You realize you have an upcoming wedding to attend or a tropical vacation planned coming up on the horizon. What’s the first thing you do? Scurry to the gym and find some diet that promises to make you lose the weight just in time to wear that bikini or dress.
And maybe it works.
Maybe you do lose the weight just in time. You slip on that bikini or dress and feel good. Sexy. But then the event ends, you head back home and as you unpack your belongings from your suitcase, you also put away the dieting and exercising. You fall back into your old comfortable habits and routine.
Until, of course, the next vacation or event rolls around and once again you find yourself reaching for the same restrictive diet and exercise routine. Back on the hamster wheel you run. Sound familiar? It does for me at least.
The sad truth is that we often begin a health or fitness journey because there is something about our bodies that we hate, something that we wish to change. We cycle through phases of restriction to binging, from exercising compulsively to barely moving. And yet, we still expect our bodies to respond, to transform the way we imagined it should.
But the truth is, the more you criticize your body, the more likely you are to stay exactly the same. Why? Because you can’t hate yourself into transformation. This is why these fad and restrictive diets and spurts of exercise never stick and are dropped the moment we get back to real life.
True transformation begins when you choose to adopt healthy habits out of love for your body, out of gratitude for all that it allows you to experience daily. But how do we do this? How do we create a foundation of love? How do we fall in love with our body if there are so many things about it we wish to change? Here’s how:
1. Forgive yourself
Forgive yourself for all the years you have treated your body, your temple, as less than what you deserve. Forgive yourself for all the self-shaming that goes on in your head. Forgive yourself for all the times you have given up on your goals. Many times, we don’t pursue our dreams or stay consistent with the actions that we know will get us closer to that dream because we look back and remind ourselves of all the times we have given up or fallen off.
But hear me loud and clear: Your past mistakes are NOT a reflection of your potential. When you start to realize this, you will begin to have more compassion for yourself. You can’t change the past, so it does not serve you to dwell on your mistakes and shame yourself because of them. You can, however, learn from them and allow those lessons to help shape your future actions.
2. Choose to Love
Love is a choice. I know this may be difficult to grasp because love is such a powerful feeling. When you are in love, it can be all consuming. It is a feeling that almost seems out of your control. So how can it be a choice? Because before love, there was a choice. Before you loved your child there was the choice to have that child. Before you fell in love with your partner, you made the choice to pursue or let yourself be pursued by your partner. Love cannot exist without freedom of choice. The same works with your body.
Before you can love yourself, you must believe that you are worthy of love. You and only you must make that decision.
3. Show yourself love
Love is in action. Once you have decided that you want to love yourself, you must then treat yourself with love. And all that starts with how you speak to yourself. The easiest way to start is by speaking to yourself the same way you would speak to someone you love, like a sister, best friend, daughter, mother. Show yourself the same kind of love, compassion and patience you would show to that person.
This step may be the hardest because, if you are anything like me, you most likely have spent years criticizing every inch of your body. We magnify every flaw, every past failure or mistake and use it as proof that we are unworthy, that we are not good enough. But this is a lie! It will take time and practice to rewire our thinking and begin to change the way we speak to ourselves. And if I am honest, this is something I have to continue to work on to this day. But trust me, it is work worth doing.
Next, allow your actions to follow. Begin showering yourself with small acts of love. Give yourself a self-massage. Dress yourself in clothes that make you feel confident. Buy yourself flowers. Write down affirmations that say how beautiful you are in places you can easily and frequently see. Engage in activities that bring joy to your life, that light your heart on fire whether it is dancing, singing, hiking, volunteering. Do something small just for you every single day.
And there you have it!
Forgiving yourself, choosing to love yourself and treating yourself with love. These are the 3 steps to building a foundation of love that will support and propel any transformation you embark on.
I can’t promise you this will be easy. In fact I can guarantee that this will take time and intentionality on the daily. And it might be frustrating at times because internal progress is not easily measured. It’s not like you can measure the inches or weigh the pounds of body shame that have fallen off that week. I wish! But one day you will find yourself looking in the mirror, catch a glimpse of your cellulite and instead of immediately shaming yourself, you will feel gratitude towards the strong legs that carry you throughout your day. You will look in the mirror and see a good body, a temple you get to call your own.
And that, my friends, is work worth doing.