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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my good friend, Lauren, author of Lauren Fowler. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and yoga teacher who promotes a non-diet approach to nutrition and health. She wants everyone to connect to their bodies intuitive wisdom rather than following diets. She encourages the tools of intuitive eating and health at every size. Stop by LaurenFlower.co to read more about nutrition, intuitive eating, heart-based health, and yoga.}

Too often, I see posts on blogs or Instagram about ‘how to love your body in 5 easy steps.’

While the articles usually offer some great ideas around self-care and body image, it’s also not very realistic.

Body image is a huge struggle for most women, at some point in their lives. The messages around weight loss and the idea that our body size is linked to our happiness, health, and more runs rampant in our culture. It’s not your fault if you’re struggling with your body image – these messages have probably been imprinted in your mind from media and culture, as well as friends and family talking about it.

We rarely learn how to ‘love our bodies’ while growing up. Instead, we’re usually taught the opposite – how to control or manage our body through food and exercise.

It’s not realistic to start to ‘love your body’ after reading one article about it.

What is realistic is viewing the process as a journey. Instead of body love, view it through stages.

Start with body curiosity.

You may be used to viewing your body with judgment all day long. Instead of looking in the mirror and criticizing it, switch to lenses of curiosity. This could mean getting curious about all the sensations and inner cues your body feels, as well as the thoughts and feelings you have about your body.

Notice them. If you notice a thought of, “I hate my thighs,” get curious and ask yourself, “Why? Where did this come from?” Get curious about how it would feel to feel the acceptance of your body. Observe the sensations from within your body – your energy, cues for hunger and fullness, cravings for rest, play, or touch.

This may be a completely new idea for you. We’re used to going through our days tuned off from our body, pushing through instead of resting, eating ‘perfectly’ vs based on our body’s cues, or ignoring our bodies. Slowly, bring awareness to how your body is feeling inside and out and the thoughts you’re having.

Next, it could mean viewing your body neutrally.

This is a big deal! Instead of having thoughts of body shame or hatred, in this stage, you feel neutral towards your body. Even if you don’t accept or love it yet, feeling just okay about it is a much-needed step.

You may find your energy and thoughts shifting to other parts of your life. Instead of spending time judging your body, you may have space to explore other interests in your life that have nothing to do with your body.

In this stage, it could mean finding clothes that feel comfortable without worrying as much about the size or how it looks. It could mean exploring your beliefs about bodies through learning about health at every size, body image work, and the body positivity work.

Please know that this may be a big paradigm shift for you, and you’ll be rebuilding beliefs that may be present for your whole life. The body positivity world is wonderful, but a lot of people there have done a lot of work to feel comfortable in their bodies. Be gentle with yourself as you go through the process.

With time, you may find body acceptance or even body love.

For me, body acceptance is letting go of control around my body. It’s tuning inward to listen to my body’s needs, as well as letting myself take up space in the world. It’s allowing myself to accept my body as a WHOLE part rather than judging individual parts of it. It’s being mindful of how deeper issues in my life may show up as body image thoughts, and practicing self-care to take of myself rather than taking it out on my body.

It’s also accepting body diversity and celebrating all bodies in the world. I am aware that as a thin woman in this world, my body is accepted culturally. Part of this work for me is advocating for women of all sizes because size bias and discrimination exists and needs to be addressed.

Body acceptance is a chance to build practices of self-care to take care of your body. Through living IN your body, you can allow yourself to do the work to show up fully in the world and take up space. To see your body as your home for your whole self.

This takes time – it took me years to get to where I am and sometimes I still struggle with body image thoughts – so be patient and kind with yourself on the journey. Allow yourself to go through the process to find acceptance with your body.

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