If you’ve been moseying around this here internet thingy, you might have seen news about the response to adverts which have appeared recently on London transport, asking commuters if they’re ‘beach body ready’. They’re for a company which sell products to ‘help’ you lose weight (it’s not clear if that’s because they make you vomit from tasting so disgusting, or at the amount of money they make you pay for the privilege…). Unsurprisingly the female model they’ve used to illustrate what us girls “should” look like before we eventhink of heading to the coast ain’t exactly curvy. In fact she’s so thin, she makes a stick of rock look voluptuous (If you want to know more, give here a good clicking.)
But whatever we think of these ridiculous, sexist, dated, dangerous and just-totally-forehead-slappingly-stupid bits of body-shaming propaganda (I know – I bet you wish I wouldn’t sit on the fence so much), when the weather changes and sunshine finally get’s itself here, there’s a chance that we’re going to have to wear less clothes. Heck, we might even want to bare some flesh and the brutal truth is that not all of us will be delighted by that prospect. For most of us, we’ve got bits of us that have been put in ‘storage’ for so long that they may well have matured or, shall we say, made provisions for any periods of scarcity? That’s right; your bum has got bigger, your bingo wings wobblier and your tummy is closer to your toes.
And you know what? Those reasons don’t mean you should hesitate for a second to get whatever bits you want out. (Within reason – namely public decency and, y’know, the law and stuff.)Get ‘em out in the open; get ‘em bronzed (responsibly, of course…or use the fake stuff as long as you don’t mind smelling like a biscuit) and have a damn good time. And if that’s you, I envy you. You need read no more. Go and get the lollies in and we’ll come join you when we’re done…
But – for the majority of us the thought of getting our less-loved limbs out of hibernation is enough to drive you back to the freezer for another bowlful of Chunky Monkey.
Just before you settle yourself down with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s finest work (actually, why not do it at the same time?) read on for a few pointers towards how you can start to create a brand new relationship with your body (including what you think are your tricky-to-love-bits).
Love is the answer.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of self-love (no – not like that; get your mind out of the gutter). One of the key guidelines for living a yogic life is the principle of ‘ahimsa’. It means to do no harm, and when we’re thinking of starting to do any sort of work on ourselves it’s a key one to keep in mind. We’re not talking giving yourself a punch in the face every time you don’t go for a run, but something a little more subtle.
We’re talking ‘do no harm’ in thought as well as deed. If every time your best friend saw you the first thing they said was “I hate your thighs. Now – fancy a cuppa?” you might start hanging out with them a little less because, unless you’re motivated in a very strange way, hearing negative things about yourself isn’t fun. So why do you think saying the same things to yourself is any different?
If you want to start changing your body you might need to consider changing the way you think about it. Ok, so there are bits of you that you want to change, but take a moment to think of all the bits that do work. Your heart beats around 100000 times a day; the lungs contain over 300,000 million capillaries and if they were laid end to end they would stretch 1500 miles; your nose and ears continue to grow throughout your entire life…(okay – I admit the last one is a bit freaky). Your body is an amazing thing.
Look at the bits you don’t like; send them love. Or if that’s too difficult to begin with, try not to send them hate. Thank them for being just the way they are, and let them know that you’re going to be working on changing them a little bit. But don’t bother trying to alter your nose; that baby’s going to just keep on growing.
No day but today.
And no moment but this. Mindfulness is one of the most important components in yoga. It is paying attention “on purpose” and asks you to cultivate a conscious direction of your awareness. As we discovered just a few paragraphs ago, your body is an amazing thing so as you start to improve it, this process is going to require as much effort from your mind as it will do from your body.
Be aware that everything you put in your body is going to make a difference to this process. Notice how and what you’re eating; be aware of how your emotions affect what you want to/do eat. Whatever you do choose to eat, be aware of how it feels in your mouth; the consistency; how it makes you feel afterwards. Write all this down. Not so that you have some evidence with which to beat yourself up with (see “not giving yourself a punch in the face every time you don’t go for a run” above) but so that you can start to develop mindfulness of how your body and mind is working.
Knowledge is power. And power is not eating our own bodyweight in Pringles/Dairy Milk/Pringles dipped in Dairy Milk when we don’t really want to and are only doing it because we feel shit/fat/fat and shit.
Run, Forrest, Run!
Or jog. Or stroll. Or (Shock! Horror!) do yoga. Or do some sit ups in the ad breaks of ‘Jeremy Kyle’. Just do something. Your body is designed to move and if you’re going to make it the fittest, healthiest, bestest version of you that you want, you’re going to have to move it. Take your lymphatic system for example; it’s essential in many activities not least helping you to fight infections (or, for the medical term, ‘the lurghie’). It doesn’t have it’s own pump and relies on your muscles (yes, you do have some) pushing against your bones (ie. You moving) to work.
There is something that everyone can do with whatever body they have. A yoga practice can be modified for you to do even if you can’t leave your chair let alone touch your toes. Find two cans which weigh the same in your cupboard and you’ve got yourself some free-weights. Get off the bus one stop early and walk home (it’s an oldie but a goodie).
Keep in mind that this is as much about training your mind as it is about training your body; but you’ve got to do both for the best results. Recognise that to change what you’ve got, you have to change what you do. And don’t forget that there are plenty of resources out there to help you. None of this has to be done by yourself.
But by far the most important part in this whole process is you, you wonderful amazing beautiful thing. Never allow anyone to make you feel anything less than proud of every cell that makes you who you are – and certainly not some bunch of eejits who seem to think that making us feel a bit shit about ourselves is a great marketing strategy.