My daughter was just about 10 months old when we were invited to a friend’s birthday party. It was a swim party. It was a beautiful day. Not too hot, not too cold, and the water was perfect. My husband jumped right in the water with my little one, but I hesitated. After a quick self-evaluation, I realized I was a bit self-conscious about being in a bathing suit in front of the other guests.
Now you may be thinking (I know I was), this is a body-positive, nutrition and wellness expert. How could she feel that way? The short answer is that I live in the same diet-crazed and appearance-focused world you live in. It gets to all of us. But we can choose how we let it impact us and those around us. Given the right mindset and self care strategies we can choose to rock the bodies we have, whether on the beach, at the pool, at work, at the gym or in our homes.
Try to recognize and focus on these body-positive thought shifts:
1. First, and probably the most obvious, if you can get that body of yours to a beach and park it in the sand, you have a beach body.
2. Recognize that healthy bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. There’s no point in trying to look like a celeb on a magazine cover. Did you know that those celebs don’t even look like that? Over 95 percent of media images are altered (not real). We can rock our different sizes and unique shapes. Theodore Roosevelt’s quote—“Comparison is the thief of joy”—provides perspective for us, even today.
3. Practicing gratitude for the working bodies we have can help refocus negative body thoughts. Try my little spin on the famous line from The Help: You are strong. You are beautiful. You are capable. Repeat as often as needed.
4. Try to let go of the “if/then” attitude. Being happy in the body you have is possible, even if you’re working on making it healthier. We often think if we choose to be content, we’ve become complacent. That’s simply not the case. We can find health and happiness along the way.
5. Recognize that you are capable of practicing body acceptance, whether you’re parked in the sand, a pool chair, the kitchen table, work or in your car. This means no negative body talk about yourself in your mind or aloud. And, of course, no negative talk about someone else’s body either (because we all know that’s not our business and could cause harm).
6. Try to focus on the power of modeling self-love. Imagine your little sister, niece or your child looking up to you (or me). How could it make them feel if you say you’re “not this enough” or “that enough” or “too whatever” to go to the beach? We have the amazing ability to positively influence those around us by choosing self-love and acceptance. When Aunt Liz says she “hates her thighs” and Aunt Liz is the most beautiful woman in the world to her niece, it’s very possible this could be the trigger for a lifetime of body dissatisfaction.
7. Remember that experience trumps appearance. So what happens if you don’t get out on the beach (the dance floor, the doctor’s office, the dinner club)? It’s very likely that you lose what could have been a delightful or enlightening event. Choosing the experience is the first step in making wonderful memories.
So about that day at the pool with my daughter…
I thought about how I’d feel if I missed playing in the pool with her that day, and I chose the experience. I jumped in and we had a blast. It can be hard at times, but we always have a choice. Actually, choosing to love our bodies no matter what our current circumstances are is self care! Having a body-positive attitude is a decision we make every day. And it sure helps to know that we already have beach bodies!
This article was originally in posted at Style Blueprint Magazine in April 2015.