A few weeks ago, Molly Galbraith hosted a month-long “Love Your Body” challenge on her blog. While I shared the challenge on my Facebook page and fully supported the idea, I did not participate. This is because I am already at peace with my body and I feel confident in it every day. I love my body in every possible way, so I did not feel the need to love myself any more!
Did I always feel this way? Hell no. I used to hate my body with a passion. When I was a teenager, I dreaded my almost-daily ballet classes when I would have to strip down to a leotard and not much else. I felt so insecure and ashamed of my body. When we did costume fittings, I used to make my teacher come into the bathroom while everyone else stood in the studio because I didn’t want anyone looking at my body. This continued into early adulthood, when I refused to wear any form of clothing that wasn’t floaty and baggy, and I would only go to the dog beach where there were less people around. I was the definition of insecure.
What is ironic is that I was a skinny minny and weighed 12kg less than I do now. Yet all I could see when I looked in the mirror was love handles and chubby legs. I did everything in my power to avoid photographs, which is why I have so few ‘before’ pictures.
This is a huge contrast to the person I am now! I never stop taking selfies, I love wearing tight clothes and I can proudly walk around in a bikini all day long. This change did not happen overnight, of course, but here are some things which helped me to become body confident:
- Weight lifting! The first point is a little obvious, but it is so true. Exercise changed from being something viewed purely as a means to burn calories and punish myself with (running) to something I truly enjoyed. When I first started lifting, I looked forward to every 6am wake up call, as I genuinely loved getting stronger and increasing my muscle definition.
- Focused on what my body could do, instead of what it couldn’t. Again, this is tied in with weight lifting. When I started focusing on strength goals (completing my first unassisted chin-up, deadlifting 130kg, entering strongwoman competitions, etc) everything else became irrelevant. My body – particularly my hormones – does not seem to handle low levels of body fat well, so I had to stop focusing on a basically unobtainable goal. I soon started to marvel at how strong I was, given I had always thought of myself as a very weak, non-athletic person. I learned to love my body and all it could do. Because of this I am able to purposely gain weight before a competition without it affecting my mental state – which I would have never been able to do in the past! I can now do it while keeping the greater goal in mind, and I know that any gain will be easily reversed without having to panic.
- Threw away the scales! Jen Comas Keck recently wrote a great post about the horrible effects that scales can have on our minds. Back when I weighed myself regularly, I could wake up feeling lean but if the scale didn’t say what I expected, it would ruin my day and I would almost always eat junk food afterwards as I saw no point in sticking to my plan anymore. I now weigh myself purely for competition reasons but only within six weeks of a comp – at all other times I never step foot on a scale. The number does not have the same effect on me anymore, and I have no reason to know what it is.
- Positive mirror talk. I used to absolutely hate mirrors. In my darkest times, I used to pinch the skin on my stomach/hips so hard and so frequently that I often had bruises. I used to tell myself how fat and ugly I was on a daily basis. How did I ever expect to feel sexy or confident when I talked to myself that way? When you look at yourself in the mirror, talk to yourself in the way you would talk to your best friend. As silly and perhaps conceited as it sounds, I try to pick out one positive thing to tell myself every morning when I’m getting ready, such as “your hair looks great today”, “your eyes are pretty” or “damn, dat ass!”
- Ate to nourish my body. Once I healed my metabolism and began to ate intuitively, I became a much happier person all round. I was no longer counting calories, restricting food groups or feeling guilty over eating ‘naughty’ food. I allow myself to eat whatever I want and most of the time that is healthy, wholesome foods that make me feel good. Letting go of my food issues allowed me to feel a lot more body confident, as I stopped viewing food as something that needed to be restricted and instead as something which helped me be strong and awesome!
- Dress up! As I work in a sports centre, I could quite easily wear gym clothes all of the time. However, I am a girly girl at heart and I absolutely love getting dolled up in a nice party dress, heels and make up. I try to wear ‘normal’ clothes to work a few days per week, and I like to go all-out once or twice a week as it makes me feel so much sexier. I love shopping and investing in nice clothes that I am proud to wear.
- Made ‘me time’ a priority. A few years ago, I rarely made time for myself. Between working 50 hours a week, training twice a day and commuting, I didn’t have much time left over to take care of myself. Now, I always spend one hour unwinding before bed, and I use my extra rest days to do things that make me feel good like getting my hair done, having a manicure or enjoying a massage. These are things that make me feel sexier and more put together.
- Realised that criticism from others is a result of their own insecurities. I used to spend a lot of time hating and judging other people for being too fat, too skinny, too bulky, etc. All of this stemmed from my own insecurities, and all that awful time I used to spend in front of the mirror picking out my flaws. When I started accepting my body for what it was, all of those negative judgements disappeared. On the occasions where someone does criticise my body, I don’t take it personally. Having been in the same position where I felt it was okay to criticise the physical appearance of someone else, I know why they did it. I can take almost any negative and turn it into a positive, based on all of the reasons above.
Do you struggle with body confidence? How did you teach yourself to be body confident?