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Learning to love yourself: it really is the greatest love of all. It has been said so much it is almost a cliche.
Oftentimes, those claiming to have transformed their bodies seem hell-bent on obsessively pursuing an inhuman perfection in a way that seems, shall we say, less than loving? When we talk about learning to love ourselves, can we really separate the body from the mind, or, if this language works for you, the soul?
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From countless interviews with the major influencers in weight loss and body transformation, we have come up with some guidelines for how to start loving your body, step by step.
Start from the inside out.
Instead of focusing on your appearance alone, start to work on your insides. Many of us need to hear messages that we missed in childhood.
The lack of this message, inside and out, can keep us on a treadmill, serving outdated beliefs about our own worthiness and whether we are loveable or not. In raising the issue of these lost childhood messages, we are not here to blame anyone, just to recognize that there may be a child inside who needs to be seen, held and validated for their basic worth.
That part that knows that they are precious and loved. We need nourishment to grow.
Here are a few lost childhood messages that can be very healing. Read these aloud and see which of them resonates with you; you may feel goosebumps, even tears in your eyes when you find the message that your heart hungers to hear.
You can then introduce this message into your life through daily affirmations, a repetitive mantra, and notes and artwork around the house that remind you of who you are. These simple phrases can leave a big hole when they are not expressed and internalized and often, we try to fill the hole with food, self-medication, and relationships, that can buffer the pain, but do not get to the source of it: our need for validation.
- You are wanted.
- Your presence matters.
- You will be taken care of.
- You are safe.
- You are good.
- You are loved for yourself.
- Your needs are not a problem.
- You are seen for who you are.
- You will not be betrayed.
Get a Gratitude Mindset
We all know how easy it is to focus on what is wrong with our bodies as a way of motivating ourselves to change. However, this overfocuses on what is wrong often comes down to self-hate vs. self-love.
No matter what your size, your body’s a miraculous gift from the universe. Created in incredible wisdom, with self-healing powers only beginning to be understood by science, your body is a marvel of integrated systems that allow you to move through this life and all its joys and sorrows.
Take a few minutes to breathe. As your breath moves in and out, feel the way the oxygen fills your lungs and provides feelings of well being as your breath slows and softens.
Meditate on your bones, cartilage, blood, and skin, all arranged to keep renewing themselves and working together to keep you alive. Think about your sexual organs like your breasts, womb, and organs of pleasure, which have or will allow you to enjoy sexual intimacy, childbirth, and raising and nourishing children.
Your face expresses your insides to those you meet. Your voice gives expression to thoughts, will, and wishes.
Every time you eat, your body processes the food you give it and turns it into energy. By focusing on the wonders of your body, you can cultivate gratitude for it, even though it is not perfect by any means.
But it is the only chariot in which you will travel through this world, and gratitude for its many functioning systems can add to our overall health, creating good vibes that foster good choices and self-love.
Even better, go outside. Breathe in the air of the outdoors, listen to any nature noises in your environment, and remind yourself that you, too, are a part of creation.
Check out the options, and choose a lifestyle, not a diet. Diets are not sustainable and tend to come out of feelings of self-criticism, and even self-hatred.
Extreme ways of eating, like weight loss, shakes, no carbs, diets too high in fats and animal protein, and all kinds of pills and sprays to take away your appetite, are all based on deprivation and an unrealistic desire to lose weight. The desire to go extreme often comes from feelings of body shame.
Radically reject these methods, and choose a lifestyle that becomes habitual, by getting into an eating lifestyle that is based on nourishing your body and cultivating health. This will always involve eating enough, and regularly enough, to feel satisfied, so that you don’t go crazy with hunger and eat the first thing you can find.
Adding vegetables to your diet, and having go-to, plant-based, low-calorie soups and salads to fill out your meals can really help. Make sure you have healthy foods around and try to keep junk food out of your house. Choose a diet you can sustain for life.
Another cliche, perhaps, but oh so true. Love comes from giving, so when you really learn how to care for your body, you learn to love your body.
Your body is really inseparable from you. By focusing on what your body really needs, and not just on the passing whims of what you want at the moment, you are showing your commitment to yourself and your own well being.
Self-care means getting enough rest, enough fun, and enough downtime, whether that means to rest or play. Water, nourishment, sleep, vitamins, and body care (baths and showers, skin and nail care, grooming, etc…), are all essentials for feeling good.
Get yourself clothes that you like, that fit both your body and your style. This doesn’t have to cost a fortune; second-hand stores can be great fun.
(If you don’t like shopping, find a friend who does; she’ll be more than happy to help). Your body needs a good balance between comfort and challenge, and lots of positive emotions that come from love, care, and feelings of well being.
Be in an active state of self-awareness, learning to give your body what it needs and your body will return that gift with increased health and wellness. Take the time to learn how to do this.
It is not easy, but it is worth it. Because learning to love your body is part of learning to love yourself.
This is the greatest gift of all.