It can seem like an impossible task to learn to love, like, or even accept your body. Of course, these are strongly encouraged ideas in the movement toward body positivity. However, here are still too many societal reinforcements out there that don't tell you how to love your body, but rather suggest ways you should alter or improve it.
It can be frustrating and difficult to combat all that negative noise, and it takes a lot of persistence, practice, and clarity of mind to actually achieve the feat that is self-acceptance.
But this is exactly what body image coach and trainer Jessi Kneeland tries to help people do. In fact, just last week, Kneeland shut down body-shamers on Instagram who trolled her after she proudly posted a picture of her cellulite -- or, as she likes to call it, her "fancy fat."
She wrote in that post,
Some people think fancy fat is 'bad,' and will try to convince you to get rid of yours, but we know better. Fancy fat is just a natural, healthy, built-in decoration. (Or at least that's how I choose to see it.)
Elite Daily spoke with Kneeland, who kindly shares some tips on how to start (and sustain) the process of accepting your body for exactly what it is.
1. Tune Into The Sensations Of Your Body
Kneeland points out that most women who struggle with body image are so tuned into the “external self” -- meaning, what you think when people see or look at you. This makes it a lot more difficult to be in tune with what's going on inside of you.
Rather than focusing on these external cues, she says, it's important to really get into the habit of recognizing how you and your body actually feel.
Kneeland tells Elite Daily,
I typically recommend focusing your mental attention on the really tangible and obvious sensations, like skin sensations, before moving deeper to muscle sensation, and then physical cues like hunger, fullness, fatigue, or pain.
Over time, you'll build a stronger mind-body connection, which will help your identity move from your "external self" to your "internal self."
2. Engage In Mindful Movement
Kneeland says that zoning out to a podcast on a long run might make it go faster, but what you're actually zoning out are the sensations in your body. She explains that engaging in mindful movement is exactly the opposite -- it's the experience of using movement or exercise of whatever kind to purposefully connect your mind to your body and its feelings and sensations as fully as possible.
Consider trying some mindful movement that's really simple and slow at first, like dancing without music, just swaying and trying to feel all the bones of your feet. Or start shaking your limbs out, noticing what they feel like afterward when you stand still.
I promise this gets easier with time and practice, and has the effect of making the internal experience of being you feel more important than what people see when they look at you.
3. Notice, Interrupt, And Challenge Your Thoughts
We all engage in self-talk, Kneeland points out, which is what we say inside our own heads about ourselves. “People who struggle to feel comfortable in their bodies typically have very negative and critical self-talk,” she says.
But you can change your self-talk simply by noticing your thoughts, interrupting them, and then challenging them.
Kneeland tells Elite Daily,
If you typically think, 'Ugh, gross' when you look in the mirror and see your belly rolls, you are constantly reinforcing the idea that you're gross. If you begin to notice those thoughts, you can interrupt them and start examining them.
She says to ask yourself questions like, is it actually true that your belly rolls are gross? According to whom? And do you really trust the opinion of those people?
“Challenging your negative self-talk won't make it magically disappear on the spot,” Kneeland says, “but the more often you do this, the more thoughts like that will fade away.”
4. Practice Courage
“We all hide our true selves or pretend to be something we're not sometimes,” Kneeland shares, “because we're afraid of being rejected, or shamed, or making people stop liking us.”
She explains that people with body image issues tend to do this a lot, and that the thought of actually being free to be themselves can be terrifying.
Practicing courage is about noticing all the ways in which you are hiding or pretending, identifying why it scares you, and then facing your fears head-on. The more you do this, the bigger your comfort zone will get, and you'll be able to take bigger and bigger steps towards living authentically, and connecting with people who love and accept the real you.
5. Develop Emotional Granularity
And what is that, exactly?
Kneeland explains that having a high emotional granularity means you can identify and express the subtle nuances in your emotions. In fact, this is actually another way of tuning into the sensations of you body, since you feel emotions physically.
If you have low emotional granularity, you feel (and express) basic emotions like anger, but if you cultivate a more nuanced understanding of your emotions, you'll be able to tell the difference between subtle versions of anger, like resentment, bitterness, irritation, and rage.
She explains that the more specific and accurate you can become in feeling and expressing your emotional experiences, the better and more accurate your relationship with yourself and others will be.
6. Expose Yourself To All Different Kinds Of Bodies
Our brains become wired to prefer the kinds of bodies we see images of the most, so in our culture, it's no wonder we all feel bad about not looking like a photoshopped model.
Make it a point in your life to connect with and appreciate the natural and inherent qualities of all bodies, meaning ones that are like yours, and those that are different:
By exposing yourself to tons of diverse images of fabulous fat women, trans women, olympic athletes of all shapes and sizes, and everyone in between, you will find all the work you do to love your body much easier.
Amen. And after all, this body is the only one you've got, right?