From when we’re young, we’re taught to be at odds with our body. We’re too tall for this, too short for that, don’t fit into this, or weigh too much for that. We have freckles we never see on the pages of magazines and cellulite we can’t bear to bare at the beach.

I’m pretty cynical and not very zen, so shifting my thinking was pretty impossible. I used to think I’d be happy once I got down to a size 2, but luckily I started learning how to appreciate my body for more than its size.

It’s a constant struggle, but here are a few ways you can start loving your body and treating it right.

Find out what your body can do

Throughout high school and college, I was obsessed with losing weight and put a lot of worth into what dress size I could fit into. It wasn’t until I started playing a sport (roller derby) and cross-training that I started appreciating my body for what it could do.

I’ll probably never be a size 2, but me and my muscular thighs can squat 175 pounds and sprint a lap around the gym in 30 seconds. I’ve gone from obsessing over the numbers on the scale to focusing on the numbers on barbels and stopwatches.

Find something you enjoy, whether it’s weight lifting, walking, yoga, crossfit, or tai chi. Set goals, do it consistently, and be amazed by what you’re capable of. Start loving your body for what it can accomplish, not what clothes it can fit into.

Eat to fuel your body

Everyone is obsessed with eating to lose weight, eating to burn fat, eating to cleanse… The list goes on. But most of the time we don’t have specific goals in mind and seem to be forgetting the basic purpose of food.

Food is meant to fuel your body, to provide the energy to accomplish all the things you need it to do. Isn’t it time you started giving it the nutrients it needs? Protein for your muscles, healthy fats for your skin, greens and Vitamin C for your immune system… When you start shifting your thinking from “I need to eat healthy to lose weight” to “I need to eat healthy to provide my body with the nutrients it needs,” it becomes a lot easier to say no to the empty calories in cheese fries and yes to calories that will fuel your body.

Oh yeah, and chocolate brownie ice cream to fuel your occasional indulgent night on the couch? Sometimes necessary and totally okay.

Treat yoself

Do whatever it takes to make yourself feel good in your own skin.

Even if your budget is tight, try to treat yourself to something every so often: a 40-minute massage, a pedicure, a new haircut. If you’re really pinching pennies or want to keep it simple, try a new conditioner or an at-home hair treatment, a new nail polish, or a long bubble bath.

Dress in clothes you feel good in

When I got my first big kid job, I felt a lot of pressure to dress in typical business attire. I suffered through weeks of uncomfortable, unflattering dress pants, A-line skirts, and awkwardly tucked in shirts. These things look super great and professional on a lot of people, but because my budget only allowed for ill-fitting clothing off the TJ Maxx clearance rack, it wasn’t working for me.

If you can splurge a little, spend a bit more on clothes that fit right – maybe even ones that are picked out just for you. I recently received a few boxes from a clothes styling service, Stitch Fix. While it’s not something my bank account can handle all the time, I have several pieces I love that actually fit and that I feel comfortable in.

If you’re like me and hate formal business wear, or can’t budget for expensive clothes, then jeans with flats or boots paired with blouses and accessories, or leggings (dress pant leggings, anyone?) can look just as nice.

Sticking to your budget, expressing yourself, and wearing clothes that you feel good in are way more important than suiting up every day.

Focus on what you are, not what you aren’t

When you focus on everything you aren’t, you are setting yourself up to feel like you constantly don’t live up to expectations and that there is something about your body you need to change.

At some point, I mentally blocked myself from thinking about all the things my body wasn’t by thinking about all the things it was. Capable, strong, healthy, fit.

Maybe you can’t run or compete in the Crossfit Open, but if you can simply walk each day, that’s something.

love-your-body

How do you appreciate your body? What are you proud that it can do?