Don’t let your mind bully your body… Read on to learn how my trip to India could help mend the relationship between you and your body!
My time in India was sensory overload! Incredible food, flavours, colours, nature and delightful people. One thing that was apparent to me was how confident and comfortable the women were in their appearance. Regardless of their body shape or size, they had magnificent sarees draped around their bodies, all unique in their own special way with their stomachs in full sight. It didn’t matter if their stomachs were flat or curved, big or small, abs visible or no abs at all, slim or large arms, they still walked around with an air of elegance and confidence.
As I walked past these many beautiful, confident women with their bodies exposed, it made me reflect on how many women in Western cultures would lack the confidence to showcase their physiques (particularly if they felt they weren’t ‘summer ready’). In fact I know a number of gorgeous women who wouldn’t wear a tight top or jeans because of the way they feel about their image.
I then had a look into the research and found some alarming statistics. The Mission Australia National Youth Survey found that body image has been listed in the top four concerns for young Australians. The 2018 survey revealed that around 30% of young people are concerned about body image (1). Poor body image has been associated with an increased risk of partaking in dangerous dietary practices and weight control methods, excessive exercise and substance abuse (2).
When I got home from my trip I continued to reflect on the attitudes of the Indian women, how they were content, confident and comfortable in their own skin and this was something I truly admired. I came up with the following strategies that have shifted my thinking and helped me truly appreciate my body for all it is. I wanted to share these with you.
1. Change your mindset
A report produced by The Butterfly Research Institute in 2017 found that an overwhelming 73% of people wished they could change the way they look and that 53.6% of people rarely or never speak positively about their appearance (3). Altering your thinking is really difficult, I mean really difficult! Changing your thought patterns and preconceived notions of yourself takes time and work.
I challenge you to view you body as a sacred vessel. A vessel that can perform incredible things! It can move, eat, feel emotions, exercise, love, remove waste, keep us safe and warm….and I could keep going forever! Being focused on all the wonderful things your body can do, rather than the way it looks, can be very powerful. When you catch yourself looking in the mirror and noticing what you perceive as your ‘flaws’, I want you to say aloud or in your head the beautiful things your body can do, and why you are grateful for that. Practice gratitude and acceptance that your body is unique and yours! No one else has your body, so it should be cherished for all it is.
2. Surround yourself with positive people
Yes, we are all individuals, however we are most definitely a product of the people we surround ourselves with. Try not to surround yourself with people who obsess over their weight or obtaining that six pack or even hitting their macros if it does not serve you. When you choose to surround yourself with positive people who have your best interests at heart, make you feel happy, lift you up and support you when you’re down, this will help to improve the way you feel about yourself, physically and emotionally. Surround yourself with people who make you feel that you are enough and beautiful just the way you are.
3. Unfollow accounts on social media that don’t make you feel good
It is tempting to follow Emily Ratajkowski’s instagram page to admire her ‘flawless’ physique and it’s also human nature to compare yourself (often without awareness). Many accounts on social media portray an unrealistic picture of the way women should look and often without realising we get sucked into those beliefs and standards too. Now I’m not bagging social media, it’s a great platform for connecting the world, however it is very much focused on external validation for one’s appearance, rather than liking a photo for the person’s morals or values. So, if following these accounts affects your self esteem or just makes you feel down about yourself, I recommend clicking the unfollow button. There are plenty of pages that have wonderful content which will uplift and motivate you, for example, entrepreneurship, motivation and evidence-based wellness. Be selective of the content your choose to view on a daily basis.
Another practice the Indian’s do so well is meditation. This is an effective strategy for clearing away unhelpful thoughts and emotions. It allows you to be present in the moment and has been proven to help calm the mind. Meditation can be different for everyone, for some it may be listening to a guided practice (we’ve developed our very own guided meditation free to listen here), yoga, walking, gym, painting, drawing, writing in your diary, there are so many ways you can meditate and connect to yourself on a deeper level. It can be for 10 minutes, 5 minutes or even 1 minute, if it helps to anchor you to the present moment and calms your nervous system, then it’s working wonders! For some people repeating body acceptance affirmations, such as ‘I appreciate and accept my body as it is now and for all it does for me’, can really help you to manage the negative thoughts that enters your mind. Come up with a mantra that resonates with you.
5. Eat mindfully
Eating in a conscious and mindful way means appreciating the food for what it is and the impact it has on our body’s functioning. These days we are so busy and often eating mindlessly, not listening to how our bodies feel and what they want. When you eat mindfully you listen to your body’s internal cues and deliver it with the food it desires, regardless of stigma. It is eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. If you feel like chocolate, eat it, but in a mindful and appreciative way. When you eat mindfully you are more likely to choose foods which nourish your body and make you feel good about yourself.
Just remember, we will not always feel good about the way we look, positive body image will forever be a work in progress. What’s important is to try and look beyond your physical features and focus on what’s inside your heart, because true beauty comes from within. Like the women in India, be proud of who you are, turn down the volume on what anyone else thinks and appreciate the body you were born into.
- Carlisle, E., Fildes, J., Hall, S., Hicking, V., Perrens, B. and Plummer, J. (2018), Youth Survey Report 2018, Mission Australia
- The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (2010a). Eating disorders prevention, treatment & management: An evidence review. Sydney: NEDC.
- Insights into body esteem survey (2017). A survey of Australians’ experience of body image and its impact on day to day life. The Butterfly Foundation.