It does not take a genius to realise that our culture is obsessed with achieving the proverbial “ideal body”. We are bombarded daily with images of skinny models with flawless skin and perfect pouts or fit, toned ladies sweating it at the gym and loads of #fitspo images on Instagram. As a result, body-shaming, the act of criticising one’s your own appearance or someone else’s, has become increasingly common, but there has been a subtle shift towards using more body-positive language.
You may have even heard some of these terms being tossed about: “body love”, “body acceptance” or “body positivity”. What do they really mean?
How many of us are preoccupied with every inch or pound on your body or your cellulite-ridden thighs? Basing your self-worth on your size and appearance is unhealthy. Body love is all about celebrating the human body, about feeling good in your own skin. It’s how you feel about your body, taking care of it and how you use it to make it work for you. This could mean wearing a bright, striking outfit, treating yourself to a spa day or even buying some sexy lingerie, regardless of how you look. Body love is a reciprocal relationship; if you treat your body with love and care, then it’ll serve you well in the long-run too.
In all honesty though, who here can say that they have loved their body unconditionally, flabby skin, crooked teeth and all? This can be especially hard for those with a long history of poor body image. Perhaps what you need to do then is to accept your body for what it is, the way it is, instead of focusing on your shortfalls or what needs to be improved on.
Body acceptance is about acknowledging and appreciating your body for the way it is, giving it care despite its real or perceived flaws. It is part of a larger movement of body positivity. Accepting your body does not mean loving everything about it; it means you recognising that we all have “bits we don’t like” but that’s okay. In essence, you are redefining your relationship with your body.
Think about your relationship with the people you love, such as your life partner. There are days when you’re having a huge fight because of his annoying habit of leaving things lying around and he’s generally driving you crazy, but do you love him any less? Most of the time, our love for him (and most of our loved ones) varies, and at times we might even find ourselves hating them. Similarly, loving our bodies all the time might be irrational, so cut yourself some slack the next time you don’t feel like you’re looking your best. Just be aware that you don’t have to like everything about your body in order to love it.
Of Love and Acceptance
As you can see, the concepts of body love and body acceptance are closely intertwined. For some people, practicing love for your body is an important first step in developing any kind of relationship with your body, before gradually working towards acceptance.
To achieve such love, it might be helpful for us to focus on what our body is capable of rather than just merely how it looks. For instance, you could train for that half marathon you’ve always wanted to run or go on a hiking trail in the mountains. Even if you’re not loving the way you look at the moment, simply pushing yourself to accomplish these could help you see your body in a new light and motivate you to look after it.
Another way of accepting your body is treating you and your body in a loving way. For a start, stop criticising yourself in conversations, and start making better lifestyle choices. Do some fun exercises and engage in activities you enjoy, eat what makes you happy but keep those desserts to a minimum, and avoid drinking excessively.
Why are Love and Acceptance Important?
In a nutshell, how we view our bodies impacts our eating and lifestyle. Hating your body or feeling uncomfortable in it can really affect our food choices and daily habits, from how, what, and how much we eat to the amount of exercise we get. Fluctuations in our body weight are natural so trying to keep a constant weight is impractical. Seeing an increase in the scale can result in crash dieting, avoiding most foods, feeling starved and never feeling like you are eating a sufficient amount. In some cases, it can even lead to emotional eating, eating disorders and physical and mental health complications.
Teaching yourself to be comfortable in your current body and acknowledging its positive features does not promote weight gain, overeating, over or under-exercising. Healthy eating and regular exercise should not just be about losing weight. To be healthier, you just need to be good to your body.
If you learn to love your body, you would want to fill it with the nutrition you deserve, with healthier foods and balanced meals. You would not want to damage it by working out hours on end or not being active at all. By appreciating the wonders of your body regardless of weight, you can help to decrease weight yoyo-ing and the whirlwind of emotions it brings, and circumvent potential health issues.
But for most of us, loving and accepting your body is not easy in large part due to the subliminal messages in society that have such an impact on our self-image. These are hard to overlook given the immense exposure and easy access we have to media these days, both online and otherwise. To get to the root of body-hating and shaming, there clearly needs to be a change in the societal mindset. If we stop stereotyping people based on looks and the way we perceive them, we might start to find it easier to become more accepting of ourselves. Wouldn’t you rather be known for the attributes you take pride in rather than being reduced to “short”, “tall”, “fat”, “skinny”, etc.? You’re more than your physical appearance and we here at The Wellness Insider want people to know that. Check out our video “Get to Know The Real Person #NoLabels” below.
Keeping Working at It
Body love and acceptance is not something that can be accomplished overnight. Work is never done. We all have insecurities (which are not likely to change), but we can work to silence them.
As a small step, we are tackling the issue of body image head-on. In conjunction with our 2nd anniversary, we are compiling a book of interviews with prolific men and women who have struggled through body image issues or are experts in this field. Notable interviews include Fiona Tan, Miss Top of the World (Plus Size) 2016; Cheryl Tay, founder of Rock the Naked Truth and Dr Martha Tara Lee, Singapore’s first Clinical Sexologist.
Your funding will help us to pay for the compilation and publishing of the book so that it can be sold in stores as well as online, and this is not for profit. To support us, please visit https://ifundwomen.com/projects/book-building-body-confidence. Do lend us your support to get the word out there; it’s time there’s a change in the status quo!
Photo Credits: Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash