Angela Warm, Health Editor
About 10 years ago, Oprah spoiled my summer fun.
I’d been a huge Oprah fan for as long as I can remember. I hung on every episode feeling a mix of inspiration and longing afterwards. I subscribed to her glossy magazine, pushing self help as well as high end lip gloss.
Seriously half my conversations with my friends started out “This one time on Oprah”
Circa 2010 time frame Oprah said something on her show or maybe it was in her magazine that women over 40 shouldn’t wear shorts!
It stopped me in my Tommy Bahama tracks.
I was facing 40. So I ditched the oodles of shorts I owned as fast as Oprah and Gayle popped open a bottle of bubbly.
Which says a lot for this then Florida girl who lived 2 kilometers from the beach. I succumbed to “acting my age” and adhering to the societal norms of “older women”. I became self conscious about not just the length of my shorts and skirts, but everything else that came along with it, my grey hair, my wrinkles.
So I don’t know if it is the turning 50 vibe or the fact that it has been a LONG COLD LONELY WINTER but I am saying to hell with hiding my kneecaps! I declare this to be the summer of fun.
While many celebrate the coming of warmer summer weather, it also has a dark side for those that struggle with body image. Summer means not being able to easily hide behind layers or bulky jackets. And feeling a torturous mixture of self consciousness and shame at the pool or lake.
What I’ve learned by working on myself as well as with many of my clients, that having a healthy body image regardless of your size, is an important factor in having a healthy relationship with food, exercise and the many factors that keep us “healthy”.
And while many of us struggle with ways to feel happy with how we look in our post pandemic or post menopausal bodies, here are my tips for loving the body you have right now, regardless of the season:
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
If negative self talk dominates your life, try focusing on a part of your body or even a personality trait that you love about yourself. Every time your negative talk starts to spiral out of control, give it a quick swift kick and recognize and appreciate your body for the amazing things that it can do. Like carry your little one while juggling a bag of groceries and finding the keys to your car, or cooking dinner while making a halloween costume and helping your oldest with his maths homework. Seriously ladies, we are truly amazing human beings – let’s celebrate it – all of it.
If this positive self talk is too difficult at first, try to turn your negative comments into neutral talk. Instead of “I hate my giggly belly” try just acknowledging that area without the good or bad connotations. “Hi belly, thanks for all you do” or looking at your feet or your legs and thanking them for carrying you around today. Give your body a pep talk while you shower or after when you are putting lotion on by thanking it for the important role it plays in your life. Sometimes small steps to flip the negative comments in your head can go far in shifting your mindset and ultimately get you in a more positive and loving mind frame.
You get to control your thoughts, no one else, so shut down the inner critic before it goes off the rails.
WRITE A LOVE LETTER
Write Down Five Things You Love about your Body. Scary right? Even more reason to do it.
If you have kids this is a great exercise to do with your children, so they start cultivating a healthy relationship with their bodies as well. The physical act of writing down how you feel about your body on a piece of paper, helps you process your thoughts and commit things to memory. I often have my clients write down things they love on sticky notes and post them around their home in places they will see often.
When you take steps toward a healthier lifestyle (eating better, movement, rest etc), research suggests that you will greatly benefit from kicking that negative self-talk to the curb. You don’t have to love your body everyday (no one really does!) but in doing things that improve your wellbeing you are showing your body respect and ultimately boosting your self esteem and confidence in the process. Research suggest this act alone can be the difference in sticking to a healthy living plan.
DITCH THE COMPARE AND DESPAIR
Bodies are naturally diverse and come in all shapes, sizes and colors of the rainbow. I remember how liberating it was to learn that less than 1% of the population fits into the mold of what you see on TV and glossy magazines. And by the way skinny doesn’t equate to healthy. In this day and age of 24/7 social media images, it is easy to have your self esteem squashed with a swipe of your finger. It might be time for a social media detox or at the very least switch up your social media accounts to include people who look more like you do.
I for one am pear shaped, I am bigger on the bottom than the top, I’ll never fit into slim jeans E V E R. And I am OK with that as I have other redeeming features – and so do you.
How boring would it be if we all looked like the models we see in magazines!
FOCUS ON HEALTHY HABITS, NOT THE NUMBERS
What is most important to your health is creating daily healthy habits such as:
Eating more vegetables
Reducing Sugar and Processed Foods
Moving Your Body
Chewing Your Food
Respect yourself and your body enough to do what is in your control to make it feel good. If you only focus on the negative, you will never see the good around you. By practicing healthy habits, you send positive signals to your brain that you are worthy. It helps build the confidence to make taking care of our bodies a habit you can stick to.
Ditch the good and bad labels around food and exercise. There is nothing to punish yourself for. Make the act of eating healthy and moving your body, an act of daily celebration. Studies show that yoga, exercise and helping others are great for more than just your physical health but benefits your self esteem as well. And when we “exercise” our self esteem muscles, the world is our oyster.
There is something wonderfully liberating about getting older. One, it sure beats the alternative but two, you get to shed all that should have and must do’s and just be you.
As I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I’ve grown more immune to the allure of glossy magazines and advice from celebrities touting self-help and women’s empowerment tips. I’ve spent too much of my life worrying about my appearance. I surely have better things to do with the next half.
And I’m going to start by wearing shorts this summer. Because life is too short not to love the body we are given. Who’s ready to show off their knees with me?
I wish you a healthy and happy summer filled with my favorite things – fresh picked berries, ice cream, time in nature, laughter, real hugs and that end of the day sun drenched tiredness that comes with summer.