6 ways to practice self-love

How to love and accept your body.

Kate Callaghan shares her tips that helped her adopt a holistic approach to self-care and nutrition.

Pick one or two practices that resonate with you. Start with these few for a little while, and then when you are comfortable with them, and start to notice how amazing they make you feel, why not toss in another practice? Layer it up! The more, the merrier – literally.

Change how you think, and talk, about food: So often I hear foods referred to as either good or bad. Food should not have morality, as when it does, we imprint this morality on ourselves when we eat such foods. When we eat bad foods, we then feel guilty and say we have been bad. This is not helpful. It’s just another way to make us feel bad about ourselves, increase stress levels, and feel like we are failing and need to do better.

Instead, think about how food feels for you. Food is fuel; think about foods that will give you energy, foods that will nourish you from the inside out, foods that help balance your hormones. And on those occasions when you have some not-so-healthy foods, be okay with it. Don’t feel you need to hide away and be ashamed of it. Eat it slowly and mindfully. Enjoy it. Then move on. There is no point in beating yourself up about it; it’s not going to change the fact that you ate it. Nor is that one experience going to make a significant contribution, as we often expect it will, to your weight or your health in general. That’s right, you will not gain weight or develop diabetes from the odd piece of cake! It’s more about what you eat every day as opposed to what you eat every now and then. So you can have your cake and eat it, too!

Do not compare yourself to others: Comparison is the thief of joy, haven’t you heard? (Thanks, Teddy Roosevelt.) When you compare yourself to others, or judge others, you are essentially judging yourself. There are no winners here. Often, we compare ourselves with others whom we perceive to have something better than us, which only serves to make us feel worse about ourselves. Instead, celebrate who you are. You are uniquely awesome. No one has the exact same qualities as you, and that is a good thing. Because if we were all the same, how boring would that be? Embrace your own personal journey. That’s all that matters, really, and also the only one in which you truly know what is going on.

On that note, try not to compare yourself to your former self either. This is especially important for anyone recovering from conditions such as hypothalamic amenorrhea or eating disorders. Possibly adrenal fatigue, too. Remember, to recover from these situations, you will most likely need to decrease your exercise, eat more, and possibly put on weight and/or body fat. Constantly referring to how you used to look will only put the brakes on your willingness to move forward with healing. Put things into perspective: yes, you may have been able to see your abs, but were you healthy? Were you even happy? Personally, when I had abs and was a lean, mean, fighting machine, I was not healthy (infertile, brittle bones, low energy, no sex drive), nor was I happy.

Have a self-love ritual: Have a practice that you can do when you’re really in a funk. This will be your happy place to help get your mojo back. Something you might like is a bit of a self-pampering session. Grab the candles, run a bath, have a soak and a cup of tea. When you get out, why not give yourself a loving massage with some beautiful oils. Think of it as a thanks, from you to your body, for all that it does for you. It’s the only one you have, so treat it well.

Something else that I find to be a nice practice, especially when you’re having a negative body image day, is to do a little thing that I like to call ‘The Body Love Scan’. Here’s how it goes: while you’re still in the nuddy (aka naked), stand in front of the mirror and, working from top to toe, place your hands over each body part and say, ‘I love my [insert body part here].’ So you will start with your hair, hands on head and say, ‘I love my hair.’ And yes, this will also involve saying, ‘I love my boobs’, ‘I love my tummy’ and ‘I love my thighs’. Spend a little extra time on those parts you’ve been most negative about over the years.

Work with your body, not against it: Try meeting your body where it is at, right now, rather than where you, or society, think it should be. Let go of any unrealistic expectations. Listen to your body and respond with love and kindness. Stop trying to beat your body into submission in order to achieve a physique that you are not meant to have.
I have personally realised that I will never have a thigh gap. And I’m okay with that. Forcing your body to do anything will only create greater resistance. Start to develop flow and everything will eventually fall into place.

Move your body on a daily basis: Moving your body on a regular basis (and no, I don’t mean exercise for the sake of burning kilojoules or getting stronger, I mean movement for movement’s sake) is a great way to nourish every cell in your body. Why not just start with a little stretching as a way to say ‘thank you’ to your body? I like to do this at night time; it’s a nice way to wind down for the day.

Just let it go: I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. Be okay with imperfection. Perfectionism serves no one and can be absolutely stifling. It’s also a great way to dampen your day if everything is not going exactly how it should be. There really is no such thing as perfect – when you get to that point where you thought everything would be perfect, I bet you will find something else to pick out that needs changing.

This is an edited extract from Holistic Nutrition: Eat well, train smart and be kind to your body, by Kate Callaghan, published by Finch Publishing 2016, RRP $34.99, available online and in stores nationally. 

NEXT: Discover the benefits of starting a gratitude journal. 

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