Be Your Own Valentine: A case for positive body image and self-love during the season of affection
For many, the beginning of a new year is a time for reflection, change, and setting goals. Oftentimes, these goals focus on maintaining healthier lifestyles, like changing what we eat or how our bodies look and feel. Sometimes, however, the expectations we set for ourselves — and the ways we go about reaching them — can be unrealistic and ultimately unhealthy.
As we celebrate this annual day of love, care and affection, it’s important to focus on sharing the love with the most important person in your life: you! For many, maintaining a positive body image is a constant challenge. This challenge can be especially daunting during a holiday that makes far too many people self-conscious or hyperaware of their body image and self-worth.
We are often our harshest critics, when we should actually be our biggest cheerleaders. Feelings and thoughts associated with a negative body image can seep into everything we do, leaving us feeling disconnected from our loved ones, and perhaps more importantly ourselves.
When it comes to weight and body image, shifting the focus from scales and diets to mindful eating, establishing healthy relationships with food, and practicing self-love can move mountains — both in your life and the lives of loved ones who surround you.
Think of all the things your body does for you every second of every day. All of your living, working, playing, laughing, and loving is done in your incredible body. When that negative and critical voice peeps up in the back of your head, replace its presence with a positive and uplifting truth.
Give yourself permission to eat what you love, to move in ways that bring you joy and strength, and to enjoy meals and moments with friends and family. Select foods that promote your wellbeing and move because it makes you feel good and relieves stress. Avoid foods that don’t make you feel your best, and don’t hold yourself to impossible standards or strive for perfection. When choosing what to eat and why, don’t get caught up in counting calories or adhering to restricting diets, and don't associate your self-worth with a number on the scale.
The environment, context, and way we feel about eating ultimately have a greater impact on our well-being than any one meal or food. Living and eating to achieve an unrealistic or arbitrary standard of beauty is costly. It costs money, happiness, years of your life, and it robs your body of its natural will to thrive. Living for real wellbeing — a state of both mental and physical wellness — may include the same foods, but not the same restrictions, myths, and negative standards. It also may mean your body looks different than what others tell you the scale should say, but it is thriving nonetheless.
While you’re sending love notes to your favorite people this month, be sure to send a big, grateful, heartfelt one to yourself too. Make sure your body knows you love it, because every day it carries precious cargo: you.
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