Give up the juice cleanse and embrace your bod.
I’ve been that girl meticulously counting her calories six months before a beach holiday, spending three hours in the gym a day, and berating myself in the mirror. I’ve deprived myself to the point that I’m ravenous by the time I go to bed and I’ve cried in a changing room when the pair of hot pants I’d been trying to t into still looked like shit. I’ve counted my macros, weight-lifted six times a week and still felt I looked big on the beach next to my friends.
There’s a prevailing culture that tells you that if you just try hard enough you can look however you want, and that’s a dangerous message to send. If you just restrict your calories enough, or get in another rep you can meet the ideal, but what happens when you give it all you’ve got and you still don’t like what you see in the mirror? We’re led to believe we have so much control over how we look, when in reality, so much of our body composition is controlled by genetics.
That’s why wearing a bikini, when there’s such a narrow, cookie-cutter ideal of what the perfect body looks like, can be a daunting experience, one that tells us with self loathing and sends us looking for a squat challenge or fad to ‘right’ ourselves. But we think, no we KNOW here at STELLAR that you shouldn’t have to change yourself to feel good. Confidence isn’t about transformation programmes, looking like an Instagram model or having glutes to rival a Kardashian’s, it’s about loving yourself, just as you are, first and foremost. I asked the experts how to boost self-confidence for when we need a little extra help.
Everybody tells you to love your body, but nobody tells you how. If loving all of your body seems like a stretch, don’t worry, says body positive life coach Sarah Doyle. “It’s an unrealistic standard to tell ourselves that we absolutely have to love every part of our body,” she explains.
We can love parts of our bodies and not the whole thing and that is fine! It’s a continuous journey and not an uphill battle to fall in love with every atom of your being. As long as you focus more time and energy loving the parts of your body that you love instead of hating the parts you hate, you will be just fine.
Next, when that nasty inner critic rears its head, remember that appearance and self worth are not mutually exclusive. “Your self-esteem is not bound to an outside thing, your sparkle is already inside of you,” Sarah encourages. “If there is an imbalance in your life – if you spend more time thinking about the gym, exercise, your body or food – then shift your energy towards something else. Your body is not your identity but it is easy to get wrapped up with your reflection when you spend so much time thinking about it.”
Instead, try thinking about what your body can do; what it’s capable of. “It’s designed to do some incredible things – squat, bench, cartwheel, skip, cycle, run, play, dance!” Sarah enthuses. “Explore what it’s capable of and fall in love with movement.”
Switch from a place of critique to kindness. “Your negative self talk is not going to make your thighs any smaller or your tummy any flatter and it certainly won’t make you feel any happier,” Sarah notes.
Treat yourself with love and kindness and you will begin a journey of self-acceptance and self love. Your body is your friend and your companion. It’s okay to love your body. It doesn’t make you full of yourself, vain, conceited, cocky or self absorbed. You can, and should, acknowledge your beauty and love your body with kindness and compassion and in turn inspire others to feel they can as well.
There’s a whole industry out there pedalling transformation programmes and flogging get-skinny-fast quick fixes, but what if you ate and trained because you love your body, not because you hate it? That’s an ethos personal trainer Niamh Fitzgerald from Lift Training Studios is firmly behind. “The thing is, when we work with clients, we have to work, first and foremost, with their priorities – but our focus is always on health,” she explains.
So if someone comes into Lift because they hate their body, and they want to, say, lose weight, we’ll help them get their nutrition and their sleep and their training in a place that will allow them to be their healthiest, and often weight loss is a side effect of that. But the more we focus on how they’re feeling – how they’re sleeping, how their bodies are performing – the less of an emphasis we find placed on how they look, and in analysing those parts of themselves that they maybe don’t like.
Another trick that helps, says Niamh, is “that we don’t have any mirrors in Lift, so automatically the emphasis in our classes and training sessions is taken off the aesthetic – you can’t help but focus on what you’re doing, how much weight you’re lifting.” That’s something you can put in place at home too. If weighing yourself on the scales or taking progress pics of yourself makes you feel disempowered, then don’t do it. Find other goals that motivate you, like building your strength, being able to fit in another rep or getting a better variety of nutrients into your meals.
Where food is concerned, Niamh’s advice is to keep things really simple, so “three meals a day, made up of things that move and grow. So meat, fish, eggs, vegetables. Loads of green cruciferous veg like broccoli and spinach, to aid your body in detoxification.” she suggests. Basically? Try switching your focus to eating for health and satiety, as opposed to a change in body composition.
For Niamh, the focus in-studio is on using your body in a functional, purposeful way. “It’s really amazing sometimes to see clients lifting 75kg when they found 40kg a challenge, two weeks previously,” she notes. “The body really is amazing at adapting to change and stresses and pressure; it’s just that sometimes we need to point that out to people, because they’ve spent so long looking for a change in dress size.” The take-home? A healthy body is more than what you see in the mirror. Just something to remember, when you’re tempted to try a detox tea or punish yourself in the gym.
Find what you’re most comfortable in
Forget the rules about what styles best suit what body types and instead focus on finding a bathing suit you feel your best in. If you feel more comfortable in a one piece wear that instead, and don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on things like support if you’ve got big boobs. The trick is to take as many styles as possible into the changing room with you, don’t be a stickler for size and to choose the suit that most represents you. Love bold colours? Wear ’em. Feel your most fierce in a halter? Simple. Buy a halter.
Having a conversation with your body might sound weird but it’s something Mel Wells, author of The Goddess Revolution, a book about making peace with food and learning to love your body, swears by. “Start to get into constant communication with your body, get curious from an outsider perspective, treat her as if she were a separate person – a friend, a sister, a daughter,” she advises.
“Ask her how she is feeling? Why is she feeling that way? Whenever I’m feeling out of sorts, I always ask myself What do I need right now in this moment? And whatever the answer is – I do that!”
“How often do you celebrate your body? Even for the little things?” asks Mel. For many of us, the answer is
probably never. Here’s what Mel does. “I like to celebrate my body by dancing around naked to my favourite songs, wear clothes that make me feel a million dollars and take photos of myself even if they are just for my eyes only!” Try it on the lead up to wearing a bikini.
Treat yourself like a goddess
The relationship you have with your body needs constant nurturing so “create your own self-love and self-care routine,” advises Mel. “Treat yourself with massages, bubble baths, luxury moisturisers and nourishing food – or whatever you enjoy! Another tip? Lash on the SPF if you’re in the sun, because nothing says ‘I love my body’ more than making sure you protect it.
A final note from Mel? “The journey to self-love is not easy – we basically have to unlearn everything society has taught us about our bodies and our worth. So just try integrating one of the above tips into your life at a time – and remember you are enough exactly as you are!”
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