Sarah Maxwell explains the importance of acceptance in the second of a two-part exploration

If I were to ask you to stand naked or in front of a mirror and have a really good look at your body from all angles, what would you say about it? I’m not a psychic but I can almost guarantee that the majority of you would have quite a few negative things to say.

Aside from childhood conditioning and unrealistic expectations from the media – about how we should look effortlessly slink back into shape after childbirth etc – the most influential messages are from ourselves. 

A Tale of Two Women 

Linda told me that at the age of 70 she deeply regretted the many years she wasted thinking she was overweight. On pointing to a photograph of herself aged 30, she told me that 40 years later she realised she wasn’t!

Julie was a 40+ mother of 2 who refused to throw away her bikini. When asked by her adult sons why she insisted on wearing it, she told them, “I love my body, it’s amazing and I love my bikini.” 

These amazing women caused a dramatic shift in my attitude to myself and I will be forever grateful to them both. I spent too many years being overly critical about my body and now know that I’m not alone in that. I managed to create a negative image of myself entirely on my own.

Mind Body Reframe 

Don’t pressure yourself into feeling love for your body – instead, try practicing being grateful for the amazing things it can do. Rather than judging your appearance as good or bad, take a neutral approach. For example, instead of criticising your post-baby belly, recognise that your body has undergone change. And when it comes to stretch marks, appreciate that they’re a sign of your body’s incredible strength during pregnancy. Start reframing your negative thoughts and focusing on the positives.

When you understand and embrace your body’s unique characteristics, it can be incredibly empowering. It can also be the difference between struggling to make progress with weight loss, increasing fitness or following a healthier lifestyle. 

So instead of chasing someone else’s standards or punishing yourself with extreme diets and exercise, start by becoming aware of the negative things you say to yourself and in time you might find you love a bikini too. 

I recently read this and feel it sums up everything beautifully:

“Today I painted a new resident’s nails at work and as we were going over colours, she mentioned she wanted clear. The only thought that came to my mind was ‘CLEAR?! That’s no fun.’ I asked her why she wanted clear and she said, ‘My hands are ugly, I don’t want to draw attention to them.’ I then carefully responded with, ‘Your hands tell the story of your life. They tell the story of love, of care and adventure. These hands have touched and held things that most people can only wish to one day.’ And with that, she went with the colour pink for her nails. Sometimes what we are so insecure with, others find beauty in.” – Brandalyn Mae Porter.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

…or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others.

People of any age can have BDD, and it affects both men and women. Having BDD does not mean you’re vain or self-obsessed, it can occur after negative experiences and has a detrimental impact on your physical and mental health and it’s essential you have support.  

Useful links:

Sarah Maxwell is a multi award-winning weight loss, lifestyle and fitness coach. Find out more about her work…
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Twitter: @sarahmax100

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