How to Master the Art of Self-Acceptance

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
In today's highly visual age, it's hard to turn a magazine page or watch a TV show without getting bombarded by the myriad of things that you must change about your body in order for it to be acceptable.
 
Rather than embarking on unhealthy diets or extreme workouts to "fix" your self-perceived flaws, look for opportunities to appreciate—dare we say, love—your body.
That doesn't mean that you should jump off the wagon, stop exercising and start eating whatever you want. A healthy, calorie-moderated diet and regular physical activity are essential for physical and mental health. But you can still practice self-acceptance while continuing to work toward your goals. We talked to a few personal trainers to get their tips for self-affirmation.

 

Practice complimenting your own body.

 
In Carol Frazey's Fit School, her #1 client rule is that for every negative comment they say about themselves, they must say three positive ones—in front of the entire group.
 
"It's amazing how many times per day we say things out loud about ourselves that we would never say about anyone else," Frazey says. "In many cases, we don’t even know we're doing this until it's called to our attention."
 
Fitness trainer Lisa Reed uses a similar rule in her fitness studio. "It takes practice, as most people tend to harp on the negatives and aren't used to embracing what is good," she says. Some examples of positive comments among her clients include: "I have a strong and tapered back that gives me great posture in my sundress," or "My calves are great for high heels," or "I have strong shoulders from all the swimming I have done."

 

Learn to accept (and welcome) change.

 
Even with the best of intentions and a smart diet and exercise plan, the body will eventually start to show the effects of time, age, slowing metabolism and, for some women, pregnancy and childbirth. It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing your current self to a younger, slimmer or more toned version, but fitness professional Angelique Millis says that's a mistake.
 
"Comparison and obsession can sabotage your body image and prevent you from loving the present you, the only you that exists," Millis says. "Time will continue to march on, and learning to self-love through each phase of your life is an art." Rather than striving to live up to what you used to be or what you could be, strive to embrace the now.
 
SparkPeople coach Jen Mueller says that instead of bemoaning these changes, we should welcome them as badges of honor. A mother of four, she's maintained the same weight for years by eating healthy and staying fit, but has noticed changes in her body's shape and in how her clothes fit.
 
"Accept that your body at age 40 is not going to be what it was at age 20," Mueller says. "Weight distributes a little differently, areas might not be as firm as they once were and the pounds might not melt off like they did years ago. Set goals and take pride in your accomplishments, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t squeeze into the jeans you wore in high school."  
 
We all go through various stages of life, some more physically demanding than others. "The body has an incredible ability to adapt," says registered dietitian Cheryl Russo. "You have to believe that wherever you are in your journey, you're in the right place."

 

Learn to accept the bad days.

 
Inevitably, there will be days when you're feeling unmotivated, sluggish or discouraged. Millis points out that fitness comes and goes in seasons—there will be times when you're laser-focused on preparing for an event, such as a wedding, vacation or reunion, and will buckle down on your diet and workouts, but there will also be times when hectic schedules and stress zap your energy and motivation.
 
"There will be days where you feel more toned and days when you feel bloated," Millis says. "Your body will fluctuate, sometimes up to 10 pounds of water weight (depending on the time of month for women)."
 
Understand that the bad days don't define you, and they're temporary. Be kind and gentle to yourself. Before long, the motivation and confidence will return—and the valleys will give you a newfound appreciation of the peaks.

 

Be generous with compliments to others.

 
Look for opportunities throughout the day to deliver specific, sincere compliments. How will lavishing praise on someone else make you feel better about yourself? "Giving a compliment is an instant mood shifter—not just for them, but for you, too," Reed says. "It feels good to make someone else feel good."

 

Be in the moment.

 
In the perpetual race against the clock, it's easy to get bogged down by daily tasks and anxiety about what's coming next. "When you're living in the present instead of being stressed about the past or future, you truly appreciate what you have," Reed says. "The future will take care of itself."
 
Make an effort to be more mindful of your surroundings. Instead of spending your walk worrying about a big work project, shift your focus to the beauty of nature, the smell of fresh flowers and the feel of your feet on the pavement. If you're grabbing a quick lunch during the workday, take the time to savor the flavors and textures of your food instead of rushing through each bite.
 
If mindfulness doesn't come naturally to you, try meditation. "It will teach you to control all the self-talk and allow you to hear and feel every breath you take," says Reed. "Not only will you feel less stressed, but you'll also have a clearer vision for your life when you create space in your mind to live in the present." To combine exercise and relaxation, try walking meditation.

 

Don't aspire to unrealistic (or impossible) expectations.

 
Today's average model weighs 23 percent less than the average woman, yet we're bombarded by images of waif-skinny, airbrushed figures every day. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, nearly 70 percent of girls in fifth through 12th grade said that their body image ideals were influenced by pictures in magazines. Attempting to match these extreme examples isn't only bad for your psyche, but also for your health.
 
And in the age of photo editing tools and filters that drastically alter images, much of what we see doesn't actually exist in real life. "Our perception of beauty as a society has become more and more skewed over the years," Millis says. "Smoothing out wrinkles, removing cellulite and concealing scars, freckles or age spots may create a 'flawless finish,' but it also robs women of their authenticity as they strive to fit this picture-perfect mold."
 
Next time you're looking in the mirror and catch yourself comparing your reflection to what you've seen on Instagram, TV or in magazines, remind yourself that you are real and those images are not. Remember that the flaws your mind is magnifying are unlikely to even be noticed by others.

 

Stop obsessing over the scale.

 
Although it's tempting to weigh yourself every day when you're trying to reach a specific goal, too much pound-checking can cause you to become discouraged and derail your efforts. If you're getting too hung up on the numbers, try using other ways to measure progress aside from the scale.
 
Alissa Rumsey, a NYC-based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that there's been a switch in recent years from a focus on weight to a focus on health. "You can build healthy eating and fitness habits without focusing directly on weight," Rumsey says. "We need to learn to celebrate body diversity. Just because you're skinny doesn't mean you're healthy, and just because you're overweight doesn't necessarily mean you're unhealthy. Having a healthy body image helps improve your mental and emotional health, which can be just as important as physical health."
 
According to Rumsey, as long as you have healthy eating habits, are regularly physically active and have normal cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, your weight is likely right where it should be.
 
Russo agrees that from a health perspective, a person can be very skinny but have a higher percentage of body fat, with no muscle tone—a phenomenon known as "skinny fat." "Carrying a higher percentage of body fat compared to lean muscle offers a higher risk of ailments," Russo warns. "This person may look good according to media benchmarks, but in reality is not healthy."
 
As Mueller points out, reaching a magic number on the scale isn’t likely to make you suddenly feel great about yourself. "There are so many other wonderful things about you that aren’t defined by how much you weigh or what size you wear," she says. "Focus on the good things about you and how you can make yourself happy today, in this moment, regardless of what the scale says."

 

Appreciate what your body can do.

 
Your body may not look exactly like the one in your mind or on the front of your fridge, but that doesn't mean it isn't serving you well. Cultivate gratitude for all the things you can do physically that many people cannot, whether it's running a 10K or simply walking for 10 minutes.
 
"People should be more concerned with what their insides are looking like, rather than their outsides," says Russo. "Can you walk up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing, or keep up with your kids? Can you carry groceries into your home?" Mastering the basic functions you need to accomplish daily tasks and enjoy the activities you love should trump aesthetic goals.

 

Shop for your current body.

 
Have you been hanging onto a pair of jeans from years ago, with plans to lose weight and fit in them again? When shopping for clothes, do you buy them in your goal size instead of your current size? Or maybe you've shed some pounds, but are waiting to replace baggy clothes until you've hit your target weight. Although you might think you're motivating yourself by "shopping skinny," you could actually be tricking your mind into viewing your current size and shape as not worthy enough.
 
"If you're unhappy about those extra pounds that you haven't been able to lose, you're in luck—there are so many clothing options that flatter every type of figure," Russo says. "Just do a search for your body type." Whether you're a size four or a size 24, investing in some pieces that fit just right will help you recognize the beauty of your body today.

 

Save some love for yourself.

 
How often do you tell your spouse, children or other friends and family members that you love them? Now compare that to how often you say it to yourself. Frazey says the first step toward accepting your body is to give yourself the same love and attention as you do the other important people in your life. She recommends taking five seconds each day to look in the mirror at your reflection and say out loud, "I love you." You might feel silly at first, but that simple act has the power to transform your feelings of self-worth.
 
On days when you feel down on yourself, Millis recommends looking in the mirror and repeating affirmations to yourself, such as "I am beautiful the way that I am, right now in this very moment," or "I have always been and will always be beautiful, no matter my size, weight or circumstance."

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Comments

PATRICIAANN46 9/22/2019
Thank You...……….. Report
PATRICIAAK 9/9/2019
:) Report
ICECUB 5/28/2019
VERY INTERESTING Report
SUSANBEAMON 5/28/2019
I'm 70. I look pretty good for 70. I've been told I don't look that old. Report
ONLYME33 5/26/2019
Bottom line for me: Do what I need to do to be healthy and happy. Take what you can use and leave the rest-One thing is not the same for everyone. Report
DAWNGW 5/23/2019
I remember, not too long ago, I couldn't look at myself in the mirror and say "I love you". I'd look away, or mumble it, and came to a realization that I needed to address this issue. I've come a long way, now I really know that I love myself and that simple act is SO powerful. I'm going to accept myself for how I look and find joy in all of the fun things I want to do for myself. I already like keeping healthy habits so I'm on the right path.
This was a good article. It got a lot of interesting responses, so I know it touches a sensitive spot in most people. Report
Great info Report
I must admit that it's too early in my recovery to read this and really *feel* it, as I'm still so caught up in the anthesis of everything that is said. But it's things like these that will help get me to the other side. #thankful Report
MERRYJO1
Outstanding article, it's so important to remain positive and look for the good! Report
GREAT article. Every time I start to criticize my body I stop and remember this is the body that is mine and it gets me where I want to go and it's beautiful! Love yourself. Report
Being overweight for all of my 20s and most of my 30s, I finally took serious steps to control my weight as some many life threatening diseases run in my family. With GOD's grace, I have managed to loss and maintain a very comfortable weight but still sometimes look through my "fat girl" eyes when viewing myself. These are some very helpful tools - thanks for sharing
#sizefreesummer Report
DRXCREATURES
BROOKLYN_BORN, always depends on the manufacturer. Report
DRXCREATURES
RENEETC1, When I was younger/skinnier I LOVED those plus size clothes. They can make crap at times for USA-Model type people. Almost like to HAVE to be large to wear something decent. Report
MANNEPOWELL
Great article! Important to remember there is more to love who I am today rather than my 25 year-old self now 37 years ago (the self image I aspire to when not being realistic). Today I strive to be mindful of my health, focusing on eating well and working out regularly. I may not weigh 130 but I'm working on loving who I am today. Report
If only the email where I found this link did not also include a link to a workout to get rid of "arm jiggle". It is hard for some of us to reconcile those two messages: love yourself...but lose the jiggle. Report
Love this article! Love the statement:"You have to believe that wherever you are in your journey, you're in the right place." It's so important to buy clothes that fit, whatever our size. I used to love watching the Clinton and Stacy show about clothes, I don't remember the name of it but they were so good at fitting bodies of any size and showing that they were attractive. Oh, yeah, it was "What Not To Wear."
Report
Ohanamama, you are way too hard on yourself. Give yourself a little of the love that you probably give to everyone else. I too am guilty of hating everything about my body, but guess what, that isn't fixing anything. If I wouldn't say it to a friend, or to my sister, I shouldn't say it to myself. Give yourself a break, and take credit for the things that are doing right. Just don't quit trying! Report
I hated my body until I had open heart surgery, and now I am just so happy to have a second chance at life that I am working as hard as I can at staying healthy! I will never be petite, but I sure can be healthy - I love my life!! Report
"Shop for your current body". Ha!!! Designers don't make clothes for real people. Have you ever shopped in the plus size depts. The clothes are ugly, and they just scream, "look at me, I'm fat and look like a beached whale". When we refuse to buy clothes that are designed for tall, very thin models or teenagers, that sends a message.
As far as loving my body, that's a battle royal. I'm 66 years old, have back problems, arthritis is starting in my hands (and I'm a pianist), dealing with inflammation in my vocal cords (professional musician),and look like I'm 6-8 months pregnant. Not much to love there. Report
PDAVIS928
We are all our own worst critics. I might have a tough time finding things that I like about myself some days, but today I can say my hair looks good, my pants still fit and I'm above ground! Right now, my health is more important than my looks, and that's what this article is really about! Thank you for the affirmation! Report
"Today's average model weighs 23 percent less than the average woman"
That's understandable since the AVERAGE woman's weight and measurements have been on a decades long march upwards. Clothing manufacturers have made us feel better by making the measurements of each size MUCH more generous. The size 10 of 1960 (32.5-25-34.5) Today size 10 measures 38-30-40.5. There's no reason for self-hatred, but we must be honest too. Report
What I appreciate the most about this article is that it encourages all of us to take care of us. Too often we get stuck in the numbers: weight, age, clothing size, you name it. Too often we let these numbers define us. For me, my take away from reading this is to find/awaken feelings of self worth...NOT complacency. The focus on health was refreshing, no time like the present to take care, to get started! Learn about fitness and nutrition; working within your body's limitations...strive to respect and care for you! Empowering stuff... Report
Nonsense.
You spend all your time telling yourself how great you are, you'll lose focus and stop doing what you should.
It's OK to recognize the things about you that are good, but failing to see the negative results in complacency.
The approach suggested in this article is how I ended up plus-sized; rejecting it is how I got back down to regular sizes. Report
BUDBUDDHA
I have recently had a knee replacement and have had to do lots of physical therapy. It has made me do more exercise than I have done in years and I am feeling much better. I will make this a summer of walking and enjoying the outdoors. It is easier to love yourself when you are not in constant pain. Report
Loved this article. As long as I can walk up my stairs, carry in a load of groceries and accomplish my daily chores. ( All of these were mentioned in this article) I know at age 84 I am doing something right. Report
It's easy to say something positive when there is something positive. I got nothin'. I don't compare the current me with my past me. I do, however, and I know I shouldn't, compare myself way too much to other 50-ish women, especially those who have had 4 kids... I always fall short. Report
Self-love is the best LOVE!!! you cannot love others if you don't love yourself. Remind yourself that you are beautiful everyday! Report
I guess I have a little hesitation about this article. We should love ourselves at any weight, and ALL the time, but should never use that as an excuse not to get healthy. Yes, acceptance is important, but our health is too, and the better you do, eating healthy food, FOREVER, the better you will feel about you.

Spark on. Report
I really appreciate this article. I've always hated my body but have come to love it through the process of losing weight and exercising. I appreciate what it can do now. Report
I love this article and over time I've certainly come to accept and love my body. Even at 220 + lbs I didn't hate my body; didn't like that it was too heavy to let move easily or that it was hard to find clothes. But my body was and is my body. As I've aged things definitely change and now in the low 140's my body is wonderful. Report
I know that negative self-talk isn't helpful, and I am beginning to realize what I am doing when I say something negative to myself, out loud or silently. But I have trouble thinking I can love myself as I am just by saying it. I do know that when I feel down or sad, I can sometimes work my way out of it by smiling, even faking it, and paying a compliment to someone else also lifts my mood. (So I am listening: please keep talking to me, Spark friends.) Report
I don't care anything about bathing suits or what's in style, and the outrageous prices that go along with the hype...the women's fashion world is a disgrace. The constant nagging at women to look a certain way, in order to be sexy, is assanine. I buy what I like, don't pay attention, don't buy women's magazines. Report
#sizefreesummer! Even when I was 120 pounds I didn't see anything to like Report