The first day I spent on The Biggest Loser, my trainer, Jillian, ran us into the ground — trying to weed out the contestants who didn't have the mental grit to get through the challenges that would lie in front of us during the eight months we would spend filming season four.
But after the workout, Jillian sat and talked to us, nurtured us. Her absolute nonnegotiable was that we were not allowed to dishonor our bodies (or ourselves) by talking negatively about ourselves. Flawed or not (in our eyes), from that day forward, we were obligated to be nice to ourselves.
That was seven years ago. Since then, I’ve taken the tools I learned from Jillian on “The Biggest Loser,” along with ideas and practices I’ve discovered for myself and have learned how to truly love my body as it is. Right now.
Here’s how I remind myself how amazing, capable and beautiful my body is:
1. Abolish negative self-talk.
No good comes from hating your body. It doesn’t make it better, and it doesn’t make you feel good in any way. Temporarily, it may inspire you to work (maybe too hard) in the gym, but ultimately, talking badly about yourself does not breed any positive patterns for self-care.
Instead, before you say, or even THINK, something about yourself, ask if you’d say or think the same thing about your best friend, your partner, your parent or your child. If it’s something you would never dare say to them, it’s absolutely something you shouldn’t say to yourself.
2. Strip down.
So many of us who hate our bodies don’t truly know them. Commit to sleeping naked for a week, or take a look in the mirror after a shower with noncritical eyes. Allow yourself to only notice things for their benefit. No thigh gap? How lucky you are to have muscular, strong thighs. A round belly? Embrace it for its softness and curves. Your body is amazing — you just have to see it for yourself, in all its glory.
3. Wear clothes that make you feel good.
I’ve worked with a lot of plus-sized women who are constantly punishing themselves with the idea that when they’re a certain size, they’ll splurge a few hundred dollars away on a wardrobe shopping spree. But whether you’re at your perfect size, or many sizes away from it, you deserve to look and feel the best you can. Don’t doom yourself to days in yoga pants because you refuse to buy a pair of jeans bigger than the size you intend to be. Love yourself enough to treat your body to clothes that flatter you and make you feel good as it is.
4. Get sweaty.
Don’t work out to lose weight. Work out to feel amazing. We're often so focused on what the end result of a workout program will be and we miss out on the gifts we’re given in the process. Every time you work out, you are doing something extraordinary for yourself. You’re telling your body, and yourself, that is is capable and strong regardless of the number on the scale.
5. Allow your body to be loved.
This is a tough one when you have body-image issues. So many of us shy away from physical intimacy because we’re ashamed or embarrassed. But whether you’re choosing to be physically intimate in a loving relationship with a partner, or you’re choosing to be physically intimate by yourself, let your body be free to be loved.
You’d be shocked at how little our “flaws” are noticed by our partners, and that sometimes the things we would most like to change about our bodies are the things that someone else might find most attractive.
6. Focus on what you SHOULD eat, rather than what you shouldn't.
It takes a person much more disciplined than I to say she will absolutely never eat a bagel or ice cream again. When I try to deduct certain things from my diet, they never seem more tempting. Rather than thinking about what I shouldn’t consume, only to end up doing it anyway and beating myself up with shame and guilt, I think about what I should eat and drink to help my body and my mind feel as great as they can.
I try to eat leafy greens, healthy fats, lean proteins and drink TONS of water every day. Not because they help me lose weight or make my body look a certain way, but because they make me feel healthy, empowered and in control.
7. Choose your tribe wisely.
If there are people who make you feel badly about yourself, it’s time for them to go. I don’t care if they’re your soul mate, your parent, or your best friend: If someone can’t treat you kindly, she must either rise to the occasion for the standards you deserve, or she must not be allowed to influence the value you believe you have.
Seek out people that make you feel alive, joyful, beautiful and special, and hold onto them. Most importantly, believe them when they tell or show you how amazing you are. There's no shame in letting go of those who poison your well with thoughts of self-doubt and hatred, and there is no selfishness in believing you deserve to be loved. Because you do — by others, and most importantly, yourself.