Love the One You’re With (Yourself)

It’s Valentine’s season! That means everywhere you go your eyes are likely overstimulated by everything red, pink, and hearts. Maybe you love everything Valentine’s day, or maybe you find the concept nauseating, but nonetheless everyone is familiar with the concept – celebrating someone you love. Some people celebrate by having date night with their significant other.  Others observe something more like Galentine’s day where you celebrate the love and appreciation you have for all of your friends. But have you ever considered celebrating the day of love with the person you spend the most time with, yourself?

Many people who are struggling with body image find it hard to try to conceptualize actually loving themselves and that’s ok. Even people who don’t struggle with eating disorders often find a place of total self-love unattainable and that’s normal. Self-love is definitely something to work toward, but realistically it takes time. One of the natural first steps in working to repair your relationship with yourself and your body is merely taking care of yourself.

Self-care is by no means a new concept. It’s pretty likely at some time or another you’ve heard someone suggest you should take better care of yourself. Maybe your parent is always nagging you about getting more sleep or it’s more serious and your therapist is suggesting more regular sessions, but the message is the same. You only get one body and you need to do everything in your power to take care of it.

Here are some suggestions of ways to practice self-care. Maybe you’ve heard of some of these before, or maybe they are all new concepts, but take a look and see what may work for you:

  1. Talk to your therapist (or get one!). If you’re struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, hopefully you already have a therapist, but if not it’s definitely time to find one. Most people could benefit from seeing a therapist regardless if they have a mental health diagnosis or not. Thankfully, most of the stigma around having a therapist is dying out and therapy is becoming a much more common practice. Therapy is a great way to get things that are bothering you off of your chest while a trained professional acts as your guide to mental wellness. Often just talking about the things you are struggling with can give you tremendous relief, and your therapist can help you navigate your struggles so you don’t feel so alone.
  2. Learn a new skill. Learning a new skill can not only be fun, but it also can be a major mood booster. Trying something new can open your horizons to new possibilities. As an eating disorder dietitian, I think that learning to cook can be an extremely useful skill for those who are in a place in their recovery to do so. I have seen the benefits of people struggling with food learning to cook firsthand. With proper instruction, legalizing different ingredients as well as seeing what all goes into the food can be extremely therapeutic and liberating. Not to mention, being able to cook is a super useful life skill. Talk to your dietitian for suggestions. Other new things to try could include but are not limited to: photography, learning to play an instrument, learning a foreign language, taking up some kind of art medium, learning to sew, etc. The possibilities are endless!
  3. Treat yo self. Self-care is extremely personal. What feels like self-care for one person, may feel like a chore for another. Think about your personal interests. If you love shopping, buy yourself a new item of clothing that feels great on your body and really highlights your personal style (given you are at a place in your recovery where shopping for clothing is appropriate). If you aren’t ready to do clothing exposures, but still love to shop, consider buying an item you don’t wear, maybe a new candle that smells amazing. If the spa is more your scene, go get a pedicure. If you’re on a budget (like most of us) get some affordable bubble bath or bath bombs, light some candles, and have a soak. Maybe you like to snuggle up in a cozy blanket with some tea and a good book. What relaxes you? Find some time each day to do something that makes you feel like your best self, even if that just means taking five minutes to put on your favorite scented lotion.
  4. Put effort into your relationship with your body. Now this will definitely take time and will require ongoing effort. Paying attention to this relationship is the ultimate form of self-care, as it helps you take small steps toward more self-love. You may also find it helpful to enlist the support of your therapist or dietitian. Often times when you’re struggling with negative feelings about your body, it’s easy to forget the wonderful things our bodies enable us to do. Next time a negative thought about your body pops into your mind, try to stop yourself and counter it with a positive thought (I know, I know, easier said than done). Maybe next time you’re hating on your legs, remind yourself that no matter what they look like they allow you to do so many things, whether that be just walking around your office, running to the car when it’s cold outside, or dancing with your friends to blow off some steam. Like that example, if you put your mind to it you can come up with a positive thought for just about every part of your body and it’s well worth the effort. No matter what, try to remember our bodies carry us throughout each and every day and that alone should be a reason to celebrate them.

These are just a few ideas on how you may take a step toward adding more self-care into your life. There are so many other ways to practice self-care, it is ridiculous! Just remember to choose something that feels right for you and make it a priority to schedule in some “me time.” And remember you only get one body, so try to be kind to it.