Today’s episode focuses on a topic that our listeners have been requesting… body image (a “fun” one I know)!

The VAST majority of people are walking around uncomfortable in their own skin.

Most people that we encounter every single day have a negative view of their bodies, so if that’s you, you’re FAR from alone.

Stephanie and I can relate on both a personal level, and through the hundreds of clients we’ve worked with who struggle with their body image and self-esteem.

It’s important to make a distinction between self-esteem and body-image, because people often use those terms interchangeably. Though they can be intimately connected, they are actually quite different.

Body image is specific to the body while self-esteem is an evaluation of our worth as a whole, and is not just specifically related to our bodies.  We can see the impact and the over emphasis many of us put on our physical bodies, and the way we feel about our physical bodies, has a large impact on how we really feel about ourselves.

I share about my struggles with body image, and Stephanie talks about how at one point, she was in such a horrible place with her body image that she would avoid pictures at all cost. This was even after taking care of the dysfunction of her eating disorder.

Stephanie talks about how, early in her law enforcement career, she became a part of the crisis negotiation team as a negotiator, and when it would come time to get fitted for uniforms or take team pictures, she would actually use a sick day to avoid having to participate. She realizes now how much time and energy she spent locked into core beliefs that weren’t serving her. (I’m not good enough. I’m not skinny, so I’m not worthy.)

We talk about clients like Erin who carried a scale around in her purse because she was so obsessed with her body image she couldn’t go out to eat without weighing and measuring her food.

One important distinction that we make, that was helpful for Erin and so many of our clients, was that you can love and accept your body for everything that it is and does in the present, while also working toward changing it on your quest to becoming the healthiest version of yourself.

In so many ways, the diet culture has really sold us a system that keeps them in business. If they continue to make our bodies the enemy and not the expert, then they are able to sell us on their products.

The truth is, no lasting change can occur until you start treating your body with love, acceptance, respect, and gratitude.  The body is forgiving. It’s responsive and patient.

Learning to eat and exercise INTUITIVELY is key. Your body is unique, and it’s been trying to tell you what it needs, but you’ve been trained by society to listen to diet rules instead.

Creating a healthy body image is the basis for change, not the result of it. It’s a privilege to simply live and move. The only way we get to experience life is in our bodies. I eat greens and beans in the morning because I love my body enough to fuel it with good stuff. I feel so energized and powerful when I exercise, so I do it, not because I want to burn calories or punish myself for the vegan pizza or extra margarita.

At Vegan Life Coach Academy, our clients very quickly learn that the food and exercise become the easy part of the equation! Changing your beliefs about your body, so that you can come from a place of love, is the more difficult thing to do.

Coming from a place of love is also the only way to make lasting changes and move to a place of freedom from all of that self-doubt and counting macros and having the number on the scale or the size of your jeans rule your day.

If you want support with this topic, we invite you to join our Facebook group where you can find so many people who are on this journey with you!

Stephanie gives three strategies that will help to really bring awareness to those beliefs and help you challenge those negative beliefs about your body.

The first, Check Your Inner Critic. Having a negative body image is like having a critic in your head. The critic is a harsh, derogatory narrative that makes nasty comments about you. For example, “I look disgusting in this outfit” or “I can’t believe how fat I am”. The critic makes you feel awful, because you believe it.

Because you feel terrible about yourself, you look for ways to feel better. You may eat something, which gives momentary pleasure, but minutes later the critic is back to comment on how much of a pig you are for eating. One key to changing negative body image is to banish the critic, and learn self-acceptance. This means accepting yourself as you are, and to do this, we invite you to really challenge those critical thoughts.

A second strategy involves this exercise: Create a list of 10 things you love about your body…10 things that have nothing to do with weight. Stop focusing on the bits you don’t like and start seeing your body as a whole.  Do you have a smile that lights up the room? Do you enjoy the way your body feels when you are hugging your boyfriend or girlfriend?

Think about not just attributes but experiences that you can only have with your body like finishing a hard workout, petting your dog, your first kiss….  Once you’ve created this list, use it to challenge those negative thoughts that your inner critic is throwing at you.

Finally, catch yourself when you go into COMPARISON MODE. This is a nasty habit that so many of us find ourselves in. It can be really challenging to stop because it has become so automatic and you do it a hundred times a day, but this behavior is not serving you.

In fact, the comparison game is causing you a lot of damage, so get very firm with drawing this internal boundary, and do NOT accept this from yourself any longer.

When you find yourself in this comparison trap ask yourself, am I being fair to myself or this other person?  The answer is always NO.  And then ask yourself what can I say that will be helpful for building a more realistic and positive body image?  This takes a lot of self-discipline, but it isn’t unlike any other habit you have broken in the past.

Remember… reprogramming your mind and creating a healthy relationship with your body is a process! There is no “arrival” either, the process is life long, so you may as well embrace the ride.

We’d love to hear about your experience listening to this episode, and how helpful you found it to be (or not to be)!

Email ella@sexyfitvegan.com. I read and reply to every email myself because your feedback is so incredibly valuable… This podcast is for YOU!

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Empowering people with the tools they need to bring out their inner bad ass, develop a healthy relationship with food, and build a PLANT-strong body for LIFE! Ella has been a transformational coach for over 15 years. She is featured in the media as an expert on veganism, wellness, and fitness (click on her image above to listen to one of her latest appearances). Ella is a published author and speaker who has conducted workshops across the globe. She earned her Master's Degree in Social Work and Eating Disorder Recovery Coach certification to further her coaching skills.