A guide to your most body-positive year

How to measure strength, not weight, and other ways to appreciate your amazing body.
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How many "I don't like how I look" moments have you had today? Research shows that on average, women think at least one negative thing about themselves per hour. "I'm so fat." "I'll never look like her." "I hate my legs." "I look bad in everything." While everyone's narrative is slightly different, the thing nearly all of us have in common is our relentless habit of cutting ourselves down. Thanks to numerous campaigns aimed at encouraging women to be kinder to themselves, and a general change in the broader discussion, the topic of ending body shaming is a big one right now. We've seen the commercials and the inspirational quotes on Instagram, but the reality is, it's much easier said than done. If loving yourself is on your 2017 to-do list (as it is mine) here are some tips to get the body-positive ball rolling.

Practice positive affirmations (as simple as smiling)

One of our generation's most influential body positive icons is plus-model/designer/advocate, Ashley Graham. Her secret weapon for embracing her body? Daily positive affirmations. According to Graham, she starts her days by saying positive things in the mirror about how beautiful, healthy and grateful she is. If you're not the type to give yourself a pep talk – just crack a smile. Studies show that smiling at yourself in the mirror for a few seconds can make a significant difference in your happiness and stress levels, including improving how you feel about yourself.

Acknowledge – then dismiss – the negative talk

A few years ago I took a mindfulness meditation course and learned a really effective technique when it comes to ridding the mind of unwanted thoughts; instead of letting these thoughts overwhelm your psyche, acknowledge them and then let them go. This has been extremely beneficial for me in my journey to eradicate negative self-talk. The expectation to never have another bad thought about ourselves is unrealistic and having these thoughts doesn't mean we're failing. While it's expected that we'll have some toxic thoughts, if we don't acknowledge them, they can spiral out of control and send us into a total body image meltdown. Instead, let them pop up to the surface, and then actively dismiss them. Be patient, it takes a long time to curb a bad habit. By continually acknowledging the negative talk and then letting go, we can re-train our minds to be kinder to ourselves.

Measure strength not weight

It comes as no surprise that weight loss is the most common resolution of 2017 by a long shot. But not only is being a slave to the scale hard on our self-esteem, it can often mask accomplishments. Often when we start a new fitness regimen, the scale goes in the opposite direction thanks to our growing muscles. A much more rewarding and empowering measure of our physical progress is to track strength instead of weight. One great way to do this is "The Pushup Test": Perform as many pushups from the knees as you can before you break form – i.e. your lower back caves in, you can't get your chest to the floor or your elbows splay out. Calculate this every other week, watch your number grow and be proud of how much your body can do and not just what it looks like.

Step out of your comfort zone

I recently participated in this amazing event in the name of ending body shame, called "Spin in your skin," where a room full of women did a spin-class in nothing more than their bra and panties. My first response when I was asked to attend the event was "Oh, HELL NO!" But, it turns out that being forced out of my comfort zone was extremely beneficial for my body image. First, I made it out alive! Nothing bad happened, no one was judging me. I realized everyone felt as weird as I did about exposing their "flaws" and we were in it together. It also forced me to look at my body as it worked hard on the bike and focus more on my strength, not my size. So  I encourage you too to push yourself out of your personal comfort zone; dress for comfort not cover-up in yoga class, go bare-faced to a party, finally sign up for that intimidating dance-class. It might just surprise you how much it could change how you see yourself.

Surround yourself with self-love enablers

We all have those friends who are always talking about how "fat" they feel or about how much weight they want to lose. First, forward them this article, then maybe get some space from them. Negativity is contagious and being around these with toxic mind sets may lead you to question yourself, your weight and your worth. Instead, seek out the friends and people with whom weight, diet and appearance are not the main topics of conversation. (There is more to life than these issues!) And, if you have to hang around the Debbie-body-downers don't be shy to shut down their negative self-talk. Enabling it will only bring you both down in a blaze of body hate.