Why Loving Your Body is Good for Your Health (And How to Start)
Do you find it hard to look at yourself in the mirror without feeling completely unworthy?
Can you come up with an infinite number of ways in which your body needs to improve?
Are you constantly comparing your physique to those around you - and does that have an effect on the way you feel about yourself?
Then you may be bringing your body out of its natural state of harmony. Here's how to change that.
It's the end of Spring: the final dash for the beach body is upon us. Summer is fast approaching and with it comes the eternal longing for the bikini body, the 8-packs and the tanned skin.
Magazines and websites everywhere have suddenly all discovered the "Secret solution to your ideal body" (in just 3 days), and the adverts on TV resemble episodes of Baywatch.
The body is everywhere. Like a celebration, a festival.
Yet statistics are showing that most of us are unhappy with the way we look.
The figures are staggering:
A UK Government report from 2012 shows that 60% of adults feel ashamed with the way they look. That's nearly two thirds of us with negative body image!
It starts pretty young too: 34% of teenage boys and 49% of teenage girls have already been on a diet to change the way they look.
And in the States over 50% of teenage girls are or think they should be on a diet to lose the 40 pounds they gain NATURALLY between the ages 8 and 14. 3% of these teens will actually end up anorexic or bulimic.
It's an epidemic, my friends. A worldwide disease that affects many, if not most of us - myself included.
The power of advertising
Let's face it: no matter how strong you are, we are all influenced by the adverts around us.
Through decades of research and development, marketers have found the best ways to convince us to buy ANYTHING, by using subconscious cues that few of us recognise.
In his book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion", author Robert Cialdini explains that we are hardwired to prefer people with the strongest, most beautiful physiques.
Because they are most likely to provide the better genes. He calls it the "Like" factor: it's Survival of the Fittest gone crazy.
In one study, men rated a car as better performing on all levels compared to another, without even seeing the statistics. Purely because there was a beautiful girl standing next to it.
That's how affected we are. As Robert Cialdini puts it; our minds go "Click-Whurr". We suddenly need to buy those shoes, that car or that handbag.
No wonder advertisers are using unrealistic body types to promote their products: it makes business sense.
Hot body = increased sales
And you know what? The same UK Government report shows that 75% of people consider media, advertising and celebrity culture to be the main influences on body image.
So although it may lead to a healthy jump in profits, it's also the main cause of unhealthy body image.
The effect of advertising
Here's another awesome statistic for you: only 5% of the population could ever realistically attain the ideals presented in the media.
So there's a HUGE difference between what we see, what we want and what we can actually be.
In the US, one survey showed that 80% of women say that "images of women on television and in the movies, fashion magazines and in advertising makes them feel inferior."
Comparing ourselves to others is an instinctive behaviour that many of us engage in. Especially when it comes to looks. In the UK, "32.4% of straight men and 59.2% of gay men compare their appearance to people who are better looking than they are".
You see, most of us are unaware of our limitations. Instead, we compare ourselves to what we are shown. We notice the major gap between what we currently are and our ideal-yet-unrealistic physique. We judge it to be a negative. And we feel bad about it.
It reinforces the "I Suck syndrome", and becomes just another reason for why we are unworthy, undeserving and unlovable.
How it affects your body
We are a huge collection of cells. 50 trillion or so in fact. And all cells respond to moment-by-moment signals from your brain.
In "Ageless Body, Timeless Mind" Deepak Chopra tells us to “look at your physical body as a printout of signals sent back and forth between your brain and every cell. (...) Thousands of decisions are being made in the mind-body system every second, countless choices that enable your physiology to adapt to the demands of life”.
Here's an extract from my upcoming eBOOK:
"So when you think all those negative thoughts about yourself, you're in fact telling every single cell in the your body, all 50 trillion of them, that they’re not worthy.
And do you really think that that is conducive to optimal function and weight release?
I think not.
Instead, your body behaves like a beaten animal. It shivers in the corner, waiting for a sign of love that never comes. It responds to neglect or mistreatment by being out of harmony from its natural state, leading to weight gain, tightness or illness."
You see: you are in constant communication with your body. Each thought, word and action has consequences.
How to Love Your Body
1. You Are Your Own Referee
You are a perspective.
No, that's not an insult. What do I mean by that?
Everything you've ever seen, experienced and done has brought you to your present self-image. This image is built on the meanings you've given to your body and to its shape, size, colour.
You see, these meanings are your own perspective. No one else on the planet ever has or ever will have exactly the same opinion.
And the beauty of it is that you can change your self-image, simply by telling a better story about yourself.
You are your own referee: you are the judge of what is beautiful and what is not. You can choose to beat yourself up for the way you look, or celebrate it instead.
2. Practicing Acceptance
There are only two ways to look at your current situation: you can resist it or you can accept it.
Most of us are in a constant state of resistance: we hold on to our expectations, our scripts, our stories and we try to control what happens to us. When something isn't as we think it SHOULD be, we focus on what it is not.
We are blind to the reality, oblivious to the greatness. Instead, we resist the way things are.
Acceptance is one of the first steps towards loving your body.
What is acceptance? True acceptance is seeing a situation, or in this case your body, as if you had created it yourself. It's stepping into your own power, not blaming others for it. You may wish to change somethings about yourself, of course, but until you accept your body the way it is RIGHT NOW, you will be in a state of resistance.
Try it now: what would it feel like to fully accept yourself, your body and your current situation? Notice how your whole being relaxes at that thought?
The more comfortable you can be with what you have, the happier you will be. Taking steps everyday to feel acceptance about the way you look will bring great change
3. Gratitude NOT attitude
We all come in different shape and sizes. Thats the beauty of our world. Perfection is in the imperfection, in the chaos, in the weird and the bizarre. Its in our quirkiness and our differences.
Make time every day to celebrate the good stuff about your body.
Sure, at times that may feel pretty hard, especially if you're more the mental self-harming type. But it is something that can be learnt, through practice and awareness.
Start by appreciating how your body works, its function and its abilities. When was the last time you were thankful for having your feet to carry you around, to walk, run, dance, swim, etc.? Or for your heart for keeping you alive by pumping litre after litre of blood around your system?
It's so easy to get caught up in our stories about the way our bodies look that we neglect the way they work for us, every day and around the clock.
4. Treat it like your best friend (or your pet)
Would you tell your best friend that they are too fat or too ugly on a daily basis?
Would you neglect your pet's health until it gets sick or ill?
We often treat ourselves far worse that we would other people around us.
Like any relationship, the one you build with your body is an ongoing commitment to nurture, love and respect.
Take every decision as they come, and ask yourself the 4 QUESTIONS.
As you start to feel a more loving connection with your body, you will automatically make better choices, until taking care of yourself becomes as natural as it should be.
Plan today to do something loving towards your body. Maybe go for a long walk, take a nice relaxing bath or simply eat some good food. Notice how you feel when you do something great for yourself. Then come back here and write a comment with what you felt !
Love & Health