So many of my best “body image” conversations with my daughter happen in the bathroom while we are getting ready for bed. It is where I’ve gotten the question; “Do you think I’m beautiful?” and where, when she was just three years old, she said to me; “Mommy; you have a big tushy!” This is how that conversation went:
“Mommy; you have a big tushy!”
[Pause. This was one of those moments where I knew I could either mess up totally or help to set the positive body image values that I hold dear. Pause. Breathe. Smile.]
“Well of course I do! I couldn’t have your little ‘Tallie tushy’ on my big Mommy body! Then I couldn’t do all the things I love!”
“Like…yoga, going for run or chasing after you!”
[I start to tickle her and we have a good laugh.]
“My body allows me to do all my favorite things. What does your body allow you to do?”
“Gahnastics!” She laughed. “And pwaying at the pak!”
“Yes! Out body allows us to do all of those things that we love.”
[I picked her up and we looked in the mirror.]
“Aren’t our bodies amazing? Aren’t WE amazing?”
“Yeah! We amazin’! I amazin’!”
Our bodies are the vehicles for everything we do- it’s how we participate in our passions, our favorite activities and our everyday. It’s how we express love, anger, sadness and frustration. It gives motion to our lives. We need to love our bodies because they make the lives we lead possible and by loving our bodies and being grateful for our bodies, we are able to use this vehicle to drive us anywhere we want to go.
So here are 10 Quick Tips that we can all do today to set the groundwork for positive body image:
- Speak with gratitude about your body: Talk about what your body allows you to do instead of how it appears. Love yoga? Softball? Running around after your niece and nephew? Your body allows you to do that.
- Create a Fat-Talk-Free Zone: Make your home or at least the dinner table your safe haven. Make it a blanket rule. Hang a sign that says “leave your fat-talk at the door.” They are always welcome to pick it up on the way out.
- Hang around with body positive people: If you always spend time with people who speak badly about their bodies, your body or the neighbor’s body, you will find that your mind goes there too. Let your friends know that you are trying to embrace a more body positive lifestyle and language and spend time with those who support it.
- Learn your hot buttons and acknowledge them: Is it every time you look at a certain magazine, watch a particular show or spend time with a specific family member that you start to feel dreadful about your body? Notice what sets you off so you can make some changes or at least confront the problem itself. Stop that subscription, turn off the show and stop making lunch dates with that person who makes you feel like you are not enough.
- Realize where the voice is coming from: Whose voice is it telling you that you need to change your appearance, lose weight or cover that mole on your chin? Sometimes it’s someone in our lives now—other times it’s the voice of an old boyfriend, kid from the 5th grade or long gone relative. By giving the voice a name, you separate it from your own and can tell it to go fly a kite.
- Say good-bye to perfect: There is no such thing and yet we chase it. When we let go of the unattainable, we can embrace the person we are rather than focus on what we lack.
- Exercise to feel good rather than to look a certain way: When we exercise, we reduce stress, get the blood pumping and produce endorphins that make us feel great. You don’t have to do something that bores you! Dance, do a color run with a friend, box or get silly with a favorite child in your life!
- Do for others: When we volunteer and help others in need, it gives us perspective. There are many more important thing in life that how we look. Do something that touches your heart and gives you a sense of purpose.
- Be kind to yourself- now: Don’t wait until you lose “the weight!” Buy yourself a nice outfit that makes you feel beautiful. Go out to lunch with a friend. Get a massage! You deserve to be valued now because of who you are.
- Be a positive role model: It can be incredibly powerful to imagine yourself holding the hand of a young girl or boy—what would you want them to hear you say? What would you hope they would echo? There are always eyes and ears watching and listening. Be the example you always wish you had. (I did a podcast on this topic for SheKnows here)
While it may take some awareness and effort to move to a more positive way of thinking, feeling and acting when it comes to our bodies, it certainly is worth it. It will surely help those impressionable girls (yes, and boys too!) to see the value of “owning” and loving our bodies as they are but also it will help ourselves.
Create a habit of body positivity. You don’t need to do all 10 of these tips right away– but pick one or two– then keep adding as you put them into place! I’m rooting for you.