Maybe you know someone who can’t pass by a mirror or window without giving his or her reflection a cursory glance…? Maybe this is a behavior you engage in as well. We’re always hoping to see “good news” aren’t we? We want the image looking back at us to be satisfying and attractive. Crossed fingers.
But here’s the thing: as much as mirrors are meant to “tell us true”— when it comes to how we process that image of ourselves staring back at us – we’re really only being told about the state of our relationship with ourselves. See, there’s a secret truth about what reflections are actually able to reveal to us, and the secret is this: a mirror can only show you how you feel about being you.It can never tell you how you look.
Let us explain.
Everyone wants to have that ideal body – the one we’re told is ideal through bodies of models and celebrities, film and magazines. But if getting the ideal body is all we need to have positive body image, then why do those who have spent the effort and money to train themselves into that perfect, appealing, approved physique still have days where they see their reflection and want to hide? What’s really going on here?
Creating an ideal body image is a lot like creating an ideal relationship. And like all relationships – it’s subjective. It’s all about the quality of your perspective.
Have you ever noticed that when you and your partner are really getting along — they’re just that much better looking? All of a sudden, you remember why you fell in love, there’s harmony and synchronicity. There’s something in how we feel about them that makes them completely irresistible. Now, does this mean that we struck the jackpot and ended up with a perfect or ideal relationship? Of course not! It’s simply a matter of connection that provides that wonderful loving state we share with our mate, and this same feeling is what allows us to have a compassionate and embracing perspective of their behaviors and actions.
Is it really any surprise then that these same principles come into play in our own relationships to our bodies? When we are in a harmonious relationship with our body, when we see it as a gift of our life, a blessing and not a curse, a partner to grow and change with, instead of the enemy – we look at our body and feel that much better about ourselves. We have a sense of vitality and purpose in our life because we feel connected. We remember that we have a gift to give in this life!
We may not have the “ideal body” as imagined by our collective culture – a body image dictated by the media and based on airbrushing – but we so have a loving body image, a body image that is realistic, compassionate and accepting. When we look at our reflection in the mirror when we experience a good relationship with our body – we see ourselves as a cohesive whole, versus a series of parts that seemingly appear to be disappointing. This gives us a chance to begin thinking about your body and your life with a higher purpose in mind!
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What your body looks like ultimately has nothing to do with building a healthy body image.
With the popular culture perpetually telling us how we should look, we have to take an active stance in creating a loving relationship with our body, and reclaim what having an ideal body means to us. Granted, some people will say this is backwards. Some will say that if we accept who we are and what we look like as is then we’re destined to be stuck that way forever: and we’ll never change or get to “where we want” or should want “to go” when it comes to our bodies. It’s because people see the word acceptance and surrender as terms of weakness. That we’re just giving up. But to keep putting it into relationship terms all you’re doing is saying yes to what’s true for you and releasing what is no longer working.
Sometimes you have to breakup free from a toxic relationship if you really want to experience growth and happiness. And it’s the same thing when it comes to your body. Especially if that toxic relationship is one we’re having with our own thoughts. Your body is not the enemy. And thankfully, we can improve our connection with our body by using relationship development skills.
This is why, here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, our world-renowned Professional Certification Training teaches how to address issues of body image. We understand how transformative a good relationship can be!
Here are 5 ways on how to love your body.
A basic for every relationship is to communication. Open and loving dialogue sets the stage for a healthy relationship. Many of us are either judging our body, or ignoring it.
Those snide remarks we lob at our body as we pass the mirror – “look at the size of those thighs” or “suck in that belly” – erode our body image. And is hurtful to our relationship. They keep us looped in an antagonistic dialogue with our body, which triggers a stress response. It’s next to impossible to allow ourselves to feel loving and accepting when we are locked into stress. Deliberately talking nicely to our body has the power to shift us out of a mean and unsupportive relationship with our body, based on an external body image, to a positive and loving, relaxed and healthy relationship, that ultimately supports our total wellbeing. We all respond well to an encouraging voice.
Talking nicely to our body means: replacing negative comments with positive or neutral comments, and seeking out kind, compassionate and supportive things to say to ourselves.
Move in a way your body loves:
Our bodies are designed to move, and we feel our best when we are active. Many of us are pushing our bodies to conform to exercise regimes that are not fun or pleasurable – they are based instead on the idea of whipping our bodies into shape. Our body requires a more sensitive approach. We do no benefit from being forced. Overly strenuous exercise puts us in a stress response, which taxes and weakens our system. When our body is in a relaxation state – including while we are in motion – our body is in its optimum immune response and metabolic state. Essentially we are healthier when we are not in a forcing and pushing relationship with our body.
Just like talking nicely is a way to create a joyful and kind relationship with our bodies, we want our choice of movement to help us feel like we’re having a fun, free and relaxed experience in our body.
Moving in a way that our body loves, means experimenting with forms of movement that make you smile and are authentically joyful. What that is, is unique to each of us, but it could include: dance, walking in nature, gentle-yoga, swimming etc.
Eat food that you enjoy, and make you feel your best:
There are two parts to this strategy of loving our body. The first is: recognizing what foods we enjoy. The second, and equally important part, is noticing if those foods we enjoy actually make us feel good. Like really good, down to our toes!
This requires being attentive to the foods that give us pleasure – not only pleasure in the moment of eating – but also pleasure in our body after we eat them. What we’ll often find is that the foods that fit into both categories – food we enjoy, and food that make us feel good – are often high-quality, homemade, organic, farm fresh foods.
Create quality time by slowing down:
Just like a relationship between two people needs quality time, so does our relationship with our body. We can’t get to know what gives us pleasure or what allows us to truly relax, unless we give ourselves the time and space to slow down and feel.
Creating time to relax and tune in to our body allows us to learn the language of our body – which is sensations. The more we can be attentive to our sensations, the better we are at listening to the needs of our body. The more we respond to our needs, the better we feel, and the more able we are to have a positive and healthy body and body image. Quality time with our body means creating sacred time for ourselves, which can include: relaxing baths, massages, meditating, yoga-nidra (yogic sleep).
Take in the good – focus on what’s working
All relationships benefit when we focus on what’s working. What we focus on is exactly what will grow. A gratitude practice is a powerful way to connect to what’s working in our relationship with our body. A gratitude journal gives us the opportunity to become aware of what’s working and then the act of writing helps us take it in on a deeper level.
To recap: these are 5 practices to help us love our body:
- Talk Nicely:
- Move in a way your body loves:
- Eat food that you enjoy, and makes you feel good:
- Create quality time by slowing down:
- Take in the good – focus on what’s working
Taken all together, we find the tools we need to step away from the cultural ideal body image to an authentic, positive and healthy relationship with our body. Turns out that old adage is true: the mirror never lies… It will always immediately reveal the state of your relationship with the most important body in the room: Yours!
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