We explore how to adjust your mindset to be more body positive
With a sport like running, you’d think many female runners would be more concerned with performance rather than perception. However, there is an age-old myth that to be a ‘real’ runner you have to look a certain way.
This simply isn’t true. Although a large handful of elite runners who do a lot of high mileage in their training look thin, you don’t have to look that way to be a runner, a good runner or a real runner.
You are an athlete, no matter what your weight is, your age or your ability – and despite what other people may tell you. Throwaway comments – often received when you are training – about what you look like or perhaps what you should look like, can be severely damaging.
Self-esteem and a positive body image has to be worked at, just like your physical strength or building base miles when you’re training for a marathon. Some women are incredibly lucky to be born with inner confidence, but many of us experience this in waves – these can be high and low – and many women are their own harshest critics. Have you ever met another woman who says, “Yeah, I love my bum”?
Whatever body you have, it is beautiful. Whatever the colour of your skin, and whether you are genetically thin, larger than the average, more muscular than many women, older or younger, your body and health are the greatest gifts you were ever given.
We asked Heather Beach, founder and director of The Healthy Work Company, for her advice on how to build our body positivity so that we can accept ourselves as runners whatever our appearance and understand the beauty we all possess.
“Unfortunately there are no silver bullets to body positivity,” says Heather. “It requires sustained work in understanding what our belief system about looks is and even what we thought about ourselves as children.
“My route started with looking at children and realising that every one of them is beautiful. Then there is the gradual dawning that while there is a societal ideal of beauty, it is also true that we all have our own image of what we find beautiful.
“Eyes that sparkle with love, kindness and fun are very appealing. When we start to hear the compliments and take them on board with a ‘thank you’ we are on the way to body positivity.
“Then we can look at ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘You know what, you look alright’.
“And then there is the realisation that self-love and self-acceptance implies so much more than the way we look.
“Self-love and self-acceptance also imply self-compassion, which is different from self-esteem but more powerful. Self-esteem often needs competition to survive. Self-compassion looks at the fact that every single human being is imperfect.
“The next time you feel ugly or useless, talk to yourself as your best friend would, as opposed to holding a toxic conversation in your head.”
We love this advice – it’s so important not to become your own worst enemy. Even if you don’t feel like you can see anything positive in your own body image on a tough day, you can remind yourself that your body is more than its exterior: you can move, and talk, and think, and feel. This neutral acceptance of your body as a vital vessel for weathering life’s storms is a great base to start from if you want to become more body positive. We put so much pressure on women’s bodies to fill an aesthetic purpose, when this is merely one facet of what our incredible bodies can achieve.
5 quick tips for building body positivity
- Don’t allow negative self-talk. Find evidence to the contrary or understand where that belief came from. It is probably outdated.
- Don’t avoid the mirror. Make time to look at yourself and find something you like about your appearance.
- Accept and give compliments freely. Being kind to others helps too.
- Focus on things you are proud of about your character and on how you would like to develop yourself in the future.
- Understand that every human being is imperfect. Comparison with others is meaningless. Accept yourself as worthy of love exactly as you are.
Books to help boost your body positivity
The Little Book of Body Confidence by Judi Craddock | £6.99
Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given | £6.49
What a Time to be Alive: The Slumflower’s Guide to Why You Are Already Enough by Chidera Eggerue | £12.99
How to Improve Your Body Image by Alex Light | £4.99
The Power is Within You by Louise Hay | £8.35
Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe | £9.69
Things No-one Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker | £9.99