As somebody who had an eating disorder for much of my younger years, you can imagine I spent a lot of time feeling like my body was a functional but disgusting piece of equipment. As somebody who recovered from an eating disorder, you can imagine I’m pretty into the body positivity movement! And whoa, boy, I am! To me, it is a refreshing drink of water to be encouraged to loudly enjoy the body you are in, whatever body that may be. To me, it’s the idea that even if you want to change the way you look, or if you’re insecure and weird about your knees or stomach or whatever, you are still allowed to enjoy and like the body you have at the moment. I spent a lot of time complaining and focusing on the ‘after’ photo I might soon become, and ignoring and despising the ‘before’ I felt I was. That’s lame! It doesn’t help! My body and your body do so many amazing things—it briskly walks to the store to spend all your money on something irresponsible, it hugs friends and sits on comfortable couches, it makes drinks and dances to stupid songs at even worse bars—that I might as well thank it once and a while.
But I still have a lot of creepy little demons that remind me it would be easier to self-loathe, or go back to the habits that made my eating disorder the evil dictator of most of my college days, and it’s hard to push them away. But push them away I do, the best I can. It’s not easy to consistently love your body when you’re inundated with images of perfection all the time, or diet commercials, or BIKINI BODY crap, or you're just riddled with a classic case of bad self-esteem. In theory, the idea of enjoying your body is nice, but in practice, it can feel impossible. So here’s my advice to get a little better at it, coming from someone who spent a lot of time treating my body like a toxic waste site:
1. Try To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
The same thing happens almost every time---I’m going out to meet friends, so I put on an outfit that makes me feel like I am a hot, evil sorceress. I feel amazing. I head to the bar, confidence almost through the roof….and bam! I start to compare myself to every other, hotter woman there, and then I feel like I look like a blobfish. It’s awful, and stupid. It’s easy to compare yourself to people because there are so many hot people in the world. They are everywhere. But you cannot compare yourself to them on some arbitrary scale you’ve invented to insult yourself. You are not competing for hottest person at dive bar. The world isn’t that website HOT OR NOT. It’s just a place people go to pollute before they die. And all of those people have massive insecurities about things that you would never know about. It’s just not worth it to compare yourself to people you can never be. It takes you out of the moment and brings you down. So do your best to stare and ADMIRE people, not stare and COMPARE. And if you’re having trouble with this, just turn to a friend and casually ask “how do I look? “ and they will give you compliments and you will be reminded that you are attractive. And you are to someone people, and you aren’t to others! Who cares? Someone once told me that they didn’t think Jennifer Lopez was pretty. That is living proof that some people are delusional and wrong, and also you can’t please everyone. So stop trying!
2. . Know What Makes You Happiest And Healthiest
Sometimes, you need to realize you’ll feel bad about your body for a valid reason. You know when you’re eating so much salt you feel bloated, or drinking enough that it makes your skin look tired. You know when your pants feel tighter than usual, or you’re feeling more sluggish, or you haven’t worked out in a week. You’re allowed to point these out and go “I think it’s time to take care of myself a little better!” Liking your body isn’t an excuse to do whatever you want to it in the name of revolution, if that thing is harmful. You can have criticisms of it that come from a place of health and well-being, not from a place of “my knees are fat and I’m a worthless seahorse that has an odd-shaped head.” You can want to improve yourself in a way that benefits you! So love your body by LEARNING it. Learn the diet that keeps you feeling the most energized. Cut out dairy if you know it makes you feel gross. Try to move around and run and get out in the sun. Respect it, and you will learn to appreciate it.
3. . Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone..In Baby Steps
I’ve been recovered from an eating disorder for a while, but I still have never worn a bikini to the beach! Is it because I can’t get over my dislike for my stomach? A LITTLE! But that is okay. I am working on it. You do not have to be the body positive champion of the world. You can take baby steps. I wore a backless outfit recently. I worked out in just a sports bra. You can do little things before you make big leaps---you can take selfies before you take full-body shots. You can wear a tankini or monokini to the beach like me. And you can be proud of yourself for whatever you do that steps you out of your comfort zone, but I think you should do it! At the very least, it will make you can.
4. . Learn From Bad Days
When you have a bad day where you feel like dog doo, and you just want to physically remove yourself from your body and spend the day avoiding mirrors, know that is okay. But go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and ask yourself what the heck just happened. Are you extra stressed? Did you spend the night before drinking? Are you worried about things you cannot control? When you have a bad day, do two things: examine the behaviors that lead up to it, so you can point out what makes you react in this way, and keep moving. Forgive yourself, realize that nobody is perfect, and don’t let it ruin the rest of your week.
5. . Remember: You're Not Perfect And That's Okay
Eh, it’s completely unrealistic to love every part of yourself all the time. It’s okay to have bad days, or even weeks where you don’t want to revel in your body. You might never completely love all the parts of yourself. And that's fine. But what you can do is do better. It's what you owe yourself. You can actively make a promise to yourself that you won’t treat yourself like you are sack of rotting meat. You can actively promise you will work on your mental and physical health by treating yourself well. And you can do it when you can! Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s never worth it.