Self-Care and Body Positivity
How do I feel about my body? How would I like to feel about my body? How can I treat my body with the kindness it deserves? If my body could talk right now, what would it say? What do I need right now? What’s one way I can celebrate my body every day? What’s something that makes me feel worse about my body? Which people make me feel bad about my body and myself? These are just a few of the questions that we ask ourselves concerning our bodies. The Strathmore Mental Health Club during the mental health week in late August invited specialists and enthusiast on matters health and body to help answer some of this question during the Mental Health Awareness Week.
The talk aimed to equip students with knowledge on self-care and how to handle their bodies positively. The discussions were led by a host of panelists including Dr. Lucy Muturi, Clinical Psychologist; Onyango Otieno, Mental Health Advocate; Wanjiru Macharia, Culinary Nutrition Expert; Ian Lutta, Fitness Enthusiast; Sandra Nzioki and Lynna Owiti from UKE Girl – an online platform that helps in navigating through womanhood.
The panel touched on self-care and body positivity explaining their benefits and importance in one’s life, and went on to respond to questions asked by the crowd.
Body image is the way we perceive ourselves when we look in the mirror. We imagine ourselves to look and act a certain way, even though we may look and act differently to those around us. Someone has a positive body image if he or she is attuned to the reality of his or her physical shape and size. This person fully understands his or her weight, the form of his or her body (from curves to wrinkles), and the way his or her body moves and functions.
Some of us, however, experience a disconnect between our body image and the reality of our shape and size. The bigger the gap between what we think we look like and what we look like, the more likely we struggle with a negative body image. This negative perception of ourselves can affect our behavior and hold us back from social interaction and feelings of security and happiness. People with an extremely negative body image often become obsessed with parts of their body they dislike. This obsession leads to eating disorders, depression and compulsive disorders that greatly affect a person’s health and quality of life.
Does how we perceive our bodies affect our minds?
“What you feed your mind is very critical for your body. Especially through the media, it channels us to consider a certain body type to be the best. This makes us build a negative attitude towards our bodies leading to depression. To overcome this, we need to check out what it is we are feeding on the media.” said Dr. Lucy Muturi.
Sandra Nzioki from UKE Girl urged the students to have healthy eating habits.
“To look a certain type of way, you need to eat a certain type of food. Nutrients from the foods you eat provide the foundation of the structure, function, and integrity of every little cell in your body, from your skin and hair to your muscles, bones, digestive and immune systems. You may not feel it, but you’re constantly repairing, healing and rebuilding your body. You just need to work around what you can afford.” Said Ian Lutta.
The panel finished off with remarks on how to build one’s body positivity and self-care through positive self-talk.
We can build positive and realistic body images through positive self-talk, becoming aware of what we’re capable of, and understanding our true shape and size. Positive self-talk is speaking to ourselves using positive and active words that describe how we feel, how we look, and what we’re doing. Many of us practice negative self-talk out of habit. When we look in the mirror, we focus on the parts of our body we dislike and we relay that message either verbally or mentally to our subconscious. We think, “My thighs are so fat,” or we say, “Look at how ugly I look.” When we speak these negative perceptions, we’re damaging our self-esteem. Instead of focusing on something we dislike, we must focus on areas of our body we do like. We could say, “My arms look toned and fit,” or “I have a white smile.”
Using positive statements to describe ourselves can boost our self-confidence and help us interact without feeling stigmatized by our insecurities. Not only should we use positive language when speaking about our bodies, but we should employ active language to help us reach our goals. If we plan on losing weight or starting a new diet, negative self-talk can and will inevitably lead to failure.
Active language uses words like ‘choose’ and ‘am’. Statements like, “I choose to eat healthy today,” or “I am beautiful and strong” are active and will reinforce the subconscious, helping us achieve our goals. Avoid using phrases like “have to,” “will,” and “think” in an “I” statement. If we say, “I have to do 30 push-ups,” our subconscious feels like it has no choice in the matter.
Practice using positive and active self-talk while looking in the mirror or setting off on a new goal.
This article was written by Tuzo Jonathan
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