Feeling low after gaining a few extra kilos over winter? It’s not just your body that needs a makeover, it’s your mind. Take note of these 8 steps to get a body you love this spring, (one that loves you back).
1. Think beyond your body – what else needs to change this spring?
Take the time to think more broadly about your wellbeing and life (not just your weight). For each of the following areas, reflect on where you are at now and where you want to be in three, six or even 12 months time and why.
• Your energy levels
• Your sleep (quality and quantity)
• Your body (how it feels, strength, fitness, weight, injuries and health issues)
• Your eating
• Balance in your life
• Your mindset and daily mood
• Your stress and anxiety levels
• Any current frustrations
• Your overall feelings about yourself and your life
So, how much change do you want to make and in what time frame? Is it realistic? Remember, you’ve got a very busy life and there’s no mad rush to change these things all at once. Don’t over-commit; focus on the loudest and most urgent areas that you need to tackle this spring.
2. Understand the way change works
Set yourself up for success in the way you think about the change process. In the past you’ve jumped in, guns blazing and fallen straight off ‘the wagon’ and felt like a failure. Here are some tips to set yourself up for success this spring:
•Don’t be all or nothing. Although we’d all love to be perfect and stick to our original plan day in, day out, in reality you’re busy and life is complicated. If ‘all or nothing’ are your only two choices, you’ll probably end up being nothing. What about being ‘all of something’ instead. After all, something is better than nothing.
• Don’t expect your body to change really quickly. Ever noticed the way braces work to straighten teeth? Small changes are made each month and then held in place for years. Think about changing the rest of your body like that too. You can see change in your body quickly, but if what you’re doing isn’t sustainable, it will go straight back to where it came from.
• Don’t expect the road of change to be smooth. Think about anything you’ve achieved in your life. The road of improvement and success was not smooth, was it? It’s the same with making changes in your body and wellbeing. Expect bumps in the road, U-turns, dead ends and when things go pear-shaped, get excited that soon they will be on the way up – provided you don’t give up!
3. Be nice to yourself
If you spoke to your friends and loved ones the way you spoke to yourself, do you think they’d stick around as your friend for very long? Why is it ok to say mean things about yourself? To say you’re not smart or good enough, to shrug off every compliment, to talk yourself down and to point out every imperfection. You can hear your thoughts. They are not you. You can change them. Ask yourself, is the way you think and talk about yourself setting you up for success or not?
To get to a place where we love ourselves would be bliss, but for now, we can start with self-respect. Think you don’t deserve respect? You do. We all do. You are amazing. You are worthy. You are intelligent. You are capable. You are enough. If you don’t respect yourself, how will you ever expect it from others? Self-belief and self-love starts with the building blocks of self-respect.
Start with this:
• Just be nice to yourself. No need for over-the-top affirmations or saying things about yourself that feel unauthentic. Just be nice to yourself. Speak to and about yourself the same way you would think and speak about someone whom you loved, admired and respected.
4. Be nice to your body.
What kind of things do you think and say about your body? Ask yourself, what would my body think of me? You and your body are in a long-term relationship, whether you like it or not. How does your relationship feel at the moment? If you body could choose who owned it, do you think it would choose you?
Don’t get stuck in the trap of always focusing on your looks and what you don’t like about your body. What about all of the amazing things about your body too? What about the energy it gives you to live life, the legs you use to walk and run, the arms you use to hug with, the stomach you use to digest food and the eyes you are using right now to read this? Your body gives you these gifts every single day – do you acknowledge it for that or would it feel disrespected?
There’s no need to lie about how you feel and say you love your body right now when you don’t feel like you do. But you need to acknowledge that you are together in a relationship for life. You have to learn to work together and although your body would adore to be loved, the first step in that journey is to start with treating it with respect.
You don’t need to wait for your body to change to start to respect it. Deep down you know that it already deserves respect. Your body is amazing, is yours and makes it possible for you to do everything that you do.
To start to build love and respect for your body, do the following:
• For each negative word and thought you have about your body, neutralise it with a positive.
• Think about the changes you want to make; how can you make those changes in a way that shows your body, your most valuable asset, the respect it deserves?
• Imagine you had your body on loan and that it could leave you for someone else at any second, what would you do differently to treat it with more respect?
5. Move your body!
Now that you’re mindset is sorted, it’s time to get down to business. There are a few basics that your body needs and movement is one of them. It needs movement to function properly and to feel good!
• Every day your body needs some low-intensity movement. It needs to walk and stretch. It especially doesn’t like sitting down for long periods of time.
• Each week it also needs some high-intensity movement. You need to get your heart pumping to keep it strong and fit and push your muscles out of their comfort zone to keep your body strong. Your body will give you energy, strength and feel great in return.
• Remember, it takes your body a while to adjust to the load of new types of training, so don’t go from zero to hero. Start with where you’re at and slowly build up each week. Be patient.
• Choose a type of movement that you love and have fun doing so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Give up types of exercise that you don’t like.
• Get some help from a trainer or friends if you need accountability to get moving.
• Pop time for movement in your diary. If other people are worthy enough to get time scheduled in your diary, so is your body.
6. Nourish your body with food
Think about this: your body is made up of so many amazing parts. Skin, hair, fingernails, organs, a heart, blood, bones, a brain, and each of these parts are made up from the raw materials in the foods that you decide to eat. What you feed and nourish your body with is so important. This can feel overwhelming, but there’s no need to be anxious. You don’t need to be perfect but you do need to have healthy relationship with food. Food can be a fun and beautiful part of your life, shared with friends and nourishing from the inside out. Your body likes foods that have been grown and raised with respect and haven’t been messed with by too much man-made processing and chemicals. It likes foods you’ve cooked yourself at home with time and love. There’s no right way to eat but there’s a way to eat to make you feel good and it starts with simply listening to your body.
• Before you eat, ask yourself, ‘Am I even hungry or am I eating out of habit or to deal with an emotion?’
• If you are hungry, ask yourself, ‘Will this food make me and my body feel good now and after I eat it?’
• While you eat, take your time and enjoy it. Listen to your body so you know when you’ve had enough and stop eating before you are too full.
• After you eat, check in on how your body feels. Does it feel good and satisfied, content and light, or bloated and sluggish, or unfulfilled and irritated? Listen to your body’s feedback and remember that next time you eat.
7. Your body is not a machine – it needs rest
Sorry to break this to you, but your body is not a machine. Your body’s batteries were not designed with the non-stop 24/7 pace of the world today. It needs to sleep, rest and recharge every single day! When we are tired, everything is hard, motivation and willpower vanish and there’s no joy, only struggle. It’s hard to be nice to people that you love when you’re tired, not to mention to your body and yourself. Plus, change actually happens in your body when you are asleep, when it has time and space to recover and repair from your busy life. Don’t run it to the ground and ignore fatigue. If you’re exhausted or overwhelmed right now, this is the first thing you need to change. Don’t treat your body like a machine. Let it rest, every day – physically, mentally and emotionally. Everything will be easier – promise.
8. Enjoy the journey and choose body love
The journey of self-improvement, taking care of your body and building body love is one that lasts for life. You need to enjoy what you eat, how you move, how you think and your way of life. Is there any point obsessing over longevity if it feels like deprivation? Being happy will make you healthier (even if it includes things that seemly aren’t so healthy)! Take a breath, relax and appreciate your body, yourself and your one precious life.
Your body wants you to thrive. It wants to help you to live your best life and to be best friends. You and your body don’t need to become anything to be worthy – you already are. Don’t buy into the notion that you need to change for your partner, for a bikini, for your career, for anyone, only for yourself. Change because you want to change, because it will bring more joy into your life. All you need to do is keep making small decisions each day, to choose body love over body hate.
This is an edited extract from the Bodylove program devised by Jacquie Sharples, author of If Your Body Could Talk.
NEXT: How to love your body while losing weight