Body Image

How to love yourself in 8 really hard steps

16 June, 2009

Love Yourself

Body image has always been something I’ve been interested in and at uni it took the guise of identity and styling, or the ways in which individuals dress themselves in order to assume an identity. In my last 10 years as a fat woman who has never felt ashamed of being fat, I have thought a lot about how anyone who isn’t slim manages to style themselves. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible, and I’ve found it a kind of delightful challenge to style myself as a woman who fits into anything between an Australian size 20-24. I’ve had a particularly privileged journey to body acceptance, because I’ve had loving family, friends and partners along the way as well as access to incredible resources online. For many people, it’s not only difficult but upsetting, and when I’m asked how I can love myself or how I can help them love themselves… I’m often at a loss.

I figure though, that I’m in some kind of special position to help guide people to a place of contentment and, gasp, love when it comes to their bodies. In the past few weeks I’ve even begun to think that I could be some kind of coach – so this post is my first draft: A guide to loving yourself in 8 challenging but rewarding steps!

1. Talk about your body.

I think one of the reasons why so many people are ashamed of their bodies is because they aren’t really sharing what actually goes on. It’s all about normalisation – share all the fun stuff, the scary stuff and the downright weird stuff with your friends, family and children so we don’t treat ourselves like alien entities.

2. When someone compliments you, just say thank you.

Don’t have a ready-prepared quip specifically designed to disarm the compliment giver. A compliment will not hurt!

3. Question the things you used to take for granted.

When you hear a report on tv or the radio about the obesity epidemic, question where they got their information from. The American study that is so oft quoted figured the number of deaths from obesity at 400,000 but unfortunately none of the media agencies pulled their flailing arms out of the air when that figure was brought down to 25,814. That’s a huge revision, and while the CDC released the revised number, the media and marketing people clung to the hype (interesting article from the Skeptical Inquirer). Turns out, reducing the “Obesity Epidemic” to a load of bunkum doesn’t make anyone money. Question every thing you see and hear about the Obesity Epidemic OOGA BOOGA – you usually find that the people funding these studies have fingers in a few interesting puddings (eg: those nutrient devoid Weight Watchers desserts!)

4. Don’t assign good or bad values to food and exercise.

When you eat something because it’s “good” or exercise because it’s “good” you’re just punishing yourself. Do things that you actually factually ENJOY and the reward will be twofold. Listen to your body and it’ll tell you the things it needs to eat, and the activities it needs to partake in. This is one of the key parts of Health At Every Size – by “honouring your body” you’ll consume things that you’re absolutely besotted with, and move because it moves you.

5. Wear clothes that fit you and make you feel good.

Shame is the worst way to motivate yourself, and it will work against you by letting you down AND making you feel bad. And feeling bad is not the objective here – feeling fabulous is! Clean out your wardrobe and dump every single item of clothing that makes you feel bad about yourself. Do not keep items aside because you think you’re going to fit into them one day – give them to someone who can actually wear them! Hold a swap party like I did, donate to your favourite organisation or give special things away to special friends.

6. Think about activities you’ve always wanted to do but have been too scared to try – and do them.

Take joy from moving your body in ways that you actually take pleasure in, and get out of the rut of thinking that you only need to go to a gym or use home equipment. This is not about “having to” it’s about “wanting to”. By doing what you want, you’ve got an inbuilt motivational mechanism right there. So many people wonder why they end up wasting their gym memberships – it’s probably because they don’t actually enjoy it. So find something you absolutely love! Join a roller derby team or a synchronised swimming group, learn how to ice skate, or go rock climbing. Move in ways that make sense to you!

7. Don’t weigh yourself.

In Screw Inner Beauty, the authors sum it up perfectly: if your clothes fit the way they did yesterday, you don’t need to freak out. Throw out your scales – they are just little electronic demons squatting in your bathroom, making you feel rotten.

8. No negative self talk.

This is a hard habit to break, but once you tell yourself that you’re going to be on the watch for negative self talk, you’ll notice that you can usually flag yourself as you’re thinking terrible things. Tell your friends and family that you are a “negative self talk free zone” – and you won’t put up with negative self talk from yourself or from them! I extend this to “no diet or weight loss talk” but it depends how far you want to go. I consider weight loss talk to be incredibly harmful, and forbid it from my conversations.

9. Bonus (and compulsory) step: Tell yourself you are awesome.

Look in the mirror, do a little dance, and congratulate yourself for being fricking brilliant.

Never think that those who accept their bodies never have a moment of doubt, because it’s only human to have those low moments. What gets easier is bouncing out of those low times. I’m not even going to begin to kid you on this: changing the way you perceive your body is incredibly hard work. The alternative is the status quo, so you may as well start today because you’re just wasting time! I strongly believe that every person is capable of loving and honouring themselves and that we all have the right to at least give it a burl!

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  • Wanderwoman88

    Love your commentary!! Now, if I could only convince my body of the same. I just learned I have Type 2 Diabetes and have been told to strictly watch what I eat.

    Truth is, unless we are eating a certain way, health issues are sure to arise. I surely wish this wasn’t so because I get so tired of dieting.

    Love you from “So Tired”

  • I need to tell you that you are just awesome. I am so glad to have found your blog. After having to explain to people why that Marie Claire article was so upsetting for the past three days, I am pleased to find a place where I feel good about myself again.

    Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Oh my, what a pretentious load of BS. If we all were only as arrogantly intelligent as you think you are., what a wonderland the world would be.

  • Pandela

    I love you.

  • normal

    It’s not ok to be obese you stupid fucks. It is directly adverse to your health and if you spend all your time trying to feel better about how overweight you are instead of doing something about it you’re a retard.

  • I can tell you really care about me.
    Have a wonderful new year and don’t trip over anything or get kicked in the shins!

  • thanks for this feelgood words :))

  • Maree

    Question every thing you see and hear about the Obesity Epidemic OOGA BOOGA – you usually find that the people funding these studies have fingers in a few interesting puddings (eg: those nutrient devoid Weight Watchers desserts!)”

    ‘Ooga booga’? Do you need to use a racist term to make your point? I had to stop reading there.

  • Hi Maree, I am really sorry if I used a racist term. Obesity Epidemic “ooga booga” is a term used freely in the fatosphere and I had absolutely no idea it was offensive. I’ll revise the blog post, I am very sorry. Upon a bit of googling I have found that it was a term used by the British Army to describe Sudanese people… it’s absolutely unacceptable for us to keep using this phase even if it was originally referencing the “boogeyman”.
    Thanks for letting me know,
    Natalie.

  • LindaForsland

    Hi! What a nice blog you have! I love the picture in this post, and since I´m nowhere near having the capasity to making pictures/drawings like that for my blog myself, I´m bold enough to borrow it for my blog about inner peace and balance (in norwegian). If you don´t want to share it, let me know and I´ll take it of emediately. Thank you thus far.

  • Hi Linda, thanks for asking! People very rarely ask for permission when they use my graphics so it’s really nice to be asked :D
    Of course you can use it, and if you pop a link back to this post I’d really appreciate it!

  • Pingback: Fatshion « ~*Miss E*~()

  • “This
    is really a very fascinating post, thank you for sharing!

    You will find numerous blogs on this topic but this 1 states precisely what I think also.”

  • gilly

    How is this a racist term? I’ve never heard anyone get offended by this, unless they are a chimpanzee or somethin… 

  • I love this. I linked this page to my blog-I hope that’s alright? I also have your awesome “nodiet talk” badge up on there too! It makes me feel really good that there are people out there that understand that the world and the people in it are not a “one-size-fits-all” (as in size 0) and that narrow attitude has gotta be done away with! Thanks!

    Mina

    http://www.justsourenough.blogspot.com 

  • Pinkbabygirl19

    you are by far the best consultor for learining how to love yourself i was looking online ways to love myself and you said it best sister i know your advice will work unlike others with so called advise it doesnt take a genius to know :)

  • This may sound silly but one of the ways I began to mend my self-esteem
    was to dance the way I felt like dancing and not the way others were
    able to mimic popular dance moves.

  • Liz

    I also just recently took up sewing (again). I have added contrasting ruffles to several short skirts and have received so many compliments! I love your idea about re-working old clothing into something you’ll love! You’ve inspired me! Thanks!

  • Searching

    I’m sorry I think the heading of How to Love Yourself is wrong. It is a good article on how to accept your physical body but has little to do with love of self. I totally love my body but it is miss leading to say that to love your physical self is to Love Yourself! I am only just learning to do that and found that part of my confusion was that I accepted my physical body and therefore I did love myself. I was sadly mistaken and suffered all the things that go along with not having loved myself. Anxiety, depression, isolation etc. I’m just putting that out here .