditation, so that anytime you notice yourself thinking about someone else's opinion or sense of dress, you can acknowledge the thought and get back into your body.
7. Invest In Some Killer Bath And Shower Products
I kid you not, I always end up feeling more connected to my body after I take a shower, thanks to the time I spend lathering, scrubbing, and washing. Using aromatherapeutic scents and luxurious products helps me feel like I'm pampering myself. I would highly recommend using your bathing time as a time to reconnect to your body.
Anything that contains lavender really appeals to me, since it's so calming. My favorite products include the Dead Sea Essentials by AHAVA Lavender Sugar/Salt Scrub, Aromatherapy Almond And Lavender Oil, The Body Shop Fuji Green Tea Body Butter, and all of the products from the entire Stress Relief Collection at Bath & Body Works.
8. Spend Time In Nature
There's something about being in nature that can make you feel so small, yet so connected to the earth. Take the time to think about how all of the messages we see about body image in mainstream media are distorted. Think about the lies that society has created to try to get you to follow its rules. Everything will become very simple. By looking at all of the different animal, tree, plant, and natural bodies out there, you should see how every body is designed differently, and how beautiful each one is.
If you live in a city and don't have access to many green fields or forests, try identifying a few key spaces nearby that you'd like to check out. Then make a point to set aside some time to do just that. You could even go and explore a farmer's market or greenhouse.
9. Consume Media That Makes You Feel Good About Your Body
Instead of buying magazines that tell you that you need to change your appearance to be beautiful or watching TV shows that are all about shaming fat people into losing weight, use your media time preciously to consume material that empowers you. Read body positive books, watch movies that include all body types, and scour fashion blogs created by fat women. Just take in anything that makes you feel good.
10. Do A Boudoir Shoot
You have probably seen boudoir images before, usually involving women wearing sexy clothing, lingerie, or perhaps nothing at all, and baring it for the camera. The results are usually beautiful, timeless pictures of them looking stunning. Anyone can do a boudoir photoshoot, no matter what their relationship status is, what size they are, or even how comfortable they are in their body. Making yourself vulnerable for beautiful pictures that are for you is an incredible way to create a body positive mindset.
11. Practice Intuitive Eating
Another great way to use food in order to become more body positive is to use it as a tool for honoring your body by practicing intuitive eating. Instead of filling your mind with all kinds of judgements about what you're eating, ask your body what it wants to eat and then listen to it! So much of the food we eat happens because of influence, but you'd be amazed by how satisfied you will feel when you listen to your body and honor its feelings. As my former life coach told me, "Honor your animal," and give her what she wants, without bringing your ego into the mix.
This year, let's do away with social stigma and simply practice maintaining a positive relationship between our bodies, minds, and spirits. There's nothing more body positive than that.
Images: Erin McKelle Fisher (1); Pexels (6)