7 Ways To Deal When You Have That ‘Bad Body Image’ Day

*article originally published on The Odyssey Online*

We are all going to face some days where you just don’t want to look in the mirror. Self-love and appreciation can be incredibly hard during times like these. But do not fear! Here are a few things you can try when you are struggling to appreciate you!

1. Put on some really comfy clothes.

Your favorite leggings and sweatshirt, a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, even a dress. Anything that feels comfy and good for you. Sometimes, though, you want to avoid baggy clothing on an already bad body image day. See what works for you!

2. Pamper yourself.

Turn your home into a spa for the day. Focus on spa activities that feel good but don’t emphasize appearance too much. Paint your nails, do a face mask, take a bath with bubbles and wine (only if you are of age) and a good book!

3. Make a list of things your body can DO.

List out all the things your body does for you on a daily basis. Think what it DOES not how it looks. If you can’t think of anything, go back to basics! Your body lets you live by breathing, etc.

4. Journal.

Seriously. Sometimes putting what is bothering you — exactly as it is bothering you — out on a page is so relieving. It takes the jumbled thoughts and makes you see them a bit more clearly. Often, it is easier to challenge the thoughts when they are physically on a page in front of you.

5. Eat what you crave.

If you can, make your favorite meal. Whatever it is. If you like mac-and-cheese, make it. Want ice cream for dinner? Have it. Just because you don’t love your body today doesn’t mean you shouldn’t honor hunger.

6. If you need to go out, put on an outfit you have always felt stellar in!

Wear whatever that one outfit is that literally makes you feel like gold. I am giving you permission to take it out of the dirty laundry pile, if that is what you need to do. Because feeling good in what you are wearing — especially on a bad body image day — can help a lot when going out into public!

7. Remind yourself that your bad body image day will pass.

We all have them. It is normal. How much we like what we look like is going to fluctuate. But learning to appreciate our bodies anyway, even on the bad days, is the basis of self-love.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals. 

xoxo

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Exercising Is About Loving Yourself, Not Punishing Yourself

*article originally published on The Odyssey Online*

“Ugh, I had too many cookies. I will have to go to the gym for hours later.”

“I ran three miles, so I can have this ice cream.”

“I worked out a lot this week, I can eat whatever I want.”

“I cheated on my diet yesterday. I have to go work it all off today.”

“I would love to have some of that dessert, but I didn’t work out today.”

Do any of those phrases sound familiar?

If one or more does, I am so sorry. I’ve been there. I know how horrible the constant guilt, work-out, repeat cycle truly is.

Exercise mindsets centered around food and dieting and working off what was eaten are unhealthy. They are dangerous and cyclic and a recipe for disaster.

But they are also the norm. They are promoted by society and normalized by peers.

You can find references to “magic” workouts on magazines. Exercise fads are almost as insidious as diet trends! They are discussed almost constantly.

Seriously, I dare you to go a day without hearing (or mentioning) working out, dieting, food or guilt around something you ate.

But, would you like to know a secret?

Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.

Exercise isn’t something you do because you think you had one too many cookies.

It isn’t something you do because you want to eat a certain way later.

It isn’t something that gives you permission to “let loose.”

Our society treats exercise like the end-all-be-all of what you can and cannot eat. It is the magic permission slip for dessert. It is the go-to for guilty thoughts and fixing that cheat meal.

(Oh, and those cheat meals… those are bullshit, too.)

Food is not good or bad or healthy or unhealthy. (It’s all about that moderation!)

Food is not something you earn.

Food is not something you compensate for with hours on hours of time at the gym.

Let me tell you something. I used to think that food was all of the above. I logged hundreds and hundreds of miles running. I worked out all the time.

I was miserable. I had an eating disorder that constantly told me food was bad. And I punished myself with exercise.

And now, years later, in recovery from my eating disorder and months and months away from compulsive exercise, I look around me and I see the same unhealthy relationship with exercise everywhere.

I hear it in conversations I pass on the street or floating around the air in cafes. I watch it in the monotonous strain of those who attend the college gym with a pained, dead look in their eyes.

It’s not healthy.

But, as I have started to add exercise back into my life, I have redefined my relationship with it.

Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.

Exercise is something you do because you have lots of energy and you want to move.

Exercise is something you do to relieve stress…and not the stress that comes from feeling like you ate something you “shouldn’t have.” (Shouldn’t have really doesn’t exist, unless, for example, you are lactose intolerant and had a lot of ice cream…)

Exercise is something you do to appreciate all that your body is capable of achieving.

Exercise is something you do because you feel strong and powerful and fierce.

Exercise is something you do to enjoy the outdoors and the fresh air.

Exercise is something you do only when you can enjoy it.

Exercise is something you do because you enjoy it.

Let me say it again… Exercise. Is. Not. Punishment.

Trust me, I have used it as one. The other, enjoyable, self-fulfilling, side of the exercise spectrum is a lot more fun.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals. 

Stop Worrying About Your ‘Perfect Summer Body’ And Just Enjoy The Weather

*article originally posted on The Odyssey Online* 

As it warms up and winter clothing *finally* starts to withdraw into the back of the closet, discussions about body appearance move to the front hangers. ‘Tis the season for ads promoting how to get the body you want before summer and different diet trends to help you get rid of those last few pounds.

Feeds start to fill with alluring “body goals.” Promises re-emerge to take up that New Year’s resolution to hit the gym that you dropped on January 3. I sound sarcastic, but honestly, it’s OK to not go to the gym or drop those pounds!

And that’s the point.

Magazines, friends, commercials, etc. all say it’s time to get in shape before you hit the beach.

But, you don’t need to.

You don’t need to have abs and trim thighs and sculpted arms to be seen.

You don’t need to look like you work out every day to be worthy of space.

You don’t need to be a certain way to dress in shorts, skirts, a bathing suit, something that shows your legs or your form.

And anyone who says you do is wrong.

You can tell them I said that. Please do.

Society and (especially American) culture send messages basically saying to be worthy — of love, belonging, respect, space, time, empathy, etc. — you need to be a certain body type.

To be worthy, you need to look worthy.

But worth does not lie on the skin. As cliché as this is, “beauty is not skin deep.” (I honestly have no idea who said that, but they were/are correct and I give them mad props.)

Someone who looks different than you is just as worthy of love as you are.

We, and here I mean society as a whole, because, like it or not, we who disagree with thin ideals are part of society too, judge so much on how we look and what we wear that we forget the object of the judgment is a person too.

A person with feelings and dreams and desires who just wants to love and be loved.

Who cares if you have some shape to your stomach and you like to wear bikinis?

Who cares if you don’t have super thin thighs and you sport shorts in the warm weather?

Who cares if you have scars, stretch marks, birthmarks, acne, etc. and you don’t try to hide them?

If you answered “I care and it bothers me to see” to any of the above questions, it’s time to reevaluate your values because you just defined someone simply by their appearance.

What a petty thing to do.

In the spirit of full disclosure, when I read the questions I wrote above, I think: “I care if people think that about me.” But you know what, that’s OK and, honestly, to be expected.

Society conditioned me to care what people think.

Society conditioned me to think I have to hide my flaws.

Society conditioned me to think I have to work out and look a certain way in order to take up space. (When did exercise change from something we do to alleviate stress to something we do to punish our bodies for the way they look? But, that right there is a different article for another week.)

Society conditioned me to think if I don’t look like a model, I can’t love who I am.

As hard as it is (for me too), I challenge us both to let go of those fears — if only for five minutes — and wear the shorts, the bathing suit, the outfit that doesn’t hide every flaw.

I challenge us both to drop the ridiculous standard we hold ourselves and others to in the spirit of just enjoying the world.

I challenge us both to view our bodies not as the enemy or of something to be ashamed, but as a means of exploration of the places around us. Of the vehicles that allow us to laugh, smile, hug, play sports, lounge on the beach, swim in the water and soak in the light.

Because, in the end, whether we look a good in a bathing suit is not the memory to look back on when we are older.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals.