As a woman, and growing up in a sub culture surrounded by fashion, beauty and appearances, I admit I struggled as a teenager and still struggle with body image every now and then.
Whether it’s the amount of exercise I’m training with, that time of the month, water retention, hormonal imbalances, or food ruts, they all play a role in how my body fluctuates. Having acceptance of these changes can be challenging but it’s also a practice of acceptance and grace with my maturing, evolving self.
The beauty industry spends billions of dollars a year convincing women that they need to look thinner, younger and sexier. Social media is a culprit in emphasizing the importance of beautiful women by showcasing thinner framed models as the trending body image.
Back in the 1990s, Cindy Crawford brought in a new kind of image of models who looked healthy. She evoked a beautiful girl next door persona that was happy, healthy and fit all at the same time. How refreshing!!
Eating disorders are seen around the world in every industrialized country. But in Western culture, media has a huge influence on women’s body image, and as a result, we see higher rates of eating disorders in the West. Studies prove that media can have a negative impact on self image. TV, movies, magazines, the internet and social media all bombard us with images and pressures about what our bodies should look like. The problem is that their version isn’t realistic. These images are air-brushed versions of models who weigh 23% less than the average woman. This results in society believing that these are normal and attainable goals, and feels the pressure to live up to these standards of beauty. They will even go as far as to resort to unhealthy measures to try to fit themselves into that impossible mold.
Just recently I was sitting with my niece after dinner reflecting on a holiday vacation we went on. She looked through her phone to find a photo from the vacation and showed me a “thinner” version of herself in a bikini. Her first comment was. “I wish I was that skinny now,” and then she corrected herself and said, “Actually, not, I was really so unhappy then.” As someone deeply immersed in self-growth and introspective work, she was able to make the distinction of what a “healthy weight” looks like and the importance of being “happy” with herself, regardless of her body image.
To learn to love our bodies and accept ourselves is so vital for self love.
According to Louise Hay, “When people start to love themselves more each day, it’s amazing how their lives get better. They feel better. They get the jobs they want. They have the money they need. Their relationships either improve, or the negative ones dissolve and new ones begin.”
She suggests a beautiful morning routine to start the day with mirror work, and positive affirmations to make your day begin with a positive experience, but it has to start with loving yourself first.
Suggested tips for creating a healthier relationship with your body:
~Positive affirmations such as
“I love every cell in my body”
“I am beautiful just as I am”
“My self esteem is high because I honor who I am “
~Mirror work: Start your day by looking into the mirror, smiling at yourself and looking into your eyes saying something positive and loving to yourself.
~Be mindful of who you follow on social media: if you are following models be mindful to their background, are they living a healthy lifestyle?
(For example, I have always admired Christy Turlington. At first I admired her beauty, and as I followed her path, she was growing spiritually as a yogi, a mom, a marathon runner and today a philanthropist with great purpose helping woman globally.)
~Take on an exercise routine to create a healthy relationship. Reward and honor yourself for taking care of your body in a healthy way. Be mindful as to how much is too much. Excessive working out to where your body breaks down can lead to red flag results.
~Be conscientious of your diet. Eat a healthy diet, prepare your foods and take accountability, but don’t deprive your body of the essential nutrients and healthy fats needed.
~Accept! Our bodies are always changing and fluctuating. Create positive self dialogue with yourself. “It’s okay that my body is retaining water now, it will go down.” Or, “I enjoyed those delicious pies over the weekend that were so nourishing, and this week I will be more mindful about eating healthier.” Or, “I love my body, it deserves a treat after all the hard work I put in.”
~Immerse in spiritual practices that are deeper in meaning. Meditation Yoga and Spiritual Dharma talks are all examples of practices that will take you deeper into centering yourself where the emphasis on the external will become secondary.
`~Take on a hobby. I’m a big believer in the importance of keeping busy with hobbies. When we have too much time on our hands in can lead to bad and unhealthy habits. Tap into interests and find a class or workshop to embark on your hobby.
Photos in this story by Nihura Montel