Body Image 101: How to Embrace the Naked Truth
Last week, we ended our Summer Is Coming Bad Body Image Redesign class with some very encouraging news. If you’ve lost your notes, I will backtrack a bit …
While it’s sad but true that millions of women and men are suffering from the bad-body-image blues — and its devastating twin sisters, anorexia and bulimia — we learned last week that my best friend yoga, and her best friend mindfulness training, are very useful for sharpening your interoceptive skills.
Your whatzis? Your interoceptive skills determine your ability to tune into your own body and sense what’s going on: your comfort or discomfort, your sense of fullness, your body temperature.
New research (reported in depth, with enthusiasm, by Carrie Arnold in the May/June 2012 Scientific American Mind) suggests that people who test low in interoceptive skills are more likely to suffer from body dissatisfaction and a host of other insecurities. And that, dear reader, is what often gets in the way of change and growth.
How good are your interoceptive skills, your sense of self? You can test yourself, in what’s left of the privacy of your own home, using just a stopwatch and a calculator. Don’t be afraid. It’s only a starting point, and it makes a helluva party game.
Begin by sitting quietly in a comfortable chair and taking a few deep, calming breaths. Start your stopwatch, and count your heartbeats for one minute just by sensing your heart’s rhythm. Don’t touch your wrist or your neck. Write the number down. That’s your heartbeat estimate. Don’t judge it.
Then take your pulse by putting your finger gently on your wrist or your neck and counting the beats for one minute. Then wait two minutes, and take your pulse again. Average the two measurements.
Now calculate the difference between the average of your two pulse counts and your own heartbeat estimate. That number tells you by how much you “missed the mark.” The good news is, no matter your score, practicing yoga and mindfulness will improve your sense of self. Sign up now!
Body image coach Sarah Maria has her own methods for improving body image. Her informative website, breakfreebeauty.com, seems geared to the 80 to 90 percent of adult American women who, studies show, dislike their bodies — but Maria’s methods work wonders with guys and kids, too.
“What many people don’t know is that the path to healthy, beautiful bodies begins with love,” says Sarah Maria, who takes a solidly spiritual approach to her coaching. “It is only when you accept the body you have that you can create the body you want.”
Here is her signature five-step process to break free from negative body obsession, cut to the bone:
— Be willing to change. This is an essential ingredient to discovering your beauty. You might not know how, but you must be willing to explore the terrain. — Identify and detach from your negative thoughts. We tell ourselves we’re not thin enough, fit enough, young enough. Notice these thoughts. Then begin to detach and create more constructive thoughts.
— Connect with your inner silence. When you do, you discover you are not your thoughts. You are the thinker of your thoughts.
— Befriend your body. Your body is a living miracle. Cultivating gratitude toward your body is an essential component of healing.
— Live your purpose. Dwelling on inadequacy keeps us from living our purpose. Learn to love your body, and befriend it as your greatest ally in your exploration of your life.
And finally, to face the naked truth about your own body image, try Sarah Maria’s Mirror Exercise. Be brave. Every evening before going to bed, stand in front of the mirror with your clothes off. Look yourself in the eye and say: “I love and accept myself just as I am. I am grateful for who I am.”
Work your way down your body, expressing love and appreciation for each part. This can be very tough if you’ve spent years disliking your body, says Sarah Maria. But if you practice this exercise regularly, a shift occurs.
“You will begin to see your body through eyes of love and compassion, instead of with eyes of frustration and resentment.”
And from that place, you and your body can move, in harmony, toward change.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! SET YOUR INTENTION
“All change begins with a vision of what you want to create.” — Sarah Maria