What do you see when you look in the mirror? How does it make you feel? How do you feel in your body? These are hard questions for some, because the answers aren’t good. Your answers reveal your body image.

Some of us dislike the mirror and any pictures of ourselves. Some of us hate being inside our body. Body image is defined and developed over time. It begins when we’re young with what we’re told and what we see. Parents, siblings and friends shape our body image. So do teachers, coaches and peers. One of the most powerful influences on us is the media.

The pictures and images we’re bombarded with, along with what we’re told, become our measuring sticks, the standards of what we’re supposed to look like and compare ourselves to. When we don’t meet these standards, the trouble begins. We know that body image can change at puberty and again at menopause/andropause.

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It also changes when we become injured, ill or disabled. Stress of all kinds, particularly emotional stress, affects our body image. It is normal to have both good and bad feelings about ourselves. It’s also normal to be unhappy with aspects of our appearance on any given day.A healthy body image comes with resiliency about our feelings.

However, a body image that is really poor can easily slip towards self destruction; eating disorders, exercise disorders, excessive surgeries, and the extremes of self hate. How do we learn to love the way we look? How do we own it and accept it?

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It starts with changing the chatter, the conversation we have with ourselves. The first step is start a daily gratitude journal for your body image. Every day, no negotiating, write down three things you like about yourself. Think of a physical attribute, the way perform something, the way you move, even a personality trait etc.

Say why you like each thing. Say thank you to each thing.

Make this a discovery process, a way to explore and get to know yourself, without the influence of anyone or anything. Give yourself permission to nurture and encourage self love and gratitude and then notice what happens when you regularly acknowledge things about yourself in a positive way. Another step to take is begin a smart, balanced exercise program.

Regular working out releases stress, improves body composition, builds strength, enhances metabolism, posture, mobility and flexibility. Combined with smart nutrition and hydration, working out makes us feel better overall.

Add in mindful training with a yoga, Pilates or MELT class. Work one-on-one with a professional or friend, or begin your own mindful practice which can be as easy as taking a walk in nature. Mindful training puts us in touch with the mind/breath/body connection. I call this working in.

When we practice working in regularly, we access the deeper parts of who we are and tap into the place where true change takes place, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It is never too late to take these steps. Be patient with yourself. Stay committed to a daily practice and you will be rewarded with self acceptance and a resilient and healthy body image.

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