Words by Elle Daniel
How do you value your body? This article is about radically loving yourself in a world that does everything to stop that from happening.
‘I feel fat’ is something most of us as women have exclaimed at some point in our lives, whether that be after a hearty meal, at a certain point in our cycle, or when we try on clothes.
The thing is, ‘fat’ isn’t a feeling, it’s a tissue in the body essential for storing energy; it doesn’t evoke emotion on its own. When we talk about feeling fat, we’re actually transferring another difficult emotion onto our body. You might be feeling angry, sad, lonely and so on, which can be unpleasant enough without your poor body taking the brunt of it. Much of our society is geared towards us as women waging war with our bodies as soon as a difficult emotion or event arises.
You can however engage in this positive act of rebellion and break the cycle with some very simple changes. I have been through massive shifts in my own relationship with my body, and these are some things that I would like to share.
#1: Amplify your strengths
We are taught to place our value in our skin, our physical shape and ability. Even in the multi-faceted practice of yoga there is currently so much emphasis on ‘performing’ shapes and sequences that seem more akin to a rhythmic gymnastics routine than a spiritual practice. Even if it isn’t yoga, find a physical practice you can feel yourself excelling in, without comparison or competition with others.
We need to be empowering ourselves with more than looks, and besides, even if you envy the way another individual looks, they won’t look that way forever. Impermanence is so real, another thing yoga and other mindfulness practices teach us.
Next time you catch yourself in a disparaging internal dialogue, shift the focus. List your strengths, such as ‘I am kind’, ‘I have a good work ethic’, ‘I am funny’, ‘I am talented in X’… the list can go on and on. At first this might feel silly or embarrassing even, but that’s only because we are not taught to big ourselves up in a healthy way. Make this a daily practice, as second nature as brushing your teeth. Eventually it too will become habitual thinking and you’ll be able to drown out your shallow inner critic with affirmations of love and light. What’s more, the more you begin to feel these positive affirmations as an intrinsic truth, the more you’ll be able to champion the strengths of those around you, so everybody wins.
#2: Stop dieting
Do not follow any diet out there on the market. The diet industry profits off of you losing weight at an unnatural rate and then gaining it back and then some, eventually having a lasting negative impact on your metabolism. I went through this cycle so many times. I put my body through untold hardship, which reflected physically, but also mentally. There’s the psychological damage caused by equating the value of your entire being with the number on the scale, but also the constant yo-yoing wreaks havoc with your gut bacteria, which greatly influences levels of inflammation in the body, which if raised, contributes significantly to depression and anxiety.
There are people who have to restrict certain things in their diet in order to not die or become seriously ill, such as those with nut allergies or coeliac disease, but if you are not medically advised to cut out a food group, then why would you? Bread isn’t going to make you gain weight, A loaf every day might, but if you allow your body to break out of the extreme starve-binge cycle that so many of us end up in as a result of dieting, you’ll find the ability to eat when hungry. This isn’t something I want to prescribe per se, at the risk of sounding like a phony ‘dietician’, but if you’re eating every 2-3 hours, whether a full meal or just a snack, your body will figure itself out.
Maybe cook some of those meals as an act of love to yourself too. The act of cooking myself proper meals when I can has been a huge part of healing the relationship I have with my body.
#3: Thank your body
Your body goes through so much; you should thank it for all it does. This may be quite similar to my first point about amplifying strengths. However, this time you want to focus solely on your physical body, but not aesthetically. Look in the mirror at whatever part of your body you usually criticise on a purely shallow level, and instead recognise its true merits.
Sadly, I remember being as young as 8 and looking in the mirror and thinking ‘I hate my big thighs’. Now, I see them as strong and the reason I am able to move around freely, not everyone has this luxury. Another common thing is vilifying a soft belly, but our belly protects our gut, which is where we feel our very deepest instincts.
Your body is an incredibly strong house that needs to be fortified with self care in the form of an abundant diet and the right exercise, but it also needs kind words too.
London Based? Come and move your beautiful body for FREE at Balance Garden’s new wellbeing space
'The Siding' (pictured above) is Balance Garden's cosy new home in the heart of Bankside. We have a full programme of yoga and wellbeing classes (Chakra Flow, Flow to Restore, Yin, Parent and Baby) every Tuesday and we'd love to have you join our growing community.
If you're new to the studio you can come and try a class for FREE. Just use the code FIRSTCLASS in the discount code box.
See more info, the full timetable, and regular pricing HERE
Elle has been teaching yoga for 2 years and practicing almost 14. She is passionate about yoga philosophy and encouraging students to go deeper than just asana. Yoga has helped Elle to live life fully and with intention, and she hopes to share that with others. Elle is also a passionate writer, so is delighted to be able to combine her two passions and share them on Balance Garden. Find out more about her over on her website www.yogielle.com, Instagram @elle_daniel_yoga, or Twitter @elle_yoga
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