A few days ago, an old photo popped up on Facebook memories that made me realise how far I’ve come on my self-love journey. So I posted a transformation/comparison pic on my Instagram story about learning to love your body.
The old photo was from 2009 – a time when I had a lot of insecurities. Don’t get me wrong, I was confident on the outside and regularly wore what my Mum referred to as “barely there” outfits. Sorry Mum. And I did actually think I loved my body at the time.
But I spent years practically starving myself. And if I ever ate more than I deemed an ‘acceptable’ amount of food, I’d stay up late exercising as a form of punishment.
How could I have possibly thought that was ok!? Oh the shame. I feel embarrassed to tell you what I’ve just said, but I want you to know I’ve been there – I know how it feels to not love your body.
But now I adore my body!
You see, my body has changed a lot in the 11 years between these photos. I’ve grown a lot over the years…emotionally, mentally, spiritually AND (obviously) physically.
And I can honestly say the only thing I miss about the person I was in the first photo is my tongue piercing. I want that back!
When I posted this comparison pic the main difference I noticed was my legs. Now, I’m not saying skinny is bad or that we should all have bigger legs. My Iove for my body hasn’t grown because my legs are bigger. In fact, 2009 me would’ve freaked right out at the size of my legs today!
I’m only pointing that part of my body out to remind you that shrinking your body isn’t the magic gateway to happiness. I know because I spent years thinking it was!
Like so many others, I was desperate to have a thigh gap…as though that would somehow fix all of my problems. Or make my existence on this planet more worthwhile.
Anyway, fast forward 11 years and out of everything that’s changed for me, I believe the main changes have been on the inside… How I look at life in general. And how I look at my body.
After posting my Instagram comparison pic, so many people messaged me asking how I learnt to love my body that I’ve been inspired to write a post about it…
Don’t worry – I’m not just going to tell you to look in the mirror every day and say ten things you love about your body. I know it involves more than that.
Besides, saying something out loud repeatedly doesn’t make it true. Otherwise I’d spend my life walking around muttering under my breath “Zac Efron will fall in love with me”.
But there is one major thing you can do that will help you learn to love your body…
Stop valuing your body purely based on how it looks
This won’t happen overnight, but trust me – if you start seeing your body as more than just something that looks a certain way your relationship with it will change.
So how can you do this?
Set goals for your body that have nothing to do with how it looks
In order to love your body, you don’t need to change your body. You just need to change your goal.
When my body goals were all based on weighing a certain amount or looking a certain way I never truly loved my body. And on the occasion that I felt super confident, all it took was a ‘fat day’ or a bad experience with changing room mirrors to completely ruin my mood.
By the way, clothes shop changing rooms are the devil. Seriously, what is going on with the lighting in there!?
Anyway, when I changed my goals to focus on what my body could DO instead of just how it LOOKS my whole perception of my body changed. Instead of wanting to fit into a size 6 I wanted to be able to do 6 push-ups. And instead of wishing the number on the scales would go down, I started doing my best to push the number of weight plates on the barbell up.
And over time I started caring a lot less about whether my body looked a certain way because I began feeling immense pride in what my body was capable of achieving.
Make sure your goals are things you actually want to achieve
You all know I’m addicted to handstand training! So a lot of the upper body strength training I do is focused on improving my handstands. But if you have zero desire to do a handstand don’t just copy my goal.
And certainly don’t just pick a random goal because you feel you should choose it. Think of something you’d actually like to be able to do.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to dance…so set a goal to complete a full routine in a class nailing each step. Or perhaps you wish you could surf…so learn to surf! Seriously, one of the best achievements I’ve ever felt was when I first popped up on a surfboard. I’m pretty rubbish at surfing but it still makes me feel incredible when I go. And it definitely makes me feel proud of my body for being able to surf…albeit not very well yet.
You get the point, right?
The most important thing to remember when setting these goals is to make sure they’re pushing your boundaries beyond your comfort zone…
If you’re going to change the way you feel about your body then it needs to achieve things you didn’t think were possible.
Ok, so you’ve set some goals for your body that have nothing to do with how it looks. Now what?
Actually work towards those goals. Each time you exercise, keep those goals in mind and do things that will help you achieve them. There’s no point in setting a goal to do a cartwheel or run a full 5km if you’re not actually working towards it.
So every single day, do something that gets you closer to achieving your goal. Even if it’s something small, each step counts.
And track your progress… That way if you do have a bad day you’ll be able to look back and realise how much you’ve already achieved.
Keep it all about what your body can do
I’ll be honest – we live in a world where it’s almost normal for us to hate our bodies. I mean, so many companies profit from us hating our bodies. We’re constantly surrounded with messages trying to make us feel like we need to look better.
Think about it…how many adverts have you seen today for anti-ageing creams, weight loss products, cellulite lotions, etc? They’re everywhere! On TV, magazines, buses, trains and social media. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid them for a full day, let alone for the rest of your life.
So if you always place your value on your looks, your acceptance of your body will be susceptible to change at any time.
But if your goal has nothing to do with appearance you’ll be too busy focusing on how awesome your body can be to care about whether you’re up to date with the latest body trend.
You might be thinking “Ok, I’ll set the goals and TRY to change my focus from how my body looks to how it feels. But what if it doesn’t work?”
I won’t pretend this is a quick fix. It’ll take time. And you’ll undoubtedly have moments where you feel like you’ll never be able to shift your focus from how your body looks. But just keep working toward those awesome goals you’ve set. Maintain your focus on that.
And never forget that two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward.
Also, unfollow anyone on social media who makes you feel insecure or inadequate. You know what I’m talking about – those accounts where you instantly start comparing yourself as soon as their photos pop up.
Instead, start following people who can do the things you’ve set as goals. Their posts will inspire you!
So if your goal is to swim a certain distance, follow awesome swimmers! Or even synchronised swimming accounts (because they’re bloody brilliant). If your goal is to do a backflip and you’ve joined a local gymnastics class, follow gymnasts on social media.
This is one of the main changes I made with my social media a long time ago and it majorly helped.
Only follow people who inspire and motivate you to be the best possible version of yourself. Those people post the kinds of things that will motivate you to get out there and train towards your goals.
Your value is not based on your appearance
Please remember that learning to love yourself doesn’t mean shrinking yourself. I know because I got down to such a tiny frame that even some size 6 clothes were too big for me. And I wasn’t happy.
I’ll be honest…the old me didn’t have any cellulite. My arms didn’t wobble when I waved either. But I was unhappy on the inside because I made the mistake of thinking that shrinking myself was some kind of gateway to self-love. It’s not.
Sure, I have cellulite on my legs now. But those legs can box jump a box almost half my height! And do incredible pistol squat jumps!
In fact, I have loads of badass party tricks since I shifted my focus to what my body can achieve through calisthenics training. And I feel proud of my body every time I even think about what it can do.
And yeah, my arms wobble when I wave. But those arms can do over 30 push-ups in a row! And they can carry my full week’s worth of food shopping from the car to my home in one trip. Badass and handy – great combo.
Am I completely immune to body insecurities? Hell no!! I have ‘fat days’ and times when I hate everything in my wardrobe because I feel like none of it looks good on me.
But those days are few and far between. And now when those thoughts do pop up I just remember how badass my body can be…and then I get on with my day.
I mean, yes I do care about how my body looks. I’m not going to lie. But I care far more about the fact my body is healthy (most of the time anyway – I do have health conditions to deal with).
And the fact my body works all day just to keep me alive so I can walk, run, jump and play. I had to fit playing in there because we all know I’m a big kid.
So you get the point, right? Think of the things you’d love your body to be able to do, then make it happen!
Change your focus so instead of wanting your body to just LOOK great, it can actually DO great things.
This is your one life. We only get one. Do you really want to spend it hating your body and wishing it looked a different way? Or do you want to take the focus off how you look and actually create a life you love celebrating all of the incredible things your body can do when you believe in it?
Our bodies are capable of so much more than most of us realise. All you have to do is set the goal, focus on it and believe in your own ability. Then once you achieve that awesome goal, send me a video or photo. I want to celebrate with you!
Love your body because of the incredible things it’s capable of when you choose to believe in it.
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If you fancy trying calisthenics training, like me… You could join me training at the fantastic Sequoia Movement in Devoran, Cornwall.
Or check out online classes from the first people to ever help me discover what my body was capable of a few years ago – The School of Calisthenics.