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How Do you Feel about your Body?

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR BODY? by guest blogger Anna Mould 

This is a question that has challenged me throughout my lifetime, and only in the last five years or so have I come to a place of peace with it.

There has been a huge #loveyourbody movement over recent years, but this isn't as easy as we are led to believe. In a culture where society and the media dictates what is attractive and acceptable in terms of our appearance and body shape, it is all too easy to feel we are lacking, not good enough. It can cause us to strive toward unattainable goals, restricting our intake and pushing ourselves in gruelling physical regimes to achieve them. Women are encouraged to be "taut and lean" one week, "curvy but slender" the next. Men should be sculpted and muscular, but then the fad changes again. In a culture where the celebrity or model in the photograph doesn't actually look like the edited, enhanced image of them in the photograph, is it any wonder we feel the way we do about our own, imperfect body? Is it any wonder we don't like what we see in the mirror? That we, maybe, dislike or even hate our body?

Our bodies have been changing since the day we were born, and they will continue to change as we age. But we are expected to remain youthful! We are chasing the impossible…

My journey of body acceptance (please note, I don't say "love") began many years ago - I was bulimic in my early twenties. After the births of both my  boys, I went straight to dieting to "get my figure back". I continued smoking for many years because I was scared of gaining weight. My self-worth for many years was very much based on how attractive I thought I should be under the male gaze. Not healthy at all. I continually berated myself and my body for not looking a certain way.

Then something shifted. It has taken time, and remains a work in progress, but my mindset has slowly moved away from berating my body and mentally beating myself up, to being more gentle and accepting of where I am.

Here are some tips and habits I have picked up and trained myself in over the years which have helped me in accepting my body, as it is, flaws and all:

Photo by Cydnee Brook Photography
Smile at your Reflection

I spent years avoiding a full-length reflection, but bought myself a full mirror. Instead of standing in front of it prodding and pulling at the "bad bits", I would simply look, smile and get on with my day. Learn to greet yourself as a friend, with a smile and a nod. You wouldn’t go up to a friend and poke at their belly? Or tell them that they really need to get in shape? Treat yourself as you would treat those you love. 

Think Kind Thoughts about your Body

I spent so long thinking "I hate my fat belly", "my thighs are too big", "my stretch marks are ugly". Instead, I started saying "I like my smile", "my hair looks good". Focus on something that you like, and try to stop thinking about the bits you're not so happy with.

Don't Compare

Perfection does not exist, and comparing yourself (whether your physical appearance, lifestyle, home) will only bring you down. Focus on you. You are unique, and that is your power. As mentioned above, even the girl in the photo doesn't look like the girl in the photo, so you are comparing yourself to a fiction, and trying to attain the impossible.

Express Gratitude to your Body

Rather than thinking about what it looks like, focus on what it can do.

My body allows me to walk in nature. It allows me to practise yoga, run around with my grandchildren. It allows me to drive a car, to dance, to bob about in the sea. Start thanking your body for what it allows you to do in your life, things you enjoy and make your life full.

Treat your Body with TLC

Nourish your body well, a balanced diet, good hydration. Avoid restricting your intake, and enjoy your food! Life is too short, so eat the damn cake! Drink plenty of water, but enjoy your favourite tipple. Moderation, not excessive restriction, is key.

Rest. This is so important. The body whispers before it screams, so pay attention to what your body is telling you and honour it. 

Live with your Body

Try not to allow how you feel about your appearance impact upon or limit your enjoyment of life. Try new things. Do what you enjoy. And remember, despite what we may tell ourselves, other people are too concerned with their own lives to be worrying about what you look like! Our body has been, and will be, with us all our life. It is the one constant relationship we have. Make it a good one.

Learn to accept your body, flaws and all. It is not an easy, smooth process. It will take time, but you will feel so much more at peace with yourself.

I will end with these wonderful words from Donna Ashworth:

"Feed yourself well, physically, mentally and spiritually, and then enjoy your life with the vessel you inhabit. 

It’s a one shot only thing. 

Peace, laughter and acceptance are the best medicines around."

Anna has released two books which are available to purchase on Amazon. 

Green Pigs and Me is a collection of letters to Anna's younger self, written during the pandemic lockdown. She looks back at key events with kindness and gratitude, giving her younger self the hope and guidance she needed fifteen years ago.

When Green Pigs fly: (and other musings) Following on from Anna's successful first book (Green Pigs and Me) and written over the course of 2021, this book follows her flight path and the turbulence she encounters along the way.

©Solent Swim School 2023