It can be unbelievably challenging to feel good about your body. After all, we’re constantly exposed to opportunities for self-comparison and judgment. The media inundates us with messages that we’re not fit, smart, or lean enough.
Even when we know we should love our bodies and think kindly about them, it’s easy to fall prey to negative self-talk. One way to make this happen is to break old harmful habits and forge new body-positive ones. Here are ten ways to build better body confidence as you strive to achieve a healthier, happier life:
Exercise is an exceptional method of developing self-confidence and making friends with your body. Developing physical strength gives you a reassuring sense of your place in the world. This pays off on multiple levels: Women who performed a strength training program not only became more mobile and agile, but also improved how they felt about their bodies, which resulted in them being more active in daily life.
#2: Cook Your Own Meals
Taking control of what you put in your body has an amazing effect on your waistline, your health, and your body image. By shopping for ingredients and preparing healthy, delicious meals at home, you ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to be your best self. You also have the opportunity to troubleshoot problem foods that don’t sit well with you physically, or that trigger cravings or anxiety about diet.
#3: Try A Food Journal
Doing a food journal in which you write down everything you eat in a day can be an incredibly useful way to get a handle on unhealthy habits you want to improve on. Instead of beating yourself up for overeating, or feeling guilt about enjoying sweets or junk food, do a food journal and gather raw data in order to identify what leads to eating behaviors that you’d like to change.
#4: Set Performance-Related Workout Goals
Many people fixate on weight or body-fat related goals. Of course, these have a time and place in any workout program because you need to know where you’re going in order to develop an effective plan to get you there. However, research shows there’s this annoying little thing called “compensation” that people do when they are motivated to work out in order to lose fat.
Simply, compensation means that people who exercise for weight loss usually end up eating more calories afterwards. Instead, people who work out for other purposes such as “for health,” “to get strong,” or “to build muscle” don’t tend to compensate by eating more calories. Outsmart compensation by focusing on performance-related goals such as a heavier weight on the barbell or an increase in your sprint time.
#5: Focus On Habits That Make It Easier To Achieve Your Goals
Research shows there are a number of unbelievably simple habits that make achieving a healthy body composition easier. A lot of these habits have to do with how we shape our environment: Simply using smaller plates and glasses, eating protein for breakfast, chewing thoroughly, and always eating at the table and never in front of the TV can help you become more mindful about food, which will pay off in terms of how you feel about your body.
#6: Educate Yourself About Eating Behavior
Science has revealed a lot about eating behavior that can help us avoid ever entering the slippery slope of guilt about food, which goes hand in hand with negative thoughts about our bodies.
For example, any time you are stressed or sleep deprived, your body releases large amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which triggers nearly uncontrollable cravings for high-carb foods. High-carb foods trigger insulin release, which is an antagonist to cortisol (meaning it makes it go down), so cravings are basically your body’s way of protecting you from stress you can’t handle.
Another example is skipping meals. Fasting may make you feel virtuous but it will also lead to the release of chemicals in the body that turn hunger ON with a vengeance. The result is that many people end up overeating after skipped meals, which leads to food guilt and beating themselves up for their “lack of restraint.”
#7: Limit Your Screen Time
Decreasing screen time has dual benefits: First, it can help you to avoid media that triggers self-comparison and feeling bad about your own body. Second, a greater time spent in front of a screen is a primary factor for health problems and obesity. Try doing fun leisure time instead of browsing unrealistic photoshopped images for a boost to your body confidence.
Meditation is a useful tool for clearing away unhelpful thoughts. Any time you need a body confidence boost, take a few moments to stop, close your eyes and breathe. You can even focus on a body acceptance “mantra” such as “I’m grateful for and accept my body just as it is right now.”
#9: Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Sometimes being body positive and kind to yourself is easier said than done. There will be days when you simply have to believe and pay yourself the best compliments you can. Even if you don’t feel great about yourself, these affirmations WILL pay off. Research even shows that people with a positive outlook about their abilities have better success adopting habits and following through with making change. Stick to it and be consistent. Eventually, you’ll no longer have to fake it.
#10: Make Body Confidence A Habit
Instead of thinking about body confidence as an attribute, make it a habit. Feeling good about your body and appreciating it for all the incredible things it does for you becomes who are. That way even when things get a little crazy and you may have some areas you’d like to change about your body, your confidence doesn’t wane. By being committed to your healthy, amazing body, you’ll find you’ve got the motivation and energy to get you where you want to be.