1. Focus on one meal at a time.
My thing is lunch. Every day at work, I order the same salad with a dozen different toppings. It grounds my day, and lets me focus on the fact that I’ve done something good for my body. That one lunch tends to steamroll, and I keep it up for the rest of the time. Because, you see, breakfast is breakfast. Lunch is lunch. Dinner is dinner. What happened at that one meal does not get to dictate what happens for the others. It’s dangerous to “make up for” something you ate, and all you can honestly do is try to make the best choices for the right here and now. Start with the choices you have in front of you instead of regretting the past or worrying about the future.
2. Find a workout that makes you feel good — not one that promises “results.”
Because results are arbitrary at best, and no matter what kind of workout you do, if your body isn’t genetically engineered to wind up looking a certain way, it won’t. Nor should it — it’d be boring if we all looked the same. Instead, find something that feels good, something you wouldn’t mind hauling yourself to after a long day or early in the morning. It could literally be anything, but focus on how good it feels to move your body rather than how it might or might not make your body look. The endorphin boost is a much more instantaneous result — and it’s scientifically proven, too.
3. Clean out your closet.
A few weeks ago, I went through my closet and overhauled the whole thing. (I found my prom dress from junior year of high school in there. I’m 24, for the record.) Gone were all the clothes I couldn’t fit into anymore, all the clothes that never looked “right” on me, all the clothes I’d grown bored of or had worn holes into anything in between. And you know what? It felt so much better. I donated five whole bags to charity, got a good look at what is actually in my closet, and don’t have to worry about feeling badly about the fact I can’t fit into that dress that I could wear as a teenager when I’m, you know, not a teenager anymore.
4. And only buy things that already fit.
I used to frequently buy something because it was on sale and half a size too small, or just half a size too small and treat it as “inspiration” to fit into it. Spoiler alert: I never fit into any of those articles of clothing. Ever. If the number on the tag really bothers you, cut it out. You’re going to be a whole range of sizes from one store to the next (because nobody has one defined metric of standard sizing) and if that isn’t proof that size is an arbitrary thing, I don’t know what is. Things that fit better make you look better, anyway. Aim for the stuff that makes you look and feel your best in the here and now.
5. Eat the damn cookie.
Here is a comprehensive list of things that one cookie will and will not do:
False: Make you automatically gain 10 pounds.
False: Kill you.
False: Determine your worth as a human being.
False: Mandate that you run 5 miles immediately after in a bid to “earn” it.
True: Taste delicious.
6. Acknowledge the moments when you feel dissatisfied.
Really. Pushing those thoughts away isn’t going to make them go away — they’ll just fester. When I feel really upset about something body-related, I acknowledge it, say it out loud, realize it sounds ridiculous, and try to get to the bottom of why I’m feeling that way. There’s always a why, and 9 times out of 10, it has absolutely nothing to do with your body and everything else to do with the rest of your life in that moment. Sometimes all you have to do is just acknowledge it as a real thought to realize that it’s completely ungrounded.
7. Stop comparing.
You aren’t only as good as you are better than someone else. Judging someone else as being “fat” doesn’t make you “thin,” and deciding someone is “thin” doesn’t make you “fat.” It’s all a mind game, one that’s unnecessarily dangerous to fall into, because you’ll always be a step behind someone else if it’s what you gauge your worth off of. (This goes double for comparing yourself to who you were and what you looked like even a year ago, because you were a different person then.)
8. Don’t be afraid to indulge.
Take a long, hot bath. Get a massage. Get your nails done. Personal care is just as important on a simple level of pleasure as it is eating well and moving. Don’t forget that you can enjoy your body — and pamper it — too.
9. Get back in touch with what your body was made to do.
Our bodies were made to be active — it’s just our world that has made them sedentary. Go outside. Go for a walk. Go outside with the intention of sitting in the grass for a little bit — you’re still getting fresh air and sunshine. Listen to the cues of what your body needs (whether it’s hungry, tired, thirsty, whatever) and what it wants (so no, trying to stave off cravings for a certain food group isn’t clever, it’s deleterious to your body’s chemical makeup). Stop being afraid to ask for what you want in bed. The minute I stopped trying to force my body to do things it inherently wasn’t designed to do, I realized it could call the shots on its own pretty well. I know it’s scary at first, but practice putting trust back into that mechanism.
10. Schedule downtime for yourself.
As a self-proclaimed type A workaholic, I have a really hard time with this sometimes. We live in a world that is permanently connected, and it can often feel like we shouldn’t be taking downtime – when actually, we need to. Do nothing for a few hours. Don’t even look at your phone. Read a book. Go to brunch with a friend. Find a way to isolate yourself every once in a while to shake out the feeling of being constantly ON! all the time. Take a nap in the middle of the day if you can and feel like that will help. It’ll ground you back into your body and out of the obligations that life puts on you, because the alternative is to wear yourself down while you’re racing to do it all, when you shouldn’t expect that of yourself to begin with.
11. Seek out the people who love you for more than what you look like.
Real friends are the ones who will think you’re funny, who think you’re kind, who would do anything for you because you’d do anything for them. We’re naturally inclined to gravitate toward more attractive people — it’s like seeing something sparkly on the sidewalk — but true friendships should be based on more than how people benefit your Instagram feed. And when you seek out the kinds of people who will hug you and listen through your worries when you’re having a particularly rough day, you’re also seeking out the kinds of people who will teach by example how you ought to be treated.
12. Focus on the things that make you proud not for how you appear, but for what it feels like in the moment.
After all, your body is a vessel, and while caring for it is important, that importance is rooted in the fact that it allows us to do things beyond the scope of our bodies — or at least try to. Instead of working out so you look good in a bikini, work out because it lets you keep up with your friends on the dance floor. Even if you feel directionless, even when you don’t know which way is up, start with something little that sparks your inner joy. More often than not, that’s the right way to go.