My kind of beautiful: Learning to love your body

Our bodies need love just as much of the rest of us. Learn to give yours what it needs with these tips.

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  • Your body isn’t perfect. Mine isn’t either. Neither is your mom’s, your sister’s, or your neighbor’s. As for that girl who looks like she walked straight out of a magazine, well, her body is probably close. However, she doesn’t have anything to do with how you feel about your body. Here are some ideas on how you can be more optimistic, inspired, realistic, and practical as you take careful steps toward loving the physical part of “you.”

  • Replace pessimism with positivity

  • Our bodies need love just as much of the rest of us. When we realize we aren’t showing enough love, the first step is to heal some of the damage we’ve already done and start fresh. Change your thinking by hanging up a picture of someone who loves you unconditionally. This could be your parents, spouse, or your deity of choice. Caption the picture with, “You are always beautiful to me.” I had a picture like this on my bathroom mirror during college. It acted as a daily reminder that I can be lovable and important for things like patience, kindness, and quiet strength. No matter anyone else's opinion, I knew there was someone who would tell me the truth: As a whole, I am beautiful.

  • Pray

  • Your body is a gift. Without it, senses and physical comforts would simply not exist. Acknowledging your body’s powers with gratitude and humility puts your heart in the right place, as will admitting to someone with much more power than you that you are upset and frustrated and in need of help. With this attitude, love comes naturally. The changes you make are more likely to stick when you do them out of love rather than obligation. That is true of any change, not just the efforts you make to love your body. Try it. It works.

  • Make small, practical changes

  • Rather than getting frustrated about not being able to master the same changes you’ve been trying to make for years, just start small. When you remember to drink a glass of water instead of soda, or you actually go to the gym, pat yourself on the back for the success. When you don’t successfully do those things, remind yourself that all of your past triumphs are not undone because of one mistake.

  • You might also try getting dressed every day. Bodies can be hard to love when they're encased in yesterday's sweatpants. Getting dressed can be a gesture of honoring your physical self. Once you make that one gesture of love, it clears the way for other loving gestures to fall into place.

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  • Stretch

  • I love stretching. It helps when I’m stiff. It helps when I’m restless. It helps when I am getting sleepy from sitting still too long. Basically, when my muscles are not getting on my nerves, so to speak, my body is more cooperative and is much easier to love. Do a search online and you’ll find a number of resources for stretching exercises, complete with step-by-step instructions and pictures. If you have muscle pain in a particular area, research stretches for those muscles first. This can be the first step toward a more limber, comfortable you.

  • That said, consult your doctor before starting any new health regimen. He or she can give you advice that is specific to your needs — or maybe just a high-five.

  • With your husband, create your own definition of “sexy.”

  • We’re told over and over by the media that sexy means skinny, long-haired models with full lips and a smoldering gaze. I don’t buy it! One of the more reassuring things of monogamy is that the definition of “sexy” is between you and your husband. Stop comparing yourself to others.

  • One of the first things I noticed about my husband was his cute speech impediment. He loves my hair’s natural wave, even though it drives me crazy. These are not stereotypical turn-ons. But they are the things that make us unique and remind us of the intimacy of our relationship. In your marriage, remember that half the reason you are attractive to your husband is that you are a real person. Sex isn’t just about your body — it’s you, as a whole. Therefore, “sexy” means all of you, too.

  • Think about something else

  • When we talk about the same thing repeatedly with someone, we get tired of the conversation and tired of that person. The same is true of conversations we have with ourselves. The problem is that we can’t get away from our own psyches. That’s why it’s OK to put the “learn to love my body” objective on the back burner sometimes. Feeling anxious, angry, or just overly preoccupied with your goal undermines your progress. Remind yourself that you are a marvelous person for many reasons, independent of your body, and leave it alone for a while.

  • Although it may not seem like it now, you can, in fact, come to love your body. Even with stretch marks, bad hair days, and that extra weight that just won't go away, your body is yours to keep. Isn't that wonderful? After all, your body makes something else — anything else — possible. Go find out what’s possible today.

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Sara Hagmann is a stay-at-home wife and writer who loves traveling, cooking, and kissing her husband. A lot.

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