As a professional ballerina, I spent years in front of the mirror judging myself harshly, ignoring my body’s need for rest and food, and criticizing every one of my unwanted curves. I loved ballet more than anything else in the world and blamed my body for holding me back from the things I truly desired for my career. As I fought harder each day to control the things about my body that I wished were different, I began to disconnect from the signals I was being given about my life, my health and my work.
In the years after I turned 29, my body began to break down. I suffered several major injuries back-to-back, forcing me to take time away from the stage and completely restructure the way I interacted with myself. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a choice but to listen to what my body was telling me. Slowly, I began to return to the wisdom of my human form– creating a partnership with, instead of fighting against– my home in this lifetime.
As I left the world of ballet and began working with women from all walks of life as a Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach, I began to see common themes arise in all of us, regardless of job title, heritage or age. Here are 7 things I’ve found that women who truly love (and aspire to love) their bodies do each day:
1. They speak kindly
Drinking green smoothies and exercising daily are great elements of any self-care routine, but what does “self-care” matter if you talk to yourself (and your body) like garbage? For many women, separating the negative stories we have about our bodies from what is actually true, can be one of the most difficult challenges we face. This struggle between mind and body blocks us from experiencing the life we truly desire.
In order to change this pattern, simply start by becoming aware of what your “inner critic” has to say about your body (or any other area of your life that you feel stuck around). Instead of latching onto this idea as true, try to approach it with curiosity. What is this belief trying to tell me? Is it trying to keep me safe in some way? By increasing awareness around the belief, you are better able to recognize the pattern and slowly re-write a new story for yourself and your body.
2. They honor their limits
Women, by nature, are gifted multi-taskers and nurturers. Unfortunately, these biological characteristics also make us more prone to overcommitting, over-scheduling and putting ourselves last in line. We may find that we regularly feel drained, stressed out, or lethargic; or that we aren’t experiencing much fun, joy or happiness each day. These feelings are our body’s way of letting us know we need to slowdown. Instead of pushing harder and muscling through as many of us do, our bodies gently guide us to know when we need to create more space, have a little fun, or lighten up. Our job is just to listen.
The next time you find your body resisting your daily “to do”– with signs of exhaustion, illness, cravings, or moodiness– try to curb the desire to force yourself through it and take a moment to stop to pay attention. Instead of finding frustration with your physical limitations, attempt to see them as powerful signals of the deeper issue at hand. Do you have a hard time saying “no”? Are you staying up too late and substituting sleep with things like sugar or caffeine? Listening to your body is a powerful tool to return to optimal health and to examine where you may be “overdoing it” in your life.
3. They respect their natural rhythm
Many of my clients note that they feel very different from one week to the next and this difference in mood, energy and productivity is a great source of frustration. One week they feel strong, productive and outgoing and the next they are weepy, tired and don’t want to leave the couch. For many women, these weekly differences leave them angry and frustrated with their “unpredictable” bodies. The truth of the matter is that we feel different each week because we actually are.
A woman’s brain chemistry changes 25% over a 30 day period in accordance with her menstrual cycle. Meaning, we are hardwired to do certain things at certain times of the month. Our bodies aren’t trying to cheat us out of productivity, they are actually guiding us toward success on a deeper and stronger level. Begin to track your cycle over the coming weeks, noting any patterns in mood, appetite or energy that arise. The more familiar you become with your own rhythm, the easier it will be for you to honor it from one week to the next.
4. They embrace joy and pleasure
When we are unsatisfied with our lives– taking little time for the things that delight us– we’re much more likely to overeat, overindulge, or use food and other substances as stand-ins for happiness. This contributes to feelings of misery within our bodies and negative self-image, making it difficult for us to think about anything else, let alone experience joy and pleasure. But when we recognize that our bodies are loving homes that carry us gracefully through our lives, we become present to even the smallest things that bring us happiness. We recognize that incorporating these pieces are not just a luxury, but a daily necessity.
To fully embrace anything, we must cultivate presence. When we are fully present within our bodies, we easily recognize what brings us joy and pleasure and can readily cultivate more of those things. Notice what brings you joy. It doesn’t matter if it’s your morning coffee or a luxury vacation to Rome–what matters is that you plan for pleasure each day by creating space to pursue the things that make you feel most alive.
5. They choose foods wisely
When we are disconnected from the wisdom of our physical beings, we’re much more likely to choose foods, drinks, substances and behaviors that do not serve us. We might overstuff our poor bodies with large quantities of food, hurriedly and distractedly eating as we multi-task. Or we may stay up too late, drink too much alcohol, or use caffeine, sugar, or more alcohol as substitutes for sleep and self-care. Yet, when we are operating in partnership with our bodies, it is easier to make wise choices for ourselves, because we recognize that cheating our bodies is really cheating ourselves. When we know, love, and trust our bodies, it is easier to nourish them with healthy food and activities.
The next time you find yourself emotional eating, or simply in self-care deficit, take a moment to note one area that you could improve immediately and do it. Every moment is a chance to turn things around and use your power as a wise human to choose the foods and activities that nourish your entire being-mind, body and spirit.
6. They see themselves in other women
While I was still dancing professionally, body shaming was not just normal, it was a daily occurrence. Not only were my fellow dancers and I hard on ourselves, we were hard on each other—judgement and comparison were commonplace. As I began coaching women from diverse backgrounds, I recognized that this habit is not specific to the dance world… In a culture where celebrity cellulite photos are on every newsstand, it’s no wonder that self-judgment and the shaming of other women is customary. But here’s the thing–when we find compassion for ourselves, we find it for all other beings.
Beginning with our own bodies, the more we create a partnership of loving kindness and deep respect, the less likely we are to judge and criticize others. It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so why not choose to see the grace of each individual? The next time you’re surrounded by a group of women, instead of comparing or criticizing, try to notice the physical similarities you share with one another and to appreciate your differences. By recognizing that each woman is vibrant in her own way, we allow ourselves the opportunity to celebrate our range as individuals.
7. They recognize that their bodies are the catalyst for their most deeply held aspirations
Human beings are a complex, multi-faceted species. We operate in the world by combining the forces of our mind, body and spirit. When one of these areas is burdened, it directly affects every other aspect of our life. When we are ashamed or uncomfortable in our bodies–feeling stuck in self-doubt, or feelings of inadequacy—we limit our ability to create the lives we truly desire for ourselves.
Women who love their bodies recognize that deep reverence for their body is the most powerful way to connect to the creativity and power they possess. When we love the bodies we call home, we embrace our ability to create the lives we’re born to live.
As I’ve come to deepen into greater partnership with my own body, I’ve become a fierce advocate for women creating positive relationships with their bodies as well. In my work, I’ve seen hundreds of women transform into the best version of themselves—dropping unwanted weight and showing up more fully to each day with confidence and joy—when they take these 7 lessons to heart.
How would your life be different if you were to show more care and reverence to your body, your home in this lifetime? Where can you deepen more fully into the practice of self-compassion and self-love?
I invite you to love the body you call home.