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How to Be Friends with Your Body This Summer, Part #2

This post is a continuation of a post from a few weeks ago: “How to Be Friends with Your Body this Summer, Part #1”.  (You can read that post here.)

The point of these posts is to remind you that you don’t have to be a certain size or certain weight or look a certain way in a bikini to have a good summer or be deserving of a good summer. You are deserving of a good summer right now, and you can have a magical summer no matter your size, weight, or shape.

Weird Math

I mean a very specific thing by magic:

Magic is the unique ability to bring creativity, compassion, love, and wisdom into the world in a way that changes your life and other people’s lives for the better. Magic creates moments of adventure, joy, and wonder. You have magic, and so does everyone else.

Magic #2

Unfortunately, one of the common cultural messages floating around this time of year is that only people who have a certain appearance or have a certain body size can have a magical summer. I believe this message is radically false, and that is why I am writing these posts.

One of the best ways to cultivate more magic in our life this summer and all year round is to become friends with our body.

In my last post, I suggested that one of the best ways to become friends with our body is to realize that…

We are worthy right now, no matter our size or shape.

Beauty is present in every size, weight, and shape.

We are lovable right now, no matter our size, weight, or shape.

I know it can be hard to believe these things, especially because we hear so many cultural messages to the contrary. If you have problems believing any of the ideas above, consider going back and reading my first post. (Again, you can read that post here.)

If you are ready to move on, here are three more ways to be friends with your body right now.

One: Realize that you can be healthy and feel good right now, no matter your size, weight, or shape.

I know you might be skeptical about this one. You might be saying to self, No way. There are definitely certain sizes or weights that are unhealthy.

I get this concern, but please consider this:

There is a growing body of evidence, confirmed by doctors and nutritionists, that it is not a certain weight or size that makes us unhealthy. Rather, it is adopting certain practices that fail to care for our mind, body, and spirit that make us unhealthy. (You can read more about this here.)

Certainly these practices can lead to weight gain sometimes, but it is also possible to be a very thin person and engage in harmful mind-body-spirit practices and to be unhealthy. On the flip side, someone can look larger and carry “extra weight” according to supposed “healthy weight” charts (like BMI charts, etc.), but this person can be very healthy because she (or he) consistently practices good mind-body-spirit practices.

Worthy, Etc (2)

I may not know you, but I know that you are worthy, beautiful, and lovable right now. If you would like to read another post about this, you might like this one: Why We Have Problems Believing We are Enough

In addition, we are often bombarded with a lot of pressure to go on diets and lose weight in order to achieve the perfect body. But going on diets to intentionally lose weight often backfires.  (You can read more about this here.) When we focus on weight rather than developing loving and nurturing habits, we focus on the wrong thing, and we cut ourselves off from our body’s natural signals.

So what does this have to with the summer, your body, and making magic?

Well, you are the boss of your body, and you get to decide what to do with it this summer, but I invite you to consider that one of the best things you can do to create more magic in your life is to develop loving habits for your mind, body and spirit.

Doing this will help you start to feel good in your body right now, and it will also help you develop habits that increase your health. Here are some loving habits you can try out if you like:

Breathe: Begin a simple breathing practice. I am convinced that many (if not most people) are shallow breathers. The busyness and excess use of technology encourages this. When we develop shallow breathing, it can cause anxiety, low energy, poor mental clarity, as well of a host of other problems. When develop habits of mindful breathing, it brings a lot of mental and physical benefits to our lives. A mindful breathing practice can be as simple as taking ten, deep nasal breaths once, twice, or three times a day. You can read more about this here.

Breathing Bird

Reestablish a Connection: Research Intuitive Eating, and Am I Hungry Principles. These health philosophies can help you reestablish a natural and mindful connection with your body wisdom, focusing on health and self-kindness, rather than losing weight.

Move So There is More of You, Not Less of You: Move in a way that sounds fun, easy, and doable to you. Instead of thinking of movement as a way to shrink yourself, think about it as a way to make yourself feel good. Movement that feels good might come from activities like dancing, walking, juggling, swimming, yoga, bouncing on an exercise ball or trampoline, swinging on swings, hula hooping, climbing on playground equipment, climbing trees, lifting light or heavy weights, doing somersaults or cartwheels. Don’t worry about whether you are burning enough calories or getting your heart in a target range. Instead, focus on how you feel and what you are learning.

And you are the boss of you, so you get to decide how fast and slow and how much you want to move. Whatever way you decide to move, approach it with an attitude of play and curiosity. I like to say that I move so there is more of me, not less of me. The more of me in this case is the way I feel more alive, clear-headed, enthusiastic and joyful when I move with pleasure. You can read more about this here.

Bird and music

Rest and Be Silent: We are so used to being busy and plugged into technology all the time that our brains rarely have time to rest and be still. This may seem like it is not a big deal, but it turns out that our brains actually crave down time. Silence is essential for our brain’s growth, development, memory recall, and our own personal self-awareness. Giving yourself regular silence breaks can be an incredibly nurturing practice. Consider spending one, five, or ten minutes each day doing nothing and just being silent.

Give yourself the gift of nature: I grew up in Oregon and was lucky to spend a lot of time as a child at nature camp and outside riding my bike. I loved nature. Unfortunately, as I got older, I got busy with work and school and spent less and less time in nature. One day I realized it was having a negative impact on my emotions and mental clarity.

When I realized this, I started going outside regularly—almost every day. I especially began seeking out parks with lots of trees or with a forest-like environment. It has helped me a great deal. You can read more about that here and here. If you are feeling low, depressed, anxious, melancholy, and scattered, consider finding a park or someplace with a lot of trees and spending time walking or sitting there. Don’t do it because you have to. Do it because your body naturally craves being in nature, and spending time in it will bring you so many beautiful gifts. You’ll be surprised.

Speak Kindly to Yourself: Imagine the most kind, encouraging and loving teacher you have ever had. What did she (or he) say? How did she (or he) make you feel? Now imagine the most discouraging and cruel teacher you have ever had. What did she (or he) say? How did she (or he) make you feel?

If you are like a lot of people, at one point or another, you had a really encouraging teacher who made you feel special and like you could succeed. And you have probably also had a discouraging teacher who made you feel stupid and like a perpetual failure.

Teacher (2).jpg

My encouraging teacher was Mrs. McNiel in 7th grade. I don’t know if she actually ever said these words above to me, but this is how she made me feel every day.

We often fail to realize that as we get older, we develop a voice inside our head that is always speaking to us. We can develop this voice into a kind teacher voice or a mean teacher voice. And, of course, I recommend that you develop the kind teacher voice. Developing this kind voice greatly increases our own self-confidence and our ability to thrive, even in the midst of adversity. You can read more about this here and here.

Practice Love-Based Eating: Consider throwing out labels like “healthy food” and “unhealthy food” and focus instead on eating what you love. Eating what you love means eating food that 1) tastes good to you 2) that makes you feel good 3) and that gives you energy. With a Love-Based philosophy to eating, you don’t put certain foods off limits. Rather, you focus on eating what you love and listening to the feedback you get from your body.

Sometimes you might prioritize taste over feeling good or having lots of energy. Sometimes you might prioritize eating to feel good and to have energy over enjoying a specific taste. (I first learned about Love-Based Eating from my friend Jack X Taylor, who is a genius at helping people nurture their bodies. He is a personal trainer, and I think you would love following him on Instagram here.)

I know that eating like this may sound scary and like you will eat a ton of supposedly unhealthy food for the rest of your life. If you are afraid of this, consider studying Intuitive Eating, which is a philosophy similar to Love-Based Eating. Intuitive Eating is a  way of eating increasingly recognized by both doctors and nutritionists. It helps people reestablish their connection with their body wisdom and to listen to what their body needs to feel good. You can read the principles behind Intuitive Eating here.[1]

Let yourself create: Human beings are naturally creative. We are tri-dimensional beings who are simultaneously aware of our past, present, and future. Because of this, we are aware of possibilities, of the ability to change, to create new practices and institutions, and to solve problems.[2] Our creativity flows from this capacity, and it is a drive all of us possess. When we do not give ourselves opportunities to create, we can feel stifled, repressed, shut down, closed off, and withered. Allowing yourself to create, whether you think you are creative or not, can be life-giving.

Painting

Consider giving yourself time to draw, paint, write, make collages, build with wood, build with legos, sew, crochet, knit, cook, write letters, build models, play or create music, make love (that’s creative, too), organize a space in your house, garden, or build relationships through conversation or activities. All of these are creative endeavors that allow you to express your natural creative drive. You will likely find yourself coming alive in the process and that it has positive effects on other areas of your life.

Show Yourself Compassion: Human beings hurt. We fail. We suffer heartache, disappointment, and setbacks. Despite the fact that suffering is a common part of being human, people often communicate to us that we aren’t allowed to suffer; that we need to get over things quickly; and that mature, responsible people put on a stiff upper lip or their big girl or big boy panties and just deal with it.

Responding to our suffering this way is unhelpful and causes more problems in the long run. One of the best things we can do to help bring more magic into our lives is to learn how to show ourselves compassion. You can read more about that here and here. )

Compassion

Let’s Take a Minute to Review

I would like you look back over this list of things we can do to bring more magic into our life and notice that anyone can do any of these things no matter their size, weight, or shape. The activities above will help you start to feel good in your body right now. When we feel good in our bodies, it opens the door for other adventures in our lives. That’s what the next item is about.

Two: You are ready for and deserving of magical adventures right now.

We often get the idea that we will only have or deserve magical adventures if our body is a certain size or shape.

This is not true. There are people of a supposedly “perfect” size that have unmagical lives and people of all others shapes and sizes who have a lot of magic in their lives. That’s because having magical adventures is primarily about attitudes we have and actions we take towards the world. Here are some of the attitudes and actions that cultivate magic in our lives:

A willingness to learn and try new things.

A willingness to be curious about things in the world.

A willingness to cultivate kind, compassionate, and respectful relationships with other people.  

An openness to making mistakes, failing, and learning from the process.

A willingness to practice asking questions, seeking answers, and noticing things in the world.

A willingness to listen to ourselves, our passions, our dreams, and our hopes.

A willingness to take action to make things happen rather than always waiting for things to us.

A willingness to relax and let things come to us rather than trying so hard all the time.

If you doubt that these things can bring more magic into your life, please consider this phrase by Cheri Huber, “What you practice is what you have.”[3] If you want to have musical talent, you practice music. If you want to have more drawing skills, you practice drawing. If you want to have more friendship in your life, you practice friendship.

Dragonfly and Magic.jpg

 

 

Magical adventures sometimes happen to us by serendipity, but we can also create more adventure simply by practicing adventure. And I know it may seem scary and like you aren’t sure how to do it. You may also look at other people’s lives and think that their lives are much more adventurous than yours.

That’s okay. All of these feelings are normal. Almost anyone who sets out in pursuit of a goal initially has feelings of being inadequate or unsure how to start.

The good news is that it is much easier to cultivate these attitudes than it may seem at first. Here is a list of seventy things you can do this summer to help you get started: 70 Things You Can Do This Summer to Bring More Magic Into Your Life

And it is also important to realize that you may not feel like having magical adventures right now, and that is okay, too. That brings me to item number three.

Three: You are allowed to be perfectly imperfect right now.

Sometimes we get the idea that we are supposed to be happy and have a magical life all the time. That can make us feel like any imperfections we possess or sadness we suffer is a sign of failure and unworthiness.

I want to remind you that it is normal to have off days, months, summer and years. It is normal to make mistakes and fail. It is normal for things to fall apart sometimes. It is normal to cry, to feel overwhelmed, and to need help sometimes. It is normal to feel bad about yourself and your body sometimes.

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All of this is a normal part of the human experience, so I want to end this post by telling you that you deserve and are capable of a magical summer right now no matter your weight, size, or appearance.

But, if you want to sleep, to feel sad for a while, and to take a break from magic, that’s okay, too. No one, including you, is required to have a magical life all the time. It’s not possible or even really desirable.

The magic is always waiting for you when you are ready to come back to it.

*****

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[1] People who practice Intuitive Eating often find that while they eat a lot of originally forbidden foods initially, they soon get over the desire to eat such foods in any great quantity, and their eating naturally becomes more balanced.

[2] Paulo Freire discusses our tri-dimensional nature in chapter three of Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

[3] By the way, this is the title of one of her books, and I highly recommend it. You can find it here.

6 thoughts on “How to Be Friends with Your Body This Summer, Part #2”

  1. These are such healthful sentiments, Shelly. You have a way of condensing complicated information into something that makes perfect sense and feels achievable. I love the last point about giving yourself permission to be imperfect.

    1. Ali, that is one of the nicest compliments anyone could pay me. As a philosopher, I am always a little concerned about being unnecessarily complicated, and I worry about that in my blog because I often bring philosophy indirectly into it. So, it makes me happy that these points feel sensible and achievable to you. And giving ourselves permission to be imperfect is so important, isn’t it?

  2. Such a wonderful, warm, and timely reminder to be good to ourselves. Summer is always the time I’m hardest on myself, especially when I put on a swim suit!

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