5 Ways I Learned To Accept & Appreciate My Body

Most people have a big, scary secret, and dear reader, I am no different. Although I am strong, and fit, and run marathons, for more than 12 years I struggled with an ugly, dark eating disorder.  Coming to terms with anorexia was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but you don’t need to be diagnosed with a full-blown eating disorder to have negative self-image. Body issues are incredibly and painfully prevalent in today’s society. The good news is there are lots of ways to show your body some self-love, and many more reasons why you should start today.

It took a long time for me to be comfortable in my own skin. It wasn’t always pretty or easy, but I’ve reached the other side and life is good over here! Below are five strategies I used to overcome negative body image, and how I continue to accept and appreciate my body today.

1.Food is fuel
Possibly the most important strategy that I use to overcome negative thoughts about body image and food is to think about food as fuel. As an athlete, feeding my body quality and nourishing food is important for my training, and vital to my health. If my body were a machine, it would require certain amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to fuel the engine. While people are not machines, creating this imagery around the food-body relationship can make a world of difference. I no longer fear things like fat or calories, because I know that my body will turn those things into energy. Food is our life-force; don’t ever forget it.

2.Fake it until you make it
I used to mock and laugh at this old adage, but now I see it for the good advice that it is. If you’re feeling less than stellar about your body, spend a day, or week, or month pretending that you feel great. Put on a smile, appreciate the things your body can do for you, and act the hell out of your scene. Once you start to integrate positive and powerful thoughts, you’ll begin to break the cycle of negative thoughts. With time, you will believe the positive affirmations and start to see your body for what it is: a beautiful vessel for life!

3.Dress your best

I’ve never been a slave to fashion, but it can be easy to get caught up in the latest trends and spiral into a pit of negative self-talk (e.g., skinny jeans look x, y, and z on me, but a, b, and c on the model.) I say to hell with fashion and dress in what makes you feel your best. For me, this means short shorts for running (because even if they are tiny, my legs are mighty!) and tights with looser fitting tops for day-to-day wear. These items make me feel comfortable and powerful, and don’t leave me with hang-ups about how the clothes are “supposed to fit.” It may take some trial and error, but rid your closet of things that make you feel bad, and fill it with things that make you feel excited to get dressed in the morning. (Tip: thrift stores, consignment shops, and clothing swaps with friends are all cheap ways to overhaul your closet without breaking the bank.)

4.See your strength
The body is a strong, resilient, and powerful thing. People of all shapes and sizes can do incredible things with their bodies (hello, have you seen the Olympics?), and not a bit of it has to do with appearance. Appreciate your body for the things it can do and truly see your strength. I appreciate that my body can run, do yoga, ride a bike, and swim. I do these activities because they bring me joy, and I’m grateful for the strength it takes to perform them. Maybe you enjoy gardening, or hiking, or climbing - appreciate what your body can do for you!

5.Ditch the scale
This is an obvious one, but really -- ditch the scale. Numbers do not determine your worth and they reflect nothing about the strong and powerful things that your body can do. Getting rid of the scale helped to shift my focus onto how my body felt rather than how it can be measured. To this day, I don’t weigh myself or desire to know the numbers. I appreciate and accept my body exactly as it is today, regardless of whether it is .5 lbs or 5 lbs more or less than the day before.

By viewing food as fuel, putting my best foot forward even when I’m not feeling the best, dressing in clothes that make me feel comfortable and strong, appreciating my body for the things it can do, and resisting the scale, I am able to lead a much happier and healthier life. These days, I appreciate and accept my body for exactly how it is; how will you appreciate your body today?