5 Ways I’m Changing How I Think About My Body

And it’s working, little by little

05.04.17
I'm Trying to Change the Way I Think About My Body Man Repeller Feature

Last year I put on a little weight. It was a modest gain — about one small cat’s worth of pounds, hardly enough for anyone to notice. If I told you how much I’ve worried about it, I’d have to kill you. It’s embarrassing. More frustratingly, it’s often in spite of my best efforts. The thing about body changes though, and I’ve talked about this before, is they put you in touch with your value system. They’re the proverbial action to your talk. Because body acceptance, as a principle fully employed, should extend to your own, right? As with most things, it’s easier to preach than to practice. In that sense, the inevitable ebb and flow of these flesh suits we call home presents an interesting opportunity to observe toxic thought patterns. Ideally, it also presents an opportunity to address them.

For me, that meant admitting to the, at times, grim inner-workings of my self-worth. Giving my relationship with my body – and the body — a good, hard look. It also meant learning and practicing behaviors that more honestly reinforced my belief system, which is that all bodies are worthy of reverence. Below are some of the things I’ve started doing in an effort to live out that endeavor. It’s still a work in progress, as am I, but each has proven helpful in chipping away at harmful thoughts.

Building a closet that fits me

I’m Trying to Change How I Think About My Body Man Repeller 1

It took me a long time to realize that squeezing into jeans that left an imprint on my skin was like walking around wearing a reminder that I didn’t fit. I didn’t fit; not the pants. As soon as I bought a pair of pants I could pull on with ease and wear comfortably, I felt better than I had in months. I remember thinking, What have I been so worried about? I’m totally fine! It was the most obvious of light-bulb moments. Having a few pairs of pants that fit my body at the bottom and top of its natural range has helped me come to terms with that fact that a range is, in fact, natural. I’ll be up, I’ll be down. I’m building a closet that supports, rather than laments, that.

Wearing forgiving silhouettes

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Beyond size, I’ve been investing in shapes, silhouettes and fabrics that see my body through changes that happen over the course of the day (or over the course of my cycle). Buying clothes that only fit a very specific version of my body sets me up to feel consistently uncomfortable in my own skin. That means less high-waist skinny jeans (and vintage Levi’s that body shame me), and more high-waist, wide-leg pants. I like them more anyway.

Not judging other women’s bodies

Per my point about practicing what I preach, a critical mechanism of body shame is the idea that bodies are objects to be judged. It’s so built in that it’s startlingly difficult to stop. As long as I appraise other women’s bodies at all, I’ll continue appraising myself. By fending off criticism, I don’t mean loving a body in spite of its “flaws,” I mean dismantling the paradigm that even assigns such a value judgment. I’ve been practicing looking at a pair of legs and thinking: Those are legs, and ending the thought there. No comparisons. No nothing.

Feeding my body good stuff

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This one may seem obvious, but I’ve noticed that when I feed my body nutritious food and get off the couch, I feel much more accepting of whatever state it’s in – even if it looks the exact same as it did when I was eating poorly or being sluggish. That’s because a huge part of accepting my body is respecting it as an instrument instead of an object. We’ve discussed the value of self-compassion over self-esteem plenty, and it’s rooted in this same idea. Treating my body with care in mind is an expression of that.

Forcing myself to think nice thoughts

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This one isn’t rocket science, but for me, accepting myself can be practiced minute-to-minute. When I feel myself being critical about myself, some other part of my brain will cut in and think: Nope! Not happening. It works. Sometimes I follow it with the thoughts outlined here. Sometimes I have to be the angel on my own shoulder and stop the toxic thoughts before they bloom.

These are just little things; none particularly groundbreaking or novel. You’ve probably heard them before. My point is less about a radical new way of thinking and more about an equal and opposite message of acceptance to counteract the narrow standards we’re inundated with every day. I’ve had to learn these same lessons over and over for the last decade, and I’m learning to see that not as a failure, but as proof that my mind, and all of our minds, need constant nurturing.

Is body acceptance something you practice? Give me your tips!

I'm Trying to Change the Way I Look at my Body Man Repeller

Illustrations by Cynthia Merhej.

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  • Harling Ross

    I love this post and these illos. “Those are just legs” –> yep.

  • Cristina

    Having clothes that fit your weight range from top to bottom is so smart! I’ve recently started doing the same. I lost quite a bit of weight a couple years ago, and tossed all my old, big stuff like workout pants and jeans. Now I’ve put a little back on and I’m like DANG IT, why did I do that? It really does make you feel soooo much better to just buy clothes that fit, not make you feel like a busted can of biscuits! It’s funny too. I’m a little heavier, and I feel heavier in my own skin. But when I see pics, I think I look the same. ::sigh:: being a woman is hard.

  • Teresa

    Great article but I LOVE the illustrations!

  • Erica

    when i was going through a rough patch of accepting my body in high school, my mom always reminded me that the body i have today is not the body i’ll have when i’m in my 20’s or 30’s. i wanted to be taller and have a slimmer waist but it was hard to grasp the idea that my body is specific to me and no one else, and i’ll drive myself crazy by comparing and hoping for something different. now i’m 22 and i’m pretty darn happy with the way i look (most days at least!)

    what helps me stay happy is knowing that nothing is “permanent” and if my weight fluctuates from time to time, it’s not forever! and even if so, it’s all the more to love, right?

    • jackie

      “what helps me stay happy is knowing that nothing is permanent and if my weight fluctuates from time to time, it’s not forever!”

      THANK YOU FOR THIS. As an injured runner who can do very little cardio right now, the amount of time I’ve spent worrying about gaining weight is insane. but you are right. and this is something i am going to remind myself daily moving forward.

      • Sara

        I know this feeling exactly (cutting back on running for whatever reason and then worrying every second about gaining weight) and I realized that we don’t give our bodies enough credit for maintaining equilibrium. So, while you might be running less, I be you are eating less, too, and all will be well! I also cut my mileage back way way back over the winter and was shocked to find I actually lost weight while running less. So my advice (not solicited, I know) is to enjoy having a bit of a respite from the pressure we runners can put on ourselves by keeping up with workouts, etc., and take it as a needed mental and physical break. You’ll be back in no time and you’ll be in a really great state to start again!

    • Cristina

      As someone who is in her 30’s, your mom ain’t lyin lol. It’s rough. But, I look back and remember when I thought I was “fat” in my 20’s and laugh because I wasn’t. But the body I have no is also not the body I’ll have after kids. That’s something I should probably start accepting before it happens lol

  • The funny thing is I got negative comments about my body when I was still worrying about my body and I get them now when I don’t: maybe something about my body acceptance (= lack of visible cringing and guiltily talking about it) makes them (even more) nervous. “If a woman is capable of simply ignoring her plus size body, what else is she capable of?!?!?!”
    So: “change you view and people will change theirs” is not what’s happened to me. But: ever since having stopped with this stupid self-flagellating shit (like we are breeding cows to be sold at a fair), I have gained time and lust for life.
    Nowadays, I just laugh in the faces of people who disclose their “I will tell you you are fat to feel better about myself” simplicity.

    And yes: clothes that fit at times when there’s more or there is less of you to love are a great idea! (I have them too – and I took care I chose some I absolutely adored, not just cheap emergency solutions.) Everything about this post is great, of course 🙂

  • Summer

    I wish I could get back all the time and energy I’ve spent (and continue to spend) on judging my body throughout my life. I KNOW how fortunate I am to have a body that does everything I ask of it with very little difficulty or complaint. I KNOW that the idea of a “perfect” body is an impossible and toxic social construct. And yet…………. could I count the number of times I’ve cried naked in the always cruel H&M dressing rooms or in my own bathroom? Nope….

    I love the idea of having clothes that always fit, but (preaching easier than practicing for sure!) I have a very static idea in my mind of what size I am and should be and if that size doesn’t fit, well, it must mean there’s something wrong with me. It’s a little frightening how deep my body hatred goes….

    • Lindsey

      The H&M dressing rooms are the actual worst. A three way mirror?? That’s what they made the poor people go through on What Not to Wear! And it’s so small, even just going in there makes you feel huge.

      • Joana

        Damn that was a genius reference!

        And a poor sales strategy from H&M don’t you think?

    • Sheila T.

      every H&M dressing room should come with a box of tissues

    • Cristina

      Sometimes I walk past Forever 21 and think to myself “I can’t believe I used to shop there. How did I even fit one butt cheek into those clothes?!” lol!

      • I am somewhat famous for telling my friends I can still wear the tight midi skirt I wore at my wedding – this time as a sleeve.

  • Laure-Helene

    “My point is less about a radical new way of thinking and more about an equal and opposite message of acceptance to counteract the narrow standards we’re inundated with every day.”

    Thank you for this. Beautiful wriitng + I love and relate to everything in this post.

  • jdo719

    ***BUYING CLOTHES THAT FIT*** I cannot begin to express how liberating such a basic concept as this one can be. When I stopped fitting into the jeans size I had worn most of my adult life, I wore leggings for an entire winter because I had arbitrarily decided that I could. not. buy. a. size. x. Like allowing myself to wear clothes that were not cutting off my circulation would be “giving up.” When I finally gave in and bought pants that fit it was a revelation. Of course I still wear leggings, but now it’s by choice, and not because they’re the only option in my closet.

  • Rheanonn Perez

    thanks for sharing haley! i really loved that piece on body neutrality which u linked in ur first paragraph. one way i practice body neutrality/acceptance is working out purely for my own sake rather than to achieve a “perfect body”, whatever that is. for a while i wanted to incorporate squats into my routine for a nicer bum, but i realized that i only wanted a nicer bum to impress other people *rolls eyes at self* ughh it sounds soo crazy & embarrassing to admit that but it’s true!!! (not saying everyone is doing squats for other people, just admitting to my own motives lol)

    same for how i eat. i pretty much eat how i want, & luckily i naturally crave to eat healthy liiike half the time lol! i don’t think i could ever go on a diet just to be skinnier though, because again, i would be doing that for other people & not myself.

    i try to imagine that the opinion of others literally just don’t exist & i feel at least content with my body, it’s fine the way it is! =)

    frheak.net

    • Cristina

      That’s actually how I’ve been feeling about makeup lately. I feel most attractive with a full face, contour, the works. But.. attractive.. like to other people. I feel the prettiest with some blush and mascara. Pretty bare. I’m realizing that feeling attractive is an outward expression for other people. Feeling pretty is for me and myself!

  • Mary

    This the the best piece about body acceptance out of the many hundreds I must have read over the years. Thank you, thank you!

  • Charlotte

    This will not be the last time I’m reading this piece. Sometimes it’s good to hear (read) it from somebody else! Love the illustrations btw.

    • Lina

      The illustrations are so great!

  • Lina

    A couple of years ago I decided to stop with the negative thought spirals that i returned to too often, and as you put it; forced myself to think nice thoughts, and stop the bad once when they came, and it was so wonderful when that “other voice” appeared, I must have lost it for a while so it was just wonderful when it came back! So to anyone struggeling with “overthinking” or selfdoubt, fake it ’til you make it and practice, practice, practice

  • beccamu

    high waist, wide-leg pants are my religion

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    By fending off criticism, I don’t mean loving a body in spite of its “flaws,” I mean dismantling the paradigm that even assigns such a value judgment.

    nail on the fking head!!!

  • ArtsDuMal

    I gained 50 pounds last year through a combination of stress, less active job, eating a lot of pizza, and PCOS. I went from a size 8 to a size 14. I definitely beat myself up for me weight gain at first- how could I “ruin” my body like that? What if I never go back to my original weight? If I “accept” myself at this weight, will I lose the motivation to lose the extra poundage?
    I started seeing a very old school nutritionist who lets me talk on and on about my body image issues, and that has been super helpful. I’ve also also realized that I’ve felt fat at every weight for the past 15 years, and that I need to do some work on my negative perceptions of myself. I think the biggest thing I’m working on is to stop equating gaining weight with being “bad”. There’s nothing bad or wrong with being one size versus another, you kinda just are. I’m almost thankful I gained that weight because it was kind of a rude awakening to how much I was neglecting my health. Skinny me smoked, ate mostly takeout, drank almost every night and never exercised. Fat me quit smoking, goes to the gym at least three times a week, and has limited her drinking to the weekend. Haven’t lost any weight through those lifestyle changes, but I’m ok with it!

    • Cristina

      Getting older sucks. If I think of it your way, I too have thought that I was fat at any weight. Yep, even at a size 8. Did any guy ever tell me to keep my clothes on? No. I wore a bikini in college even though I was self concision and did anyone ever tell me I shouldn’t? No. Did people compliment by bathing suit? Yes. I’m almost mad I wasted those years being so self-conscious. The older I get, the more aware I am that my curvy body type is different. I’m not thin and white and skinny and straight. I’m Hispanic and have hips and boobs. And it’s funny, because isn’t that what all the girls are trying to get these days with waist trainers and fat injections?! How sad/crazy is that?! I think when I was younger, in the back of my mind… I thought some end body image goal was to be skinny and straight. Now, I realize at 31 this is pretty much the end goal. My body shape now. Even at a comfortable weight, I see pics and think that I’ll never look skinny cause my boobs and butt are big. And I don’t know if I’m happy with that, but I’m working on it. I have too, cause it ain’t goin anywhere!

      • ArtsDuMal

        Yup! Same problem, I see celebrities with big butts and boobs all the time and think they look great, but when I look in the mirror there is a disconnect. I also get mad at my younger self for being unhappy with the body I would kill for now, but then I realize it’s a cycle and I’ll probs think the same about my current self in 10 years.

    • Jolie

      I’m going through something really similar right now! A few years ago, I lost a bunch of weight and felt hot af (I was a size 8 too). Then, last year, I gained it alllll back and then some, going up a couple sizes in the process. I also started having a bunch of medical problems at the same time that no doctor could figure out. After doing everything imaginable to lose weight and just seeing zero progress, I started seeing a nutritionist too, who put me on a diet I never thought I’d figure out.

      That was in February, and although the nutritionist said I should’ve lost at least 30 pounds by now (my goal), I’ve only lost about 8 – due to all those medical problems. I used to be plagued with thoughts like “I’m wasting so much time being bigger when I could be spending this time of my life when I’m supposed to be in my prime looking amazing.” I was really depressed. I hated myself.

      Starting that diet, getting back to a regular exercise routine, and letting go of the expectations that I was “supposed to” lose 8 pounds a month or “supposed to” fit into an old dress has made me slowly start to accept myself more. I feel my confidence creeping back in everytime I follow a model on Instagram who actually looks like me and exudes self-esteem. Fat me is way healthier than skinny me was, and I finally feel like even if I’m not where I want to be, someday I will be. I really needed to see your comment right now, as I’ve been breaking my diet a little this past week and feeling down. Good to know there are others on a similar journey!

      • ArtsDuMal

        Yes absolutely, and it’s so important to talk about it honestly, which is why I appreciate you sharing your story as well! I also have been breaking my “diet” because sometimes it doesn’t feel worth working at and I get discouraged. But i get a self esteem boost from knowing that I am truly exercising self care by acknowledging my issues and trying to work through them in a purposeful and meaningful way, and it seems like you are doing the same. I hope you continue doing well and feeling better, and know that you are definitely not alone in feeling the way you do- you’re just one of the few people open enough to express it.

        • Jolie

          Oh, I know that feeling so well. That’s such a great point – it’s hard to feel motivated when you’re not seeing results, but it’s also therapeutic just trying to change in the first place. Thank you so much! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one going through this, which is how it can sometimes feel. All the best to you on your path!

    • Eliza

      PCOS!!! I am sending you so much love. xoxo. You rule.

      • ArtsDuMal

        Thank you, you do too 🙂

  • Lanatria Brackett Ellis

    This article has touched me the most.I have been bcritical and border line body shamed myself almost my whole life.From being too big and now not big enough (in the booty area).I used to weigh myself daily and try on my tightest clothes just to feel bad in the that I didn’t look as slim or as curvy as I thought I would be after working out for 2 days straight.A few months ago I had an epiphany and told myself the scale doesn’t matter.I haven’t weighed myself in over a month and recently starting sacrificing half of my lunch break to walk 2 miles.It has really made the difference in how I feel in my body, and how I feel about my body.
    http://www.caribbeancowgirl.weebly.com

    • Haley Nahman

      So happy for you!

  • Lindsey

    I am in the exact same boat. I’ve always been thin, so putting on 10-15 lbs wasn’t a hugely noticeable thing to anyone but me. But I really felt terrible about myself. I refused to buy myself new clothes because a) jeans are kind of expensive sometimes, and b) I was convinced I’d just as randomly lose the weight as I had (seemingly) randomly gained it. But of course, I didn’t. And then I started noticing everyone. else’s. bodies. in a way I never had before. I was constantly comparing myself. “That girl is so thin!” “Oh, she looks just like me, and she looks good. Does that I mean I look ok?” “Well at least I don’t look like her.” (Yes, terrible.) And, living in LA, there will always be some model or actress in your near vicinity just minding her own business, but making me feel awful.

    I finally did buy myself a pair of bigger pants and I love them. My little poochy pouch is no longer lying on top of my pant line, which sometimes even makes me forget I have it. I also read the INCREDIBLE book “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” by Dr. Christiane Northrup. It’s a massive Bible-sized book on women’s health, both mental and physical, and everything about her writing made me feel like it is the world’s greatest thing to be a woman and to even have this body. I really cannot recommend this book enough. Every woman should read it.

    I do think this article ties in with the one last week on getting older quite a bit for me. Not only are the images I see in magazines and social media almost all 10 years younger than me, they are also all at least 30 lbs lighter than me, and more tan, more toned, and they all have even complexions. So it’s hard to not feel bad about myself by going on social media. I’ve had to begin limiting how much time I spend on Instagram for the sake of my own mental health and self-love. It’s hard to remind yourself that you’re normal when every picture I see reflects a different idea of normal. But taking that time to sit back, look at my beautiful friends of all sizes and complexions, put myself in a cute outfit and spend time doing something I’m good at and enjoy…that brings me back to a more settled place. The older I get, the more interested I am in loving myself. But it sure is really fucking hard.

    • Blythe

      Instagram was a torturer chamber for me for so long. I finally cleaned house and stopped following all the models/actresses/bloggers that made me feel bad about my body. Instead, I started following women that looked like me or weren’t shy about sharing what’s really going on and inspirational body love accounts. It’s been incredibly helpful for my mental health.

      • Lindsey

        Yeah, there was definitely a tipping point where models and celebrities went from being motivating to demoralizing. I think I need a house-cleaning, too.

    • Cristina

      Hi, we haven’t met but can I hug you?! Haha! Seriously though. I turn 31 tomorrow, and it’s hitting me way harder than 30. Suddenly I’m nostalgic for college when I lived off pizza, beer and koolaid and didn’t gain weight. Working out with the girls was fun. We’d gab for an hour on the treadmill. Now, social media tells me that’s not enough. Cardio is bad. This is bad that is bad. Being “in-shape” means not eating gluten and being toned and lifting weights and doing HIIT and Crossfit and low carb and no carb and green juice and chia seeds blah blah blahhhhh. I wish I could forget everything I have learned about food and fitness (FROM SOCIAL MEDIA) and be happy. I was happy before. Now I’m 31 and stuggling because it’s an uphill climb from here. I accept that fact that at my “lowest”, but most comfortable weight now, it’s about 10lbs higher than in college. But… I have to also accept the fact that my body will flucuate 10-15lbs within a year or two as a response to the way I treat it. I just know that now, my priorities are shifting. I want to be happy, I want to have a happy relationship with food and fitness so I can raise a future daughter to not have the struggles I had. And you are right, it is really freaking hard.

      • Lindsey

        First of all, happy birthday tomorrow! 31 is really no different than 30, I promise (as someone who only turned 31 three months ago). You’ll do great.
        Secondly, let’s be friends, because I absolutely hear everything you’re saying. All the language about food and what types of exercises is so demoralizing. I totally follow HIIT people on instagram and am so inspired by them, but that shit is so hard. I really do not feel cut out for it. And I feel like people stare at me like an alien every time I eat bread. I am constantly limited to like, quinoa, when I have people over because nobody freaking eats bread anymore! But I LOVE eating, and it makes me so sad to think that I can’t be thinner without eating less bread or dairy. WHERE’S THE TOAST?!?! You know? I need to be able to have toast.

        Is it bad to say that part of the reason I want to lose weight now is because I’m afraid that, if I get pregnant at some point, I won’t be able to lose that weight and then I’ll be even heavier? So I feel the need to have a lower starting point, so to speak? I’m literally not even planning on having kids for a minimum of 2-3 years. Why do I think about these things??

        But you’re so right. All things considered, I AM happy, I love eating healthy and yoga, but I also love Netflix marathons and pizza. And I want a future child to see that kind of self acceptance. I don’t want to model negative self-talk. And being skinny is not even important! As long as I’m living a healthy lifestyle, full of sleep, hikes, veggies, and self-love, that’s all that matters. And joy in the form of toast and tv marathons now and again is also a part of a healthy lifestyle. 🙂

        • Cristina

          Omg, we are like the same person. I am TERRIFIED of getting pregnant. Of course, all my friends have kids. And I tell them that I’m too scared I’ll end up huge like Kim K. And I don’t have a million dollars for a post baby trainer nor the dedication to eat Atkins. I’ve got another year or so before we revisit the conversation and start to try, but I feel the exact same way. I’m not gonna bounce back from that lol.
          Also, toast is actually it’s own food group for me. I prefer it in all it’s original forms, such as peanut butter, or just butter, or sometimes butter and jam. Avocado if I must, but not my fav. I’m cracking up at the quinoa comment. I have a friend who doesn’t enjoy cooking (she does Blue Apron) and she’s always saying I should make meal plans for her. I always chuckle because I’m prettyyyy sure we don’t eat any of the same things. I’m from the midwest, it’s always like an anthropological study reading the MR food articles. I think we recently got a shop that does acai bowls, but until then they were just something I saw on Instagram LOL!
          I think in the end, shaking the pressure to look the same as everyone else, and that looking the same as everyone else means you are doing it right is just hard. It really is a mental battle. I even have a friend who is bigger than me who constantly tells me she wishes she was my size. I’m someones goal. How crazy is that.
          Also, HIIT is so hard. Like. No. I don’t want to do a burpee THANKS BYE.

          • Lindsey

            Just read this interview/post on Cup of Jo yesterday (https://cupofjo.com/2017/05/ashley-ford-writer-outfits/) and her quote at the end really spoke to me: “I’ve spent a lot of time having this mental list of things that I was too fat for, too black for, too poor for. But it got boring. You can’t live your life like that. If you try hard to avoid disappointment, you also avoid excitement.” Especially as it relates to fashion and body image, it really stuck with me. This is who I am right now, and I need to take care of and love this current self, ’cause she’s who I’ve got.

          • The Keep Collection

            Guys! I love this thread. I love how honest you all are. I’m posting from my company website (which is actually totally focused on bodies at the moment), but, Hi, my name’s Susannah & I want to be your friend, too! You all seem wonderful.

          • Marra

            I agree with and feel the same way about what all of you are saying!

            I feel better knowing that it’s not just me, I’m not crazy, or overreacting, or being too sensitive. So many of us face the same fears, anxiety, criticisms, etc. The grass is never greener on the other side.

          • Kittybat

            This thread is giving me life. Went through a huge body life change after college and staring and comparing became the bane of my existence — also the bane of my bf’s existence. I tortured him with questions but mainly tortured myself. It took 15 years to learn to love myself. As myself. Not as the “perfect” weight. That kind of language is dangerous for a human’s psyche. Nothing is actually just black or white.

    • Natty

      i just blindly ordered that book on amazon prime… thank you in advance for the recommendation

      • Lindsey

        Even if you don’t read it cover to cover (which honestly, most people probably don’t, but I can’t help myself), there is SO much valuable information in there!! It was kind of astounding how much I didn’t know about my own body.

    • Haley Nahman

      I want to read it!!!

    • Kittybat

      This. 100%.

  • Amy L Campbell

    This is such a beautiful piece, Haley! And “these flesh suits we call home” has GOT to be the BEST metaphor I’ve ever laid my peepers on.

  • Caro A

    with you so much on this

  • Amelia Diamond

    I like this so much haley.

    • Haley Nahman

      ❤️

  • Molly D

    You just explained my exact situation. I AM HEATHCLIFF.

  • Blythe

    Haley – so many of these things resonated with me. As someone recovering from an eating disorder, many of these ideas are tools that my therapist has worked through with me. It’s a process – 100%. Something that’s helped me is learning about and exploring body neutrality. It sounds like something that might be up your alley.

    “Body love keeps the focus on the body. The times I’m happiest are when I’m not thinking about my body at all,” says Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

    Full article: http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/03/forget-body-positivity-how-about-body-neutrality.html

    • Haley Nahman

      Wow I love that

  • starryhye

    Great piece, Haley! For me, instead of focusing on what my body looks like, I like to think about all the awesome things it can do. I grew 2 tiny humans, I can lift and squat heavy shit, I can hike up tiny (like, really tiny) mountains! I’m also acutely aware of said tiny humans and the message I’m sending to them. Life is to precious to be spent worrying about how our bodies look.

  • Tessa

    Girl, same. Went through a breakup after a long term relationship and after being that wispy “too thin” type that never even thought about food or having a bad relationship with it or my body, I found myself 5+ heavier — which turned into panic — which turned into 10, now 15 lbs heavier. (The harder I obsessed the more I gained from stress until it turned into a borderline ED) I don’t ever want to go back to how I was (underweight, even if it was natural), but it became a full blown obsession for a while. I actually realized it was deep rooted emotional and psychological issues that caused the comfort eating (considering the relationship i was in used to be the source of comfort).

    Practicing body acceptance and doing all the things you stated has helped me a shit ton, but also has therapy and treating the issues at their very source. Not sure if it’s the same for you, but I remember reading an article about your breakup so I thought it might be worth mentioning.

  • Cristina

    UGH I LOVE ALL THESE COMMENTS. I will be re-reading this and the comments for days!!! ALL OF YOU GET HUGS!

  • Lil

    Lovely article! Also yesss to not judging other women! Way back in junior high I read this Seventeen article about how not judging others will help you judge yourself less. I really took that Seventeen article to heart !
    To this day one of the things I love most about myself is how I rarely ever analyze other women’s appearances or compare myself to them.

    Now I still have a whole bunch of other issues… but at least this is one less to deal with LOL

  • Kay Nguyen

    I do think you’re what you’re eat so feeding your body good stuff will make you feel good both and outside! And the most beautiful women are the one who feel good about themselves <3

    http://www.myblackcloset.com/

  • Joana

    May I add another realization to this? Shoes will stick by you through thick and thin (right?), so if all else fails, trust shoes 🙂

  • The Keep Collection

    Haley! I just compiled a collection called The Body Edition at http://www.thekeepcollection.com. A lot of it is about body acceptance, & a lot of it is deeply personal. I address eating disorders & related patterns of thinking a lot, and I wish I’d had you to quote while I was writing a few of the pieces (this part in particular: “I’ve been practicing looking at a pair of legs and thinking: Those are legs, and ending the thought there.”) There’s actually one piece that’s a direct response to something Leandra & Amelia wrote in 2015: http://www.thekeepcollection.com/body/2017/4/26/my-response-to-the-man-repeller-roundtable-on-disordered-eating.

    Thank you so much for writing this.

    • Haley Nahman

      Thank you for sharing!

  • The Keep Collection

    I’ve just read through all of the comments, and I strongly hesitate to do this because it’s so shameless, but I’m getting over it because I think that many of you might actually be interested in the conversations that we’re having in The Body Edition. I talk a lot about my own Eating Disorder, speak with an eating disorder therapist, interview the founder of Curvy Yoga, reflect on the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and quote Leandra & Amelia (!).

    In case: http://www.thekeepcollection.com/body

    And again, thank you Man Repeller for creating this really lovely community, and for consistently putting out writing that’s worthy of conversation.

  • Emily

    Yes!! In my sophomore year of college I gained a post-heartbreak 15. I went through such a huge range of emotions about it. I’ve always been tall and skinny and I practically had an identity crisis in my new body, but the changes actually helped me to accept my body and myself in a new and deep way. I think the mental adjustments I made during that period were really emotionally beneficial for me. Our bodies change naturally throughout our lives and it’s great to have the emotional equipment to handle that. I ended up losing the weight later due to extenuating circumstances (getting off the pill, anxiety that impacts my stomach), but by the time that happened I hardly even noticed. thanks for this piece, which articulates so many things I felt!

  • Buying forgiving clothes is something I can def relate to!

    My biggest change happened when I stopped looking at models and started looking at my own body everyday, I recently wrote about it with lots of tips on how to train the mind: http://bit.ly/body1234

  • Nicole

    These illustrations are like the cutest damn cherry on top of a really great pie (I say as I have never had an American dessert pie with or without a cherry on top, but you get me)

    • Haley Nahman

      ARENT THEY GOOD!

  • Beasliee

    Also, if you gain weight be realistic about the circumstances.
    So many of my friends crash diet for their weddings, return to normal, and then the tiny waist of their wedding dress makes them feel fat and guilty. I have to remind that the diet result was not normal or healthy and that the size they are now, though bigger, is what they should actually be.

  • Oh and, Haley, the only comment I could not find below (?): obviously, you look as thin as ever. Seriously, no false consolation intended.

  • Marra

    This is a great piece on body acceptance, and can’t agree or stress enough about buying clothing that fit the current you. I’m moving out of my 20s and into my 30s, and finally waking up to the fact that my body is not what it was when I was just out of college. A fresh-faced 22 year old wearing cute tight clothing. None of those clothes fit anymore, they haven’t fit in 7 years. I was against buying new clothes to fit the person I am up until recently. Clothes were cutting off my circulation, it was obvious they were too small for me, why was I torturing myself. I just recently went through my entire wardrobe and listed my too small clothes on Poshmark for somebody else to love and started buying clothes that fit. Really forcing myself to analyze the way clothing feels and my comfort level. Size is just a number, weight is just a number. It’s about being healthy physically and mentally. If you can climb up 5 flights of stairs without being winded and you eat relatively clean, I think you’re doing okay.

  • Suzy Lawrence

    After watching my beloved godmother die from MS for my entire life (she lived to be 67 and battled the disease for 36 years), I’ve learned a thing or two about this whole idea of body acceptance. If you can move, move. If you can sit on the floor, sit on the floor. If you can bend, bend. If you can stretch, stretch. If you can chop and sauté and bake and turn the pages of a book and walk to work and breath on your own, do it. Do it deep, do it slowly and with intention, and do it often. My body gives me mobility and the freedom of choice, and after living with someone who had neither for so long how anyone feels shame due to weight fluctuations or undesired hair dispersement or “skin discoloration” or wrinkles or because some pants don’t fit how you’d like, is beyond me (be grateful your body allows you to put on pants in the first place).

    • Yehudit Bell

      Excellent reality check! What a blessing to have all of our lambs and to have mobility! Thank you for sharing that!

  • Ariane

    It’s true, doing more exercise makes me feel 1000% better about myself though I suspect I look exactly the same (literally five minutes later when I am checking myself out in the mirror in my sportsbra)

  • Bogdana

    Reading articles like yours is one of great things that help to overcome self body shaming.

  • Gracie

    I like this a lot. I have struggled with body issues all my life. I’ve only started to feel better in the last year, because I have committed to exercising a lot and I have lost weight. That’s honestly really annoying. I couldn’t feel better when I was bigger? Ugh.

  • Angela

    Good article.
    I haven’t been “skinny” since pre-puberty. Puberty hit me with a pear-shaped stick, and I’ve spent the past two decades feeling resentful of my body because it doesn’t look like anything I see in magazines. I’ve got a butt you could serve drinks off of.
    Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve just decided to stop. Any sense of body-confidence was stifled in my youth. And I became deaf to compliments, even from boys and men who were “warm for my form.” All I could see were the figures of models in magazines and all I could hear were the self-deprecating complaints of my (thinner than me) friends. If they were upset with their near perfect bodies, how much of a disappointment is my own???
    Now I’m at a place (far too late, in my opinion) where I’m beginning to truly accept my body. I’ve stopped wishing I could wear skinny jeans or capris, and I actually think that accepting my body has allowed me to develop my own sense of style. Because I wear what fits, and what I think looks good on me.
    I’ve also become better at drowning at the body-dysmorphic white noise, especially the noise from friends. I’ve realized that their own dissatisfaction has nothing to do with me, but with them. And that when they do judge my body, that’s about them and their own identity issues, and not about me.
    And I’m really fucking mad that we live in a culture where women spend time and energy wondering how to deal with cellulite, short legs, long torso, heavy arms, etc, etc, instead of ruling the fucking world. I wish I had the hours upon hours back from my youth, so that I could spend that time doing something so much more rewarding than think about my body, which is fortunately able and gets me where I want to go and can do what I want to do (for the most part).
    And I hope that I give this message to my daughters one day: to appreciate their body, but to spend their energies one something more rewarding than finding ways to correct deficiencies that aren’t even deficiencies. Cultivate your mind, take part in your community, let someone else worry about their fucking thigh gap.

    • Haley Nahman

      A wonderful way to put it

  • Sooverit

    Those are just legs, those are just arms…that,s just her stomach. The sun is back out and all the lovely people are too. I have spent the day repeating the above mantra to myself…it kinda works! Now, if everyone would just think the same way…

    • Haley Nahman

      This touched me so much

  • Caroline

    I’ve been doing yoga for a bunch of years, more specifically Ashtanga yoga over the last two years and with an amazing teacher who has really shifted my thinking about bodies. She asked us to think about narcissism not only in it’s understood definition: excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance, but also as negative talk to oneself and body as a form of narcissism. If you are constantly thinking about your appearance, good or bad, aren’t you being narcissistic? I know this definition won’t work for everyone, but it has really helped me frame this negative self talk in a different way so that I can truly see it for what it is.

    • Haley Nahman

      Love that

  • CM

    While I’m in total agreement of accepting yourself and being body positive, I think it’s quite important to recognize the association with weight and health. When weight gain occurs, there is likely some other sort of issue going on, such as hormonal fluctuation, mood imbalance, digestion issue, metabolism change, etc., and it is imperative to address that. And I believe the goal is to always be striving for our most healthy state, and being overweight is usually not conducive to this. Health is the truest form of wealth, and our actions should be to promote this, mentally, physically and spiritually.

  • streats

    I relate a lot to this. I’ve never had body confidence issues or significant weight gain/loss, but in recent years I discovered the joy of clothes that fit better precisely because they don’t fit. It all started when I was looking for the perfect buttondown after years of hating them, and I suddenly realised that the reason I never found one I liked was because I always went for the tight-fitting look; once I went up a few sizes, I immediately felt great. I wrote a piece about how it completely changed the way I dress myself now: http://www.fashionstudiesjournal.org/what-were-wearing/2016/8/30/how-i-learned-to-love-the-button-down

    tl;dr instead of me fitting into my clothes, they fit around me.

  • Is it weird that reading Roxane Gay’s memoir in which she detailed navigating life as a 577-lb woman helped me best understand that we’re all still learning how to accept our bodies more than any unretouched Anthropologie ad ever has??

    http://otisunfiltered.blogspot.com/2017/06/what-its-like-to-be-fat.html

  • Delaney

    I’ve found that (and I’m going to sound a bit new age but eh) striving for true balance is key. Knowing it’s ok to eat a gluten-filled meal and then a really nutritious one the next, having s dynamic diet and not obsessing over what I’m eating all the time has helped sooo much.

  • Eva Tsipi

    Haley, yet again you’ve read my mind! I’ve been struggling with this for the longest time. It’s a huge shame that so many of us are fixating on that little number on the tag, I’ve actually been calling it tag phobia for the longest time. It’s come to be synonymous with how we feel about ourselves – we give that miserable little tag so much power. It’s a massive relief to buy clothes that fit AND make you feel good AND don’t make you feel like a stuffed sausage at the end of the day. I used to actually get some weird sort of pleasure from the fact I’d managed to squeeze in a pair of tight jeans even though I knew it meant that I’d be in mild discomfort for an entire working day. So done with that!