Given an option to be happy or depressed, my guess is that we'd all choose happiness. It’s mystifying though, that when it comes to thinking about our own body image, we don’t. We're conditioned to believe that there are parts of our “earth suit” that will never be good enough.
For as long as I can remember, I focused on my soft stomach. I wanted so badly to have a long torso, washboard abs, a sun-kissed tan. I yearned for people to notice me and say that I was pretty, to be told that I had something that they aspired to have. The desire for this fantasy body was the most time-consuming and sickening thought for me when I was a teenager.
In reality, or at least my reality, going through puberty and my mid-20’s, my body didn’t even come close to the Photoshopped version of Gisele Bundchen. I grew in height, I leveled off, and several years later I grew again—this time in my hips and curvy areas. Then I leveled off again.
Looking back, it’s easy to spot the obvious trend: My body was always changing. This can be confusing and frustrating for anyone, at any age.
As a teenager, I religiously followed popular diet plans and workout routines prescribed in a slew of fashion magazines: planks on the bathroom floor before my shower, 20 push-ups before every meal, tricep pushups every time I visited the bathroom (on the toilet seat was the suggested area—UGH!). Fighting the natural shape of my body was a constant battle, and I always believed that I was far from worthy. Throughout this time, I developed disordered eating habits that eventually took 10 long and frustrating years to reverse.
During that tenth year, I adopted a plant-based diet and said good riddance to all of my restrictive and obsessive habits, which had included counting calories, twice-daily weigh-ins, mandatory daily workouts, and competing with friends to see who could wear a smaller size in her jeans. In that tenth year, I chose to be mindful about my eating, to care more animals than I cared about the joy of eating bacon, and to bring kindness to my plate.
I made a conscious choice to invite happiness, and I chose to make those miserable days a thing of the past. And to my surprise, after a few months, my body changed again. And because I felt so great about how I was eating, and approaching the world, I felt great. When I transitioned from a thin and unhappy model to a size 14 model, I finally felt like there was a place for me in this world.
For once, I felt that I was good enough to walk around in fitted tank tops and skinny jeans with a fabulous pair of heels and to love the body that I’m in. To this day, I get stopped and stared at in the streets and I make a living off of my natural body, so I kick myself thinking about all of those years that I was lost in trying to be someone else.
My transition into my natural shape has been a very liberating journey. I now choose to eat nourishing, healthy foods when I’m hungry, I exercise to make myself happy and I no longer weigh myself. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you how much I weigh right now, and I frankly couldn't care less. In my eyes, weight is just a number, just like my height, it doesn’t define me or my happiness.
As long as I’m practicing healthy habits and proudly loving the skin that I’m in, my size is perfect for me. You can also make the choice to feel happy about your body. No matter what size you are, here are five healthy steps that you can take to becoming the next influential, self-loving body warrior:
1. Ditch the scale.
Ditching the scale has been an A+ move and a sure step towards my body confidence and happiness. Nothing drove me crazier than seeing my weight fluctuate by several pounds in one day. Adios, scale.
2. Stop restricting food.
By adopting a compassionate diet, I told myself that I was going to treat my body with compassion, too. This meant eating what I felt like eating, satisfying my cravings and enjoying the process of nourishing and healing my body. Once I gave up my food restrictions, I noticed that I stopped having cravings—even for chocolate.
3. Practice self-love.
After you get dressed in the morning, look in the mirror and find something you really love about your body and talk to it. I love wearing skinny jeans because I really like the way my hips curve. I like to pose with my hip out and say, “BAM! I love these hips,” or something straight-up Beyonce. This positive self-love will undeniably help you find your body confidence.
4. Be a role model.
Share your positive body image with your friends and family; let them know how proud you are of your body. Even if this seems like a silly practice, I like to pipe into a conversation that my friends or family have about size unhappiness and say, “I love being my natural size. I stand for all of the women who struggle every day with their body image. I’m standing up for myself.” Whatever your message is, share it. A positive message and confident body image is contagious. Wouldn’t you love to know that your daughter, niece, aunt, mother, grandmother, sister—they’re all listening to you and your confidence could be just what they need at that moment.
5. Skim the ‘zines.
Make a conscious effort to skim past magazine articles about extreme diets and exercise. Eating disorders and obsessive exercise habits can start in the pages of your favorite magazine. Instead, skim through the pages and find those gorgeous editorial photos; imagine striking those fabulous poses and wearing those expensive couture gowns. This aspirational imagery helps boost your healthy body image.
Now that you have the five tips to becoming an influential body warrior, here’s your first chance to practice self-love and feel great in the skin you’re in. What about you? What do you love about your body? Let us know in the comments. And feel free to go all-Beyonce on us—it’s time to stand up for who we are and love what we’ve got.