Like so many, I struggle with my own body issues.
I was a competitive dancer growing up, so I was always moving and exercising for so many years. After I finished university and moved to the city, I really had to rediscover what “healthy” meant to me.
I didn’t have a workout routine. I didn’t know how to cook well at home (or really, cook at all). I didn’t understand why I was having so many digestive issues.
But, life was happening and it wasn’t a priority for me to figure any of this out. I wanted to meet new people, go out for drinks, go dancing. I was having fun in my early twenties, and I was okay with that.
It wasn’t until a couple years later that I started putting a lot of pressure on myself to get in shape, lose 10 pounds, finally see my abs, and get rid of the cellulite on my booty.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier. The damaging part was the pressure.
I was also working in the fashion industry and surrounded by beautiful people all the time. The whole “get fit” mentality was a way for me to feel like I was keeping up with everyone and, let’s be honest, all the Instagram models.
It turned into a battle between me and the mirror.
I was always picking myself apart, buying new outfits that I would only wear once and hate later, and trying some sort of detox or cleanse every other month.
I tried to fit intense workouts into my schedule, too. But even the fitness studios I went to were full of beautiful, fit, gorgeous humans that I thought I couldn’t measure up to.
All this pressure was just another way for me to feel bad about myself (cue the loud inner critic). It was the wrong route for me and my mental state.
In the world of social media and celebrities, there are so many messages of how to be lean, eat better, feel better, be better. But I didn’t know how to apply any of it to my life in a concrete, long-lasting, healthy way.
I was stuck in this hamster wheel of shame and anxiety and perpetually searching for external validation from the world on how I looked.
10/10 on the exhaustion scale. Something’s gotta give.
And, it did. It didn’t happen overnight, and my body issues still come up all the time. But I’ve developed this system of self-care and self-understanding, so when I do feel myself spinning out of control, I can handle it with compassion instead of pressure and hostility.
This system requires looking inwards vs. outwards. And being grateful for the body I have and what it does for me every single day.
Here are four steps I’ve taken to shift into a stronger relationship with my body and live a healthier, more positive lifestyle.
Step 1: Dive into a total self check-in
The first step in this entire journey was, and still is, self-awareness.
I remember countless journal entries where I would write about my body frustrations, and then one time I wrote: why do I care so much about others and so little about my own opinion?
Focusing on the external clearly wasn’t working for me, so I decided to go inwards. Instead of wondering what I look like, I ask myself what I feel like. What is working, what isn’t working? What do I need right now? Once I focus on how I am feeling, I can act upon it.
I try not to objectify it, either. “I feel ugly” or “I feel like my legs are huge today” is still an external thing and I can’t do anything about it in the moment. I try to change it to “I feel sluggish” or “I feel disconnected with my body right now.” Or on the positive side, “I feel confident,” I feel energized.”
If I’m feeling sluggish or disconnected, I ask why. What’s going on that makes me feel this way? Am I not sleeping well at night? Have I ignored all the signals my body is giving me to slow down or take a nap? Can I let any of these feelings go?
And if I’m feeling good, I ask why, too — what did I do that got me to this point of gratitude or confidence? What am I proud of?
I take note of what’s going on internally, and then try to make changes to affect how I feel instead of how I look.
This step is one that I come back to time and time again, because it takes me away from the mirror and closer to a healthier relationship with my body and mind as a whole.
After my self check-in, the next step is to do something about it and take positive action.
Step 2: Get up close and personal with your own body
I needed to understand my body better.
There was a point where I was dealing with intense digestive and skin issues. I constantly felt bloated, irritable, and uncomfortable. My eczema was at an all-time high and I was frequently breaking out in unknown hives. It was time to take action to figure out what was going on in my body instead of ignoring it and letting it fester.
My friend Dr. Alexandra Power is a naturopath, so I went to her for an assessment. I learned that our skin health is tied closely to our gut health. She suggested doing a food sensitivity test to better understand my digestion and learn what foods to eliminate so I could manage my symptoms.
Looking over the results, it was so empowering to have clear information on my body.
Understanding how my body responded to certain foods made eliminating things (like dairy) so much easier. No more detox diets or cleanses for me.
To say that I felt a shift would be an understatement. It was a revolution in connecting with my body.
My skin issues disappeared and my digestive issues went away. I felt lighter, happier, and more in control because I wasn’t just guessing at what my body was telling me. I knew what was going on and I could take actionable steps in a healthier direction.
Now, whenever I do a check-in and I feel uncomfortable or bloated, I can attribute that feeling to something tangible, think of what food decisions I made that day, and adjust accordingly.
Which leads nicely into the next step.
Step 3: Develop a love for cooking at home
Another big change I made to live a healthier lifestyle was to start cooking at home. I say this as a self-proclaimed ‘bad cook’ with two parents who are basically master chefs. A quality I never developed, apparently.
I live in a hub of good restaurants within a minutes walk of my apartment. It is so easy to order takeout or sit on a patio with some good food. And there’s nothing wrong with this, but it was turning into an everyday sort of thing, and becoming unhealthy for my waistline (and my wallet).
My girlfriend was using a food prep delivery service, and suggested I try it out as an introduction into cooking more regularly. I signed up for one and, truthfully, I haven’t looked back.
We all have our own self-imposed barriers, and I quickly realized that this service solved two big ones for me: buying my own groceries, and making a recipe that I know will be a success.
I receive fresh, healthy ingredients to my doorstep on Mondays, and I make dinner for my boyfriend and I throughout the week. I see it as the “takeout alternative,” so instead of ordering sushi or Thai food, we eat at home.
Strangely enough, I’ve developed a love for cooking. I take a lot of pride in making a dish that I know is wholesome and healthy, and after eating this way for a couple of weeks, I noticed the benefits — I felt so much better physically and mentally.
Time to keep this positive action going.
Step 4: Discover a workout you actually enjoy doing
My version of a healthy lifestyle wouldn’t be complete without fitness.
Exercise is a necessary step in my overall mind-body connection. I know that working out makes me feel energized, confident, and productive, but it has always been hard for me to stay in a consistent routine.
So, I started experimenting with different workouts at different studios to see what I actually enjoyed doing. I had a few questions I asked myself: Did I want to go back the next day? Did I feel energized? Was I working out in a positive environment? Did I feel supported and encouraged by the community?
After a lot of trial and error, I realized that I am not a one-type-workout kind of girl. I really enjoy challenging classes like spin and HIIT, but I also love blending that in with barre and yoga.
I think sometimes we feel we have to be one thing: a runner, a gym goer, a yogi, a spin enthusiast. But I don’t identify with a single workout — I love variety. And it’s the variety that keeps me consistent.
That said, I did find a true love for spin and this year I decided to train to become a spin instructor. It feels awesome to be back teaching a class like I used to in my dance days, and it’s my way of joining a positive support network as I continue to work towards a healthy relationship with my body and mind.
Your relationship with your body is unique to you. Your journey will most definitely look different than mine. But after doing some serious self-work in the last couple of years, I wanted to share that big shifts can happen even with simple steps.
Especially for women, the pressure to look a certain way can be overwhelming — and we’ve grown up in a culture of perfection. But the world is moving in a more welcoming, positive nature that I hope continues to grow.
Remember, it’s your body and your journey. It’s ever-evolving, and we all have good days and really hard days. By developing a system that works for you and your lifestyle, you can start making space for more positivity and healthy choices.
Whatever that looks like for you.