10 tips to improve your relationship with your body and yourself this summer

“Body positivity” is a term that has become increasingly popular in recent years. But what does it mean to be body positive? And with summer on the horizon (and along with it, the problematic rise of articles on how to be ‘beach ready’), how can we all get better at ignoring fad wellness schemes and crash-dieting scams? Instead, how can we all move toward feeling comfortable in our own skin and loving or accepting our bodies, just as they are? That last question is what we’ll be addressing in this article: the tangible steps you can take in order to tune out negative body ideals, and instead focus on learning to love yourself and appreciating the ways your body serves you. Here is what we’ll be covering:

  • What is body positivity? 
  • 10 tips for increasing body positivity 
  • Body positivity, beauty, and final thoughts

Oh, and we think it’s worth noting here: though we want to emphasize the things you can do everyday to help how body positive you feel in your own skin, we want to acknowledge that – the forces behind the current ‘beauty standard,’ are incredibly powerful. As such, it is no surprise that feeling body positive on a regular basis can be very challenging. 

Don’t beat yourself up if you find feeling good about your appearance difficult some days – you are not alone! The goal of this article is to help you work towards self-love, self-acceptance, and body positivity, and that is a project in progress most of us are undertaking everyday. 

With that being said, let’s dive in. 

What is body positivity? 

Body positivity refers to the social movement that has taken place primarily on social media over the past 10+ years: it encompasses the idea that bodies of all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities are beautiful. Since it focuses on feeling good about your body in spite of fatphobic and eurocentric beauty standards, one could reasonably argue that body positivity is quite revolutionary. It questions the idea that only people who look a certain way can take up space in our society, feel good about themselves, or take any pride in their appearance. Instead, body positivity encourages the following at any size, shape, or ability: 

  • Feeling confident in your own skin 
  • Loving yourself
  • Accepting your appearance as it is

Though body positivity has a long way to go (most posts on Instagram and other social media platform are primarily published by able-bodied, straight-sized, young, privileged cis-gender women), body positivity has been extremely important in questioning our ideals around beauty, not to mention the way physical insecurities are promoted and subsequently leveraged by retail and makeup companies to turn a profit. Afterall, if we don’t see anything ‘wrong’ to fix, why do we need to buy their ‘solution’?

For those reasons, both body positivity and body neutrality have been immensely helpful in challenging trends and questioning (arbitrary) beauty standards. Specifically, while body positivity is about reaching full on self-love and self-acceptance, body-neutrality implies just that – neutrality. Some view it as a stepping stone on the way to body positivity, as during this intermediate phase we seek to live our lives without any strong feelings (good or bad) about our appearance. This is critical to healthy eating and good mental health, evidenced by the fact that negative body image is linked with lower self-esteem, depression, and unhealthy eating habits, according to findings reported by the American Psychological Association (APA).  

So what are some tangible steps we can take to feel a little more body-positive about ourselves? 

10 tips for increasing body positivity (or working towards neutrality)

  1. Notice how you speak to yourself

Many of us have negative thought patterns in our heads about our bodies, and we don’t even realize. Examples of negative thoughts may include, “my thighs are too big, I need to diet”, “my hair is so flat, it never looks good”, “my eyes are too close together”, “my lips are too thin”, and on it goes. Often, the common trend among these thoughts are the following: 

  • You might not even consciously notice the thought as it crosses your mind; it just zips through as an undercurrent of negativity
  • They are recurring (you hyperfocus on the same ‘flaws’) 
  • You make broad statements in your mind (e.g. “No one could ever find x attractive”), which can also be overgeneralizing 

Try to consciously tune into the thoughts you have about your body for a week or so. Notice what you say to yourself. Chances are, you will find yourself thinking negative thoughts you didn’t even notice up until now. If this is the case, we recommend as the first step that you replace these negative thoughts with positive judgment statements. Specifically, consider talking to yourself the way a good friend would: with compassion and understanding.

For instance, instead of thinking ‘I hate my thighs’, find something you do like about yourself: this can be your hair, your skin, your calves, your height, and so on. This can also include non-physical features, like ‘I’m so proud of what I achieved at work today’ or ‘I showed kindness in this instance, and I believe that’s reflective of who I am as a person.’ If this proves difficult at first, also consider unpacking these snap judgements: why do you hate your thighs? Who stands to profit from this insecurity (spoiler: many companies and industries, including the diet industry, the plastic surgery industry, and many retail clothing and makeup companies). Follow this line of thought up with some questions of your own: what do your thighs do for you that’s positive? And why can’t they be celebrated, instead? 

  1. Repeat mantras that de-emphasize the physical 

As women, we are taught to hyper-focus on appearance from a young age. This is a vicious cycle as we invest into our self esteem in how we look, and then our looks come to mean more to us, so we invest even more energy into not aging, not gaining weight, not looking ‘tired,’ and other fruitless endeavors that are simply a fact of life, not a shortcoming. 

Here are some mantras we love: 

  • “Aging is a privilege”
    • The fact is, not everyone gets to age. This means aging is inherently a beautiful, privileged, and unique experience. This can be hard to remember when we are being bombarded with skin-cream and anti-wrinkle commercials, but aging does not equal bad. Aging is a wonderful consequence of getting to live your life
  • “I am worth so much more than my appearance.” 
    • Your worth does not lie in your appearance. Qualities like how kind, generous, loving, and thoughtful you are matter much more: this is reinforced by the people you surround yourself with. Do they love you for your cheekbones, or do they love you for your heart and mind? 
  • “I am [insert adjective that you are proud of], ”. 
    • What are your non-physical qualities that you are most proud of? Are you funny, gracious, patient, or optimistic? Think of the traits that make you YOU. Remind yourself of these traits when you are tempted to place too much weight on your appearance.
  1. Lend yourself self-compassion on hard days 

According to psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb, there is a difference between self-esteem and self-compassion. Self esteem is how you think of yourself and how you feel about yourself in relation to others. It is a judgment: “am I good or bad?”. Self compassion is how you think about yourself as a human being. It is a kinder question: “am I human?”. This gives more room for getting things wrong, making mistakes, and having ‘bad’ thoughts that you can work on. 

Lending yourself self-compassion means reminding yourself that we are all doing the best we can, and reworking negative thoughts into more constructive, rational ones. For instance, is it ‘bad’ that you gained weight, or is it a reflection of how your body and its needs changed according to other events in your life?

Try not to condemn yourself with judgements. Try to sympathize with yourself the same way you would a good friend. 

  1. Curate your social media feed. 

Unfortunately, this is worth repeating a thousand times over: what you see on social media isn’t real. Thanks to Photoshop and FaceTune, almost any ‘flaw’ or ‘unideal feature’ can be edited, airbrushed, and completely done away with. Afterall, how many people in real life do you see looking the way Instagram influencers do? This reality is reinforced when we see that even in real life, they don’t look the way their social media feed presents. 

  • Consider avoiding Instagram creators that edit, FaceTune, or Photoshop their bodies 
    • There are plenty of content creators whose entire channels focus on separating Instagram from reality, without calling out anyone. They instead focus on showing two sides of the coin: the Instagram perfect posts we are all familiar with, as well as ‘behind the scenes’ photos that show a more well-rounded view. 
  • Be intentional about who you allow on your feed
    • Try to only allow creators on your feed who have a ‘neutral’ effect (they don’t harm your mental health, but they don’t fortify it either), or those who have a positive effect (those who make you feel better about yourself, or who you feel noticeably positive after viewing their content), and leave the rest. 
    • Initially, it might be helpful to unfollow any accounts you find you are comparing your body to. Once you’re ready for it, you might want to consider following creators that have similar body types for you and encourage body positivity or neutrality, or maybe even offer fashion inspiration and ideas.
  • Finally, if social media harms your ability to feel body-positive, consider taking a break
    • This might mean deleting Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook for a couple of weeks, or setting time limits each day as you limit your exposure.
  1. Allow yourself ‘bad days’ 

Sometimes we look in the mirror and we don’t feel good. 

Our bodies fluctuate in weight, size, appearance, and much more depending on hormones, external stressors, eating habits, exercise regimes, and medical issues. Why does society expect that we never expand or shrink as things change in life? Our bodies accommodate what we’re going through right now. On bad days, try to remind yourself of all the ways it is serving you (for instance, if you are able to make coffee by yourself, walk to work, or cook, these are all examples of ways your body is serving you). After that, acknowledge without judgment that maybe today isn’t the best body-image day, but remind yourself it won’t last forever. 

If or when thinking about your physical body is too much, find healthy distractions that make you just generally happy: maybe that’s sitting in nature, drawing, crafting, or listening to music. It might be helpful to generate this list ahead of time, and build joy-promoting self-care into your weekly or daily schedule, which brings us to the next tip…

  1. Prioritize self-care 

Think of all the things that make you feel like you. It could be going to the gym, reading a book, calling your parents, relaxing with your favorite Netflix show, and so on. Take a self-care night to do one or two of the above, where you get in touch with hobbies, passions, and interests that do not require you to think about your appearance. Take an evening to throw yourself into the things you enjoy and remind yourself that you are SO much more than your appearance. 

Remember to be intentional during this time! Put your phone on do not disturb and read with a cup of tea and a face mask, or invite friends over to make your favorite foods, or call your closest friend who always makes you feel good and catch up about what’s going on with each other. 

It can be incredibly helpful to schedule this time for yourself. If you wait to do self-care until your so-called ‘tank’ is empty, you might not have the energy to do it. Instead, think of scheduled activities as another way to rest, reset, and connect with your body so that you’re less likely to get burnt out.

  1. Stop counting the numbers 

This may mean avoiding weighing yourself (better yet, throwing out the scale). As we’ve already covered, BMI can be extremely problematic, not capturing even half of the picture of one’s ‘health’, and weight can be much the same. Weighing yourself daily (or with high frequency) is not good for your mental health. Instead focus on how you feel each day. Do you feel fatigued, or sluggish? If so, consider upping your vegetable or fruit intake, reducing the number of processed foods you consume, and focus on attaining a well-balanced diet. Also consider setting up an appointment with your doctor to understand if nutrient deficiencies or any other inner imbalance is at play.

In this same vein, if you are currently calorie counting, consider stopping. Instead of eating depending on whether a calorie ‘budget’ says you can: try asking yourself, ‘Am I hungry? What would satiate me right now?’ (Check out our article on tuning into hunger cues for more info on how to listen to your body!). 

By moving away from numbers, we can tune in to how we feel, and what our body is trying to tell us, as opposed to inferring what we ‘should’ think and feel, based on unspecific numbers, as to what healthy means. 

  1. Implement movement into your routine 

One of our favorite things about movement (AKA exercise) whether it’s a brisk walk, a run, swimming, bicycling, yoga, doing yard work, or more – it reminds you what your body is capable of, regardless of how it looks on the outside. 

Sign yourself up for a beginner’s class for a new form of exercise you think you might like: whether it be weightlifting, circuits, or pilates, and get in touch with your body outside of what it looks like in the mirror. Everyone is a novice once, so don’t be afraid to try new activities until you find the one that you actually want to go back to time and time again. Bring a buddy the first few times if need be!

Most important in whatever new exercise class you sign up for? Have fun with it! 

  1. Wear clothes that you feel comfortable in 

Whether ‘comfortable’ encompasses loose, flowy tops, tight leggings, oversized jeans, or lightweight sundresses – wear what you feel good in, and what you enjoy wearing. 

This also means if something no longer fits you, consider putting it in storage or passing it on to a good friend. Keeping clothes in the closet that no longer serve us – because they don’t fit our bodies of today – can be extremely harmful to our mental health. Prioritize buying clothes that fit your body (second-hand is more budget-friendly and best for sustainability if possible) and that don’t constrict you unnecessarily or make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious. If you find yourself wearing something that makes you hyper-aware of your movements and your body, prevent you from moving in ways you want to, or even constrict your breathing (you feel like you have to ‘suck in’) opt for a bigger size, or forgo buying it altogether.

Remember: you deserve clothes that fit well and make you feel good. 

  1.  Remind yourself that beauty standards are fickle 

In the media right now, big lips, a small nose, big eyes, a small forehead, and exaggerated curves are all ‘in’. But that hasn’t always been the case. Thankfully, we’re not going back to the days of heroin chic anytime soon, but back in the mid-90s, looking underweight was fashionable. Going back even further in time, in the 1920s, a lack of curves was considered most beautiful, while the 1950s was characterized by an hourglass figure. 

Beauty standards are ephemeral: they come and they go, and if you don’t exactly fit into the box of today (hardly anyone does), remember that you are under absolutely zero obligation to make yourself fit. You are beautiful as you are. 

Body positivity, beauty, and final thoughts

We don’t know about you, but we think diversity is beautiful. Different noses, eyes, hair types, body shapes, abilities, and skin tones can encompass rich family histories, and this diversity is part of what makes the world so interesting. If everyone looked like Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian, that trend would get old, really quickly. In that world, it would be welcome to see someone different. Beauty is unique, while trends try to convince us that these standards are ‘universal’. If any further evidence was needed for the arbitrary nature of modern beauty standards, we can all agree that they are inherently temporary and cyclical: they will disappear in years, if not months, only to reappear in some different iteration, decades later. 

As such, there is no better time to embrace your current self, as you are. No one – including influencers and celebrities, with all the increased resources, time, and money at their disposal – can fit these unrealistic beauty standards. But by implementing some body-positive thinking in your life and social media, you can create your own definition of what beauty means to you. 

Allara Health provides personalized treatment that takes the guesswork out of managing PCOS, and offers a customized, holistic plan of attack that merges nutrition, medication. supplementation, and ongoing, expert support to begin healing your body.