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In a trend we hope will continue to take off, recent years have seen a clear shift among celebs in how they talk about their bodies. Stars like Kristen Bell, Ashley Graham, Serena Williams and Chrissy Teigen, for instance, have stood up to body shamers and proudly accepted their so-called "flaws." These displays of body love reflect the body positivity movement, which advocates accepting and appreciating yourself as you are.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't aim improve your health if that's a goal for you–after all, that's the point of my Bettie Page Fitness videos. (Humblebrag: They're the first-ever body-positive fitness DVDs!) It just means you try to do it from a place of self-love versus not-enoughness. "The goal is to repair your relationship with yourself–to not only find acceptance for your physical body, but to claim and love every part of you internally," explains Kelly U, a blogger whose raw, vulnerable approach to sharing her journey to body acceptance and recovery from an eating disorder has not only helped her find healing but to help her fans feel less alone and more accepted.
Still, a lot of body positive content ends up overdoing the "love your looks" aspect, and while that can be important, it ironically reinforces the appearance emphasis that we already get slammed with nonstop. "While there are many pros to social media–inspiration, connection, community–it can also shred the web we weave for body positivity," says Kathryn Budig, a yoga teacher and author of the recently released book Aim True: Love Your Body, Eat Without Fear, Nourish Your Spirit, Discover True Balance! The endless stream of carefully selected, highly edited photos can trigger compare mode and make us feel inadequate.
Body positivity is about so much more than the external. Instead of just loving what you look like, try focusing on these four things instead.
1. What your body can do.
From keeping your heart ticking to getting you through a workout, your body quite literally lets you live. "Being able to wake up every morning and run and lift and do all of the things my healthy body allows me to do is the ultimate gift," says Cherry Dollface, a model and YouTube star known for her empowering and encouraging way of interacting with fans. Good health is a major priority to her, especially because she has heart condition, and keeps the emphasis on what her body is capable of instead of how it looks. "I finally realized that my life is more important than a few dimples or droopy bits–and that my body is a miraculous, strong, beautiful system."
2. How your body feels.
Budig teaches her yoga students to focus on how the postures feel, not how they look. This simple lesson is "wildly applicable to all aspects of our life, but especially to those situations that involve the physical body," she says. "It's a simple way to reconnect to the amazing ability of our physical bodies when we concertedly take the time to nurture it." When you're in a pose, mid-run, or even lying in bed, shift your attention to how vibrant, strong or relaxed you feel. "Then give yourself a supportive pat on the back for how responsive and amazing this physical body is."
3. What your body has been through.
Embracing body positivity might help some women discover a sense of pride about scars and stretch marks because of what they represent, while others may find ways to heal long-held body shame. "I was teased my whole life for being too skinny, and I grew up as many women do feeling insecure and uncomfortable about my body," says Cherry Dollface. After she began interacting with large numbers of women on her channel, she realized that lots of women have unresolved issues from childhood and teen trauma about their bodies. "This is something that practically every woman deals with, and I realized that I have a voice that I can use to help them feel better in their skin."
4. What your body needs and wants–and what it doesn't.
This means honoring your body's basic needs for things like movement, food and sleep, as well as respecting its limits. "For me, body positivity means actually caring for my body, not trying to change it to make it appear better," says Kelly U. She learned that she was using food and her body as coping mechanisms for internal struggles, and would try to make up for shortcomings through cycles of starvation, binge eating and over-exercising. Now, she views exercise as a self-loving activity that keeps her healthy rather than a way to maintain a perfect physique. "All in all, I prioritize my mental health and maintaining a healthy relationship with myself–that is body positivity to me."
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