Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and while some people jump up and down with excitement at the thought of warm days, sunshine, and long nights, others are dreading the next 4 months.
With warmer weather comes less clothes, and with less clothes comes a heightened focus on your body. We go from having the ability to cover up with a baggy hoodie to bearing it all in a bathing suit on the beach.
It can be triggering. I know it has been for me in the past. I would do crazy workouts, track my calories, and peek at my stomach (my biggest insecurity) every time I walked past a mirror in my house. All in the hopes of achieving that “perfect” summer body.
Old habits die. Times have changed. I’m declaring this the summer of all bodies.
It starts with body neutrality
It would be so great if we could just stand up and declare that we love our bodies (think Michael Scott declaring bankruptcy), but the reality is that it’s something we have to work on.
I think that’s why a lot of people struggle with body positivity. You know, the idea that we should love the way our bodies look, despite whether or not they fit into the typical societal standard.
We have spent so much time talking down on our bodies and telling them the way they look isn’t enough, that it seems near impossible to simply flip the switch and tell them how much we love them.
There needs to be a period of time where we are simply indifferent—cue body neutrality.
When you view your body from a neutral perspective, you opt to avoid placing value in the way your body looks, and instead view it for what it is—a meat sack that keeps you alive. (But maybe described a little more eloquently than that.)
This approach allows you to distance your worth from your body. For me, it started with extending appreciation to my body for doing what it was made to do. I did this in moments of physical exertion, as well as moments of simply doing nothing.
Pre-neutrality, I would obsess over how many miles I walked. How high I got my heart rate. How heavy my weights were. How long my yoga session was. I was constantly putting myself under tension. Constantly criticizing my body for not doing what I believed was “enough.”
Now, after I walk outside, lift weights, do yoga, or any other kind of activity that requires my body to move. I actively take a moment to analyze how I physically and mentally feel, and I thank my body for allowing me to accomplish what I just did.
In other words, I give my body a freaking break.
Another way I benefit from body neutrality is in deciding what I am going to wear. Instead of forcing my body into what I think I should wear. I select my clothing around my body. Whether that’s the style (a-line dress vs. skin tight dress), size (because it doesn’t matter what size jeans I wear as long as I’m comfortable!), or type (maybe I want to wear a flowy dress instead of jean shorts that ride up my you-know-what).
I choose what works for me, not society. And my body thanks me for that.
Believe it or not, this neutrality approach actually paved the way for me to love my body. (Crazy! I know!!)
Loving your body (it’s possible!)
When I say I love my body, what comes to your mind?
Maybe you think that I have finally reached my goal weight. Or I am finally not self-conscious about my stomach. Or I finally think I look good in a bathing suit.
I love my body for what it does, not what it is.
The love I have for my body stems from thanking it for carrying me through life every single day. I appreciate my legs for taking me on long walks with my dog. I value my heart for pumping blood throughout my body. I cherish my lungs for filling with oxygen. I encourage my muscles as they flex and release, allowing me to move and contort my body.
Every single day we spend on this earth with a functioning brain, heart, lungs, legs—the list could go on forever—is a freaking miracle. So when you come at that miracle with negative talk about the way you look or feel, you’re essentially slapping yourself in the face. You’re telling your body (and yourself) that what you’re doing isn’t good enough. That simply being alive and functional every single day isn’t enough.
How rude is that?
Instead, you should extend love toward your body simply because it allows you to experience the world.
As soon as I began loving my body for what it did, I became more in tune with my body than I ever was before.
I realized that it actually feels good to lift weights. That my body screams when I run on the treadmill, but squeals with excitement when I do a spin class on a stationary bike. That fruits and veggies fuel me, and pizza and fries drain me. (But, like, not so much that I avoid them completely, of course.) That alcohol makes me feel like I’m actually going to die, and serves absolutely no purpose in my life.
My entire life, my body was telling me this, but I never listened. I was too busy poking, pinching, and analyzing it to simply listen to it. Until now, of course. And it has made a world of difference.
Give your body consistent encouragement
As long as society, the media, and others’ opinions are around, I think we’ll always need to actively make our relationships with our bodies a priority. It doesn’t come naturally.
Think of it as a friend. You wouldn’t just give your friend some advice when they’re going through a tough time and then disappear, right? You would check in here and there. Make sure they’re still doing okay. Give them words of encouragement. See if there is anything you can do to help them even more.
That’s the same relationship we need to have with our bodies. After all, we only get one body, so we might as well show it as much love and encouragement as humanly possible.
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