As a fitness and wellness expert, I believe, not only in the physical health of your body, but also the love that your body should be receiving – from you! Yup, body positivity is a thing, and I'm so excited to see it emerging more and more around the globe and on social media.

When I was in high school, I suffered from an eating disorder because I was a competitive gymnast and felt immense pressure to be a certain weight. This turbulent time helped me to learn the valuable lesson that my health is way more important than my physical appearance, and that I needed to take care of my body in order to achieve my goals. It’s good to push yourself, but never at the expense of your personal well-being.

Body positivity means taking care of your body, but also learning to accept and appreciate all of your physical flaws. True beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin.

Here are 9 ways to practice more body positivity and celebrate you!

1. Thank your body

Instead of looking in the mirror and taking note of your imperfections, think about everything amazing that your body allows you to do. Giving birth, running a race or even just being able to walk, are all things we should thank our bodies for! Your body is your friend, not your enemy.

If you think your nose is too big, remember all the beautiful roses it's allowed you to smell. If you don't like your stomach, remember the feeling of satisfaction it allows you when it’s full of your favourite foods (or the fact that it stretched to accommodate your beautiful growing baby). If you hate your legs, remember all the steps they've allowed you to take.

Invest in yourself, and free up your mind to allow more positive thoughts to flow. Give yourself a break when necessary, and care for your body to show your gratitude towards it. You only get one body, so you might as well love it!

2. Name what you like about your body

When you have a low self-esteem, it can be hard to remember the good things about yourself, but it’s important to try! Whether it’s your hair, your legs or your smile, focusing on what you love about yourself will help you to think about your body more positively.

Remember compliments, your accomplishments and moments where you felt good about yourself. This is not only empowering, but also essential to improve your self-esteem.

3. Practice positive affirmations

Verbally acknowledge what you love about yourself. While it might feel strange at first, it’s a powerful tool to improve your self-confidence, and you'll get used to it. 

Talk to yourself in the mirror and repeat positive mantras daily to remind yourself of how amazing and beautiful you are. Over time, these affirmations will become your actual belief system.

4. Give back 

There is more to life than whether or not you can fit into size small jeans! This is why giving back to the community can make you feel good about yourself.

Help others and develop new skills, look forward to positive feedback and be reminded that there's more to life than superficial appearances.

5. Treat yourself like you’re your own best friend

Realise that you are your own worst critic! All the nasty things we say to ourselves when we look in the mirror, we wouldn't tolerate if they came from somebody else. 

Whenever you catch yourself calling yourself fat, ugly or stupid, ask yourself if you would say the same thing to your best friend, sister or mother. If you can't imagine saying these things to your loved ones, then why would you say them to yourself? Practice being kind to yourself, and speak to yourself as you would speak to your best friend. 

6. Fake it 'til you make it

Even if you aren’t feeling the most confident, a few tactics can help you to project confidence to others.

  • Make eye contact
  • Smile
  • Sit up straight
  • Accept compliments

These not only project confidence, but self-respect too. 

Make others believe you're confident to inspire a positive response, which in turn would make you feel more positive. People are also more likely to view you as friendly, dignified and self-assured. Confident people also inspire others to treat them with more respect and trustworthiness.

7. Stop comparing

The media is constantly promoting images of unrealistic body standards. It’s important to remember that all that glitters is not gold. Most content is photoshopped or edited!

Ask yourself, "why should I try to look like the model on Instagram, when she doesn’t even look like that herself?". All women and men are not created with an hourglass figure or a six-pack - and that’s okay

Remember that someone else’s beauty doesn't mean the absence of your own. Beauty comes in all forms – Christmas lights and butterflies are both beautiful, but they look nothing alike. 

Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Try to improve yourself by striving towards your goals, and compare who, and where, you are now to who, and where, you were. This is a much more positive way of thinking that inspires constant self-improvement.

8. Surround yourself with positive people

The people in your circle have a huge impact on how you see yourself. Criticism comes in many forms: internet trolls, unsolicited “health” advice and even snide comments from family or friends.

Struggling to find open-minded and positive people can be challenging, but without loving and caring relationships, self-acceptance and being body positive is 10 times harder. Support is essential. 

Surrounding yourself with positive people extends to your social media feed as well! Social media can be very negative, and its influence is only growing. Find a positive role model to relate to, which will boost your own confidence.

9. Focus on health over results

So many people only focus on weight loss as their ultimate goal, and only when they lose a few kilos or drop a clothing size do they celebrate. However, for some, it could take months, or even years, to get to that point. 

Weight loss, change in body shape and tone, or a drop in clothing size should be an added benefit of prioritising your health, rather than the other way around, where health benefits may not necessarily follow.

If you only focus on your outward appearance, you’re more likely to take shortcuts and be easily tricked with quick fixes, diet pills and weight loss drinks, as well as other drastic measures. While these products may help you achieve your results quickly, this could come at the expense of your health. 

Rather make smaller, sustainable changes you can stick to, like getting an extra hour of sleep, drinking more water than usual, cutting down on caffeine or improving your digestive system. Focus on changing little things in your body, like your skin or energy levels and vitality and your fitness regime. 

Remember, healthy people are the happiest and radiate beauty from the inside out. Make happiness and self-acceptance your ultimate goal.

Lisa Raleigh drinking water and eating salad as part of healthy habits