And here we are again, bikini season. A collective panic races across magazine covers – “Get Swimsuit Ready! Shed Those Winter Pounds!” Chances are you’re already being bombarded by articles about the latest fad diet, the cure-all pill, and that one move that’s going to give you the abs you’ve always dreamed of. And it’s tempting, isn’t it? All that stands between you and that Hollywood body is a natural supplement that you can find at your local Whole Foods. In this world, your body and self-control are the problem, and the weight loss industry is the “solution.”
But diets, by and large, don’t work. They may change your body temporarily but, in the long-term, they’ve actually have been shown to result in weight gain. The vast majority of dieters (97%) gain back the weight they lost, and sometimes more within three years. Perhaps it’s not your body that’s the problem. Perhaps the problem lies with the repeated and unhealthy attempts to mold it into a shape it’s not meant for. From that perspective, your beach body is the body you have. It’s your mind that needs the summer makeover. So how can we get your brain bikini-ready? In one word, mindfulness.
1. Mindful Acceptance
Mindfulness is present moment awareness without judgment. The task at hand is to accept your body as it is now – not as it would be if you lost ten pounds or start that ab routine. Instead of constantly judging that this part is too big or too flabby, mindfulness invites us to accept our bodies, just the way they are. No matter what your body looks like, right now, you can make a choice to accept it.
2. Redirecting Your Attention by Focusing on Gratitude
Instead of focusing on what you perceive to be your body’s flaws, can you find gratitude for what your body provides for you? Bodies allow us to hold our loved ones and to be embraced; to wave hello and smile. Without your body, you would miss out on your favorite activities, like walks along beaches, and even more sedentary pursuits, like talks with friends. Some of our bodies provide a nurturing environment for children. And even when our bodies’ capacities are altered by disability and age, they provide us with a home. Our bodies are remarkable, and instead of constantly cutting them down, we can make a choice to give thanks for what our bodies make possible.
3. Check your thoughts
Our thoughts shape our reality. These thoughts are influenced by society’s messages, the voices of well-intentioned parents, the chatter of friends and by hurtful commentary. It can be tough sometimes to separate out what thoughts we actually agree with and those we’ve unconsciously internalized from outside sources. All this to say that if you’re having negative thoughts about your shape, you can choose to mindfully acknowledge your thoughts and bring your attention back to the present moment without accepting your thoughts.
4. Letting Go of Comparison
Comparison is a game that no one wins: either you’re coming out on top and feeling the pressure to maintain your physical superiority or deciding that you’re inadequate and judge yourself as inferior. Besides, comparison of appearance leads us to put increased emphasis on our looks and reinforces self-judgment.
With mindfulness, we can bring awareness to this automatic tendency and ultimately choose not to compare. When we notice the emotional experience of comparison, we might be surprised to learn how isolating and unpleasant it really is.
5. Cultivating Compassion
Compassion is the natural antidote to comparison because it fosters a sense of connection. Next time you judge someone to be better or worse off than you are in the looks department, you might next consider what they could be going through internally, and how it may or may not be reflected in their appearance. Not only will this provide you with a more lasting sense of well-being, it will help you to reinforce a new pattern of kindness that will be reflected in your attitude to your own body.
As you nurture a more compassionate viewpoint, consider the media you’re taking in. If you’re mindlessly flipping through magazines and watching television that glorifies some ideal body type, you’re likely to engage in comparison more frequently and to feel bad about what you look like. Exposing yourself to more realistic images, like those of photographer Jade Beall, who created the Beautiful Body Project can help you to appreciate the beauty in all body types.
5. Change your behaviors
Our behaviors inform our brains of what’s important and true. So, if you’re constantly checking your body in mirrors, or asking others if they think you look fat, you’re not likely to believe that your body is enough, just as it is. Instead, if you cultivate a mindful awareness of your tendency to perform these behaviors, and make a conscious choice to resist the urge to do so, you won’t keep reinforcing the idea that there’s something wrong with what you look like.
As this bathing suit season approaches, you’re now armed with a far more effective set of tools and an attainable goal. Acceptance provides a more enduring relief, one that’s not contingent upon the constantly changing condition of our bodies. Our bodies will change continuously throughout our lives, for what we may perceive to be better and worse. But no matter what shape we’re in, our bodies always deserve the chance to comfortably strip down to our swimwear and to soak in the sun.
The New Potato and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or ailment. All content on The New Potato (even when supplied by a medical professional) is intended for educational and conversational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any new diet, exercise regime, or wellness routine.