Spring is upon us, and so are lots of body expectations. The season that sleeves get shorter and coffee becomes iced can be pretty intimidating for some of us. But it doesn’t have to be! And everything—I mean everything—begins with loving yourself.
Maybe you’re like me and spent the last half year or so enjoying sweater weather a little too much. After all, what’s not to love? Sweaters are an incredibly versatile article of clothing. They’re great at hiding the things we’d rather not see—or let anyone else see.
We shouldn’t be concerned about what people think, however. We shouldn’t be hiding from ourselves, either. Body positivity, now more than ever, is incredibly important. The prevalence of social media makes loving yourself hard sometimes. Unrealistic standards of beauty are everywhere. The popular Instagram and Twitter accounts you follows don’t have your best interests at heart. Chances are, they want to make you feel inadequate so they can sell you their products.
But, you don’t need what they’re selling to love yourself! So, if you find yourself thinking negative thoughts when you see particular posts (“I wish I looked like that!”), unfollow those accounts. Furthermore, it’s always a good idea to take breaks from social media—you don’t need “likes” to feel validated!
Instead, identify at least one thing you love about yourself. Remind yourself every day about that thing. “I’m a great friend,” “I love the shape of my face,” and “I have pretty eyes” are all good options. Get creative with it. Always come back to one truth, though: you are enough.
Once you’ve established that you don’t need to change to love yourself, you can begin the process of changing yourself if and when you want to. For a lot of people, the thing they dislike about themselves the most is their weight.
More important than looking a certain way or seeing a certain number on the scale is taking care of yourself. Perhaps unsurprising is the fact that taking care of yourself is so much easier when you already love yourself. That’s why it’s step two, not one.
Taking care of yourself can take many forms beside just diet and exercise. It can mean listening to that new Post Malone album, journaling, going shopping with your friends, doing laundry, having a good cry in the shower, or putting on a facemask. It means getting your mental health in order, and that’s a very unique and personal thing.
Finally, once you’ve tackled (or at least considered) these things, you can move on. The next step is to set realistic, healthy goals. Never try to go from zero to one hundred overnight. Don’t begin a weight loss program, for example, by saying your goal is to lose twenty pounds. That’s a very difficult thing to stay committed to. It’s easy to get discouraged when the scale doesn’t move much after a week. And zero is so very far from twenty.
Instead, think smaller. A great first step to any weight loss program is to begin by downloading a calorie tracker app. Input your information and select “lose half a pound a week.” That’s a healthy rate to stick to. Let that be your Day One. The next day, start inputting everything you eat into the app to get an idea of places to cut back a little. And maybe on Day Three, start looking into options for a gym to use.
One 30 minute cardio session isn’t going to make you reach your goal. Enjoying a Bacon, Egg and Cheese bagel one day isn’t going to kill your goals, either.
Something like weight loss is all about positive patterns of behavior. Trends, averages, day by day actions—this is how change is made.
The best thing about this whole process is that it’s cyclical. After you hit one of your small goals, you can go back to Step One, loving the newer you even more than before!
So let’s recap.
Start by loving yourself.
Take care of yourself (mental and physical health).
Set and achieve small goals, then love yourself some more!
Michael Schroth is a junior English major at Worcester State University. He is a two-year consultant for his university’s writing center, a member of the honors program, and a part-time contributor to The New Worcester Spy. Michael also currently holds an editing internship with Waldorf Publishing. Catch him lifting at the gym or watching New England sports in his free time.