I know how hard it can be to make friends with your body when you see it changing. When you gain weight, when you don't look the way you've used to look, or the way you think you should be looking, it's hard to accept yourself.
I know exactly how it feels wanting to turn away from reflecting shopping windows, not wanting to see pictures taken of you, and turn away from the mirror.
But over time, you can learn to accept yourself better. These things don't have to happen. Social media has a strong influence on all of us, and if you spend a lot of time on your phone or your computer, you can definitely take steps to start feeling better.
Here are X things that you can do today, to make your social media work for you, not against you:
1) Click Unfollow
This is a really great strategy to set yourself free from body obsession.
Unfollowing people who make you feel bad about yourself is a huge step toward feeling better about yourself. You are shaped by what the people and information that surround yourself with. So if your Instagram feed is full of pictures and videos of people showing off their super lean bodies, you shouldn't be surprised that you feel horrible if you aren't like people on those photos.
Keeping these people in your feed isn't inspiring or motivating but self sabotaging, so unfollow them. You don't lose anything.
Then there are people who don't post their pictures with a goal in mind to show off their bodies, but they still make you feel like crap. It's not their intention or fault to make you feel bad, but the end result is the same. For your own sanity, still unfollow them.
I have done this several times. For example, I used to follow someone for her great workout ideas that gave me inspiration for my bootcamp classes, but I found myself more and more triggered when every fifth post from her started to be a picture of her abs. I unfollowed. There are plenty of other resources where to find workout inspiration!
Again, it's not her fault; everyone has the right to post pictures about whatever they want to. All I know that back then, it wasn't okay for me to see them all the time.
2) Click Follow
Okay, now as you've cleaned up your Facebook and Instagram feed, who do you follow?
Find people who inspire you in other ways; ways that have nothing to do with getting smaller, leaner, lose more weight or try another diet. Think, what else matters to you than these things?
Someone just created a poll in her Instagram stories, asking: Do you follow people for their thoughts and ideas, or for their body? Over 90% answered that they follow people whose thoughts and ideas they're interested in, not those whose bodies they want. I'm actually really glad about this result. That's definitely my main reason for following someone as well.
Have you ever thought that maybe you find that you aren't so excited about fitness at all? Maybe you want to learn more about traveling, design, beautiful homes, cookie recipes, cats? Go follow some of these hashtags and see how much else there is out there.
But you can still follow health fitness accounts, if that's your passion. It is mine! I choose who I follow: People who talk about strength, body image, women's health, hormonal health, have healthy opinions on fitness and training, share cool recipes, and so on. None of those people push the idea of weight loss or fat loss. Yes, there are occasional pictures of abs or butts, but they don't take over my feed.
3) Find Great Podcasts
What are you listening to?
Just like what you're consuming on Instagram or Facebook, what you listen (or read) to matters a lot as well. I read a lot of books about health, physical and mental, but I also listen to many podcasts. I've chosen the ones that are informative, that teach about how the body really works — and starving it isn't the way!, how to make better friends with your body, how to find things that truly matter to you, etc.
For some tips, here are some podcasts that have been really helpful for me. Note that I haven't listened to every single episode of all these podcasts, but in general, these podcasts have been really helpful for me in overcoming my body obsession.
Well-Fed Women Podcast — They talk a lot about nutrition, exercise and body image. Also, carbs! Seriously, if you've been restricting carbs in order to lose weight and your health has suffered, give their episodes a listen. They also talk a ton about hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Natural MD Radio — This one isn't so much about weight loss or body image, but various health problems that women (and children) may encounter, and how to fix them naturally.
Balanced Bites Podcast — note that they do talk quite a bit about intermittent fasting and ketogenic diet, which isn't the best choice for you if you're trying to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea! However their take on health, stress and body image is really healthy and helpful.
Real Health Radio — this is particularly good one if you want to understand how your body really works and what it really needs! Super down-to-earth approach, simple explanations.
4) Show Up Authentically – Yes, You Too!
Depending on what you follow on social media, you may have seen that more and more women show up authentically, posting pictures of their “imperfections”. I put it in quotes because in reality, there's no such thing as imperfections when it comes to our bodies. But the point is, you can definitely see more fitness personalities showing their belly rolls, cellulite, bedheads and bad light pictures.
They show us that they too eat tacos and nachos, and aren't on super clean diets that most of us have been told to be on, in order to be fit and healthy.
That's a great thing and I think you appreciate it too. But are YOU showing up authentically?
My friend Brittany of KB Fit Britt posted an interesting challenge lately, encouraging people show their “imperfect” pictures, the ones where they don't think they look particularly great. Even more, the ones that they may plain hate! She got a lot of response and it seemed to be such an freeing experience for many women. Yes, you have the permission to be the way you are, with your belly rolls and cellulite, and you don't have to hide it.
The more you hide your “imperfections”, the more you show only the perfect pictures of yourself, taking when the light is perfect — the more you help to keep the unhealthy diet and fitness industry strong.
Embracing the way you look may take some time. Especially if you've been really into health and fitness and put that lean ripped look on a pedestal, it's may be really hard. Doing a social media detox is incredibly helpful. Follow people who add value to your life, unfollow those whose who make you feel bad about yourself. Educate yourself and learn why your looks shouldn't be the number one focus in your life, by reading and listening informative books and podcasts. And finally, embrace yourself by not hiding your “non-perfect” body. The less you hide it, the more at home you feel in it.