17 Healthy Ways to Build Body Confidence

Does this sound familiar?

It’s Saturday morning. You’re at home, un-showered in your pjs, scrolling through Instagram. You laugh at some cute baby pics and a cat video, and then comes what seems like an endless string of photos of people with ultra-toned bodies doing yoga on the beach, posing last night in their new outfit, or modeling while on vacation.

Suddenly, what was a cozy morning has turned into a sinking feeling inside like your body (and life) don’t measure up.

If you’re nodding your head, you’re not alone. Research shows that self-esteem is negatively impacted the longer you spend on social media.

We live in a very body-conscious society. There are comparisons everywhere if we choose to measure ourselves against them.

Issues with body confidence exist far beyond social media. Though these scrolling sessions certainly seem to highlight them.

As someone who’s been on a rollercoaster ride learning to love and accept my body, I can tell you there are healthy ways to go about building more confidence, or there are Band-Aid fixes that make things worse in the long run.

I’ve compiled some of the healthy ways that helped me and my clients build a healthier body image. If you’re looking for more, I teach a 2-month body-love course called Eats & Asana. Our next session is coming up soon, get on the waitlist now.

Healthy Ways to Build Body Confidence – so you can feel good about yourself from the inside out.

  1. Root your confidence in who you are, not how you look. When you recognize that there’s a lot more to love about you than just your body, there won’t be so much pressure to look perfect. You’ll be able to be social and have fun with confidence because you know that having your hair out of place doesn’t make or break who you are or how others see you.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others. Our bodies aren’t a competition. Even if they were, there’s no way anyone could “win” because we’re all so unique and different. Focus on yourself and what food, exercise and clothes work for you and let everyone else do their own thing. When you do find yourself comparing (we’re human, it happens) use it as an opportunity to be inspired by something you like, rather than feeling jealous and putting yourself or the other person down.
  3. Practice gratitude for your body. This goes deeper than appearance. Our bodies are walking miracles and we rarely stop to recognize that. Create a gratitude practice where you intentionally look for all the awesome things your body allows you to do (play sports, have a baby, help your friends, give hugs, heal, etc.). You’ll feel pretty awesome once you recognize all of the advantages your body affords you, most of which have nothing to do with how it looks.
  4. Meditate to calm your mind and connect with yourself. Strengthening the connection with yourself on the inside to focus less on your appearance. It will also help you build the mental muscles to direct your thoughts where you want them to go.
  5. Move your body in a way that feels good to you. There are so many ways to appreciate what your body can do, rather than how it looks. Find an activity you like (lifting weights, rock climbing, yoga) and focus on developing a skill with your body, instead of on manipulating its appearance through exercise. There’s a lot of freedom here and it will give you many more reasons to build your confidence.
  6. Stand up straight. Posture affects mood and reflects how you think about yourself. Lift your chin up, pull your shoulders back and feel the difference this instantly makes in your self-confidence.
  7. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend. Speaking to yourself with kindness and compassion is one of the quickest ways to build your confidence. You go from having an internal enemy to an internal ally. The effects of this are powerful.
  8. Make a list of things you love about your body. Start with the ones that come most naturally. Think about everything your body can do (even on the inside). Consider everything your body has helped you do in the past. This list will never be complete, keep adding to it over time.
  9. Spend less time on social media, and more time doing things that make you feel good.
  10. Talk about it/seek help. If you’re feeling consumed by thoughts about your weight, shape and appearance, talking with someone can help take some of the internal pressure off. Start by opening up to a friend or family member. You might eventually need to talk with a coach or counsellor who has the expertise to help you out.
  11. Eat well. Believe it or not the voice of internal criticism has good intentions. It gets louder when you’re not fueling yourself properly to warn you that you’re out of alignment. When you eat good quality, nourishing food that agrees with your body, this voice becomes quiet or it might even go away.
  12. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit and only shop for the size you are now. Using clothes as “motivation” works the opposite way you want it to. If you want to look and feel your best, wear clothes that make you feel confident right now, as you are. Don’t wait for a time in the future, when you can feel good about yourself today.
  13. Spend time with people who are kind to you and to themselves. Role models are everywhere. Find people who speak kindly about themselves. Witness their relationship with themselves and you’ll see that it’s ok to feel good about your body and to treat yourself with respect.
  14. Read books that help you build yourself up. This can be any type of book that makes you feel better than when you picked it up. Part of building confidence in your body is allowing yourself to feel the way you want to feel more often than not. Books are a great way to bring up those positive feelings.
  15. Put away magazines. Unfollow social accounts that make you feel icky. You are the guard at the gates of your mind. Choose wisely what you’ll allow inside.
  16. Avoid TV shows where characters talk down to themselves or diet to change their appearance. You don’t need any more role models on how to have unhealthy body image.
  17. Say nice things about yourself. Words are powerful and your body is always listening. This is one time to take the advice “say something nice or don’t say anything at all.” It will help you build the mental muscle of dismissing negative thoughts and planting positive ones instead.

A note on change

There are plenty of ways to get started building more confidence in your body. One thing to note is that self-improvement and self-love aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s ok to love yourself and to want change for how you look or feel in your body.

It’s important to make changes in healthy way, from a place of healthy motivation. Check in with yourself and your desire to make changes. If you can do things (like exercise, eat healthy meals, etc.) from a place of self-love, then go for it and your confidence and trust in yourself will grow. If you’re motivated because you don’t like the way you are right now, that’s a good indicator to use these body-confidence tips before trying to make changes.

How to Build Your Self-Confidence

If you’ve been around for a few decades you probably know that confidence is something that comes easier for some than it does for others. The tricky thing though, is that you can’t always tell who it comes naturally for.

We live in a culture that prides itself on knowing the answers, being productive, and forging ahead even in uncertain times. That leaves little room for second-guessing, being indecisive, or wondering if someone else would be better suited to your leadership position. And yet, these are the feelings that come up naturally for many of us.

I recently read a revealing profile in the New Yorker in which Sheryl Sandberg admits she’s felt like a fraud all her life.

Sheryl is a two-time NY Times Best-Selling author with the role as COO of Facebook on her resume, and 270K Twitter followers. If she’s not confident in herself what does that say about the rest of us?

Where does confidence come from?

I suppose what that says about those of us who haven’t worked in leadership at a Fortune 500 company, is that we have more in common with the perceived elite than we think.

Whether that’s refreshing is up to you.

Personally, I find myself wondering if she feels that way because she’s a woman? There’s something to be said for coming up in a patriarchal culture that plants nearly invisible seeds of doubt in women’s minds through the media, political and corporate structures (more on that another day). Regardless of gender, if our roles, accolades and success don’t make us confident in ourselves, what does?

Could it be that confidence is a ruse? As in, it starts out as a mindset you create for yourself and then you live into it until it feels real? The affirmations and positive self-talk of the personal development world would like to have us think that.

While it’s true that mindset is a powerful way to impact the nervous system (which governs our experience of reality), it seems there’s more to the story. There’s a transparency to genuine confidence which makes it harder to feign and easier to learn.

After all, if you’re reading this you probably want to feel confident, not just outwardly look it to others.

The bottom line is that self-confidence comes from the inside. It’s partly based on your mindset but there’s another important piece: connecting with and trusting yourself.

Confidence can be learned

The good news in all of this is that confidence isn’t something you’re born with (or without). It’s not something that’s bestowed upon you. You have control over your level of confidence and it starts with connecting to yourself.

The more years I spend coaching and doing my own personal development, the more I can see that many desired states all lead back to the same practices. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that slowing down, making time for reflection, mindfulness practices, yoga, and meditation are a few central practices that can help you create a deeper connection with yourself and thus improve your confidence.

Cultivating a strong relationship with yourself does a few things that will get you ahead: first, it allows you to discern your inner voice from outside influences. Second, it enables you to take an honest look at your behaviours, your thoughts and fears and your motivations so you can critically assess your strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, it creates a foundation for self-trust so you’re more likely to act according to your intuition and know (trust) in your ability to make decisions, follow through and be resourceful when facing a challenge.

Without building this inner muscle (of listening to and trusting yourself) you’re much more likely to be wrapped up in what other people think or approve of, instead of trusting yourself. If you’ve ever tried to make an important decision by trying to appease multiple viewpoints, you know it’s extremely difficult to do.

Confidence Spoilers

There are plenty of things that get in the way of experiencing confidence. Here’s a good list to look through to pinpoint some of the things that might be holding you back:

  • Seeking approval from others
  • Trying to please others
  • Placing too much importance on things that don’t matter in the given situation
  • Personal insecurities (appearance, weight, clothes, etc.)
  • Giving too much credit to others’ voices
  • Not reflecting on past wins to reference your strengths
  • Not asking for help (thinking you should be able to do it alone)
  • Not recognizing your strength, talents, and abilities
  • Fears that aren’t based in reality

How to build your confidence:

Ready to have a boost in self-assurance? Here are actions you can take to build your confidence:

  1. Check your negative thoughts. Instead of letting negativity carry you away, return to the facts by asking yourself “is this true?”
  2. Have a trusted advisor you can talk things out with when you need to be reminded of your abilities.
  3. Set yourself up for success by preparing as much as possible. This will ease your nerves in the moment.
  4. Visualize your success. Rehearse the outcome you want in your mind until you can see yourself behaving the way you want to in the given situation.
  5. Reflect on times you’ve succeeded in the past. This gets your mind used to thinking of you as someone who succeeds.
  6. Use confident body language. Amy Cuddy has a great Ted Talk on this.
  7. Use meditation and mindful movement on a regular basis to connect to your body and strengthen your relationship with yourself.
  8. Make a point to learn from your mistakes. This will take some self-compassion, but you’re more likely to trust yourself if you feel like you’re improving as you move forward.
  9. Embrace optimism. Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right. Remember, confidence has a lot to do with your mindset.
  10. Celebrate your successes. Big or small, take time to personally acknowledge your wins to reinforce the behaviour you want to see in yourself.
  11. Get to know your values. The more you understand yourself and what’s important to you, the easier it will be to make decisions with confidence.

The Ultimate Guide to Self Love- Part 2

Part 2- Practices for Connecting with and Loving Yourself

In Part 1 of this guide we talked about the 5 essential steps to self-love and we also looked at what can get in the way of loving yourself.

Something that became increasingly clear to me as I delved into the concept of self-love is that sometimes it doesn’t look the way you’d expect.

I’ve been on both sides of the coaching conversation, asking and answering the question “if this were your best friend, would you treat her the same way you’re treating yourself?”

That always puts things into perspective. We like to be the heroes of our own journey. We set ourselves up to do hard tasks like carry the workload of two people, push down our feelings for the sake of being polite, or wait to eat until every family member is perfectly taken care of. When we eventually wind up exhausted, having fallen short of the goal, we take the opportunity to slather on self-judgement for what we “should” be able to accomplish.

Yet in the back of our minds we know that we’d never treat our girlfriends this way.

This extends not only to what we set out to accomplish in our careers, family and relationships, we set these high expectations for our bodies. Here’s where we get into trouble.

Loving yourself inevitably extends to loving your body. This is sticky territory for many of us, especially women who’ve grown up with impossible beauty ideals. We might be able to stand up for ourselves in relationships, but when our jeans don’t fit it can set off a domino effect of shame and judgement that eventually affects our behaviour.

I’ve seen this time and again with my clients, some of whom seem to have a great relationship with themselves, until the scale is involved.

The love we show (or don’t show) ourselves is rarely as clear as when it comes to accepting our bodies. That’s because body image is the intersection of self-image and our actions namely, eating, exercise and self-talk. When one part of the equation is lacking (often self-image) the other parts are affected as well.

Loving your life starts with loving your body

Let go of shame and self-judgment and embrace your inner confidence with the Body-Love Checklist.

For me, learning to think positively about myself and take care of my body was the starting point for self-love. These two sides of the equation rose in equal proportion to one another.

I’ve seen the same thing happen for dozens of women in my Eats & Asana program where we focus on creating a healthy relationship to our bodies and food.

Our habits with food (meal choices, whether we eat, distracted eating, etc.) reveal the way we feel about ourselves. Often the thoughts we have about our bodies are unconscious, but they’re acted out for us to see in our relationship to food. Other times we know something’s up because of things like stress eating, emotional food cravings, or yoyo dieting.

It’s important to recognize that there’s something underneath the surface of your relationship to food… it’s your relationship with yourself as a whole. There are several ways to invite more self-love into your life that will benefit your body, your mind and your health.

Habits for Connecting to Yourself

Being in touch with yourself is the first essential step to cultivating self-love. This happens through:

Mindfulness- slowing down enough to feel into your senses and get centered in the present moment is a great way to connect with yourself. Start small by making time each day to pause what you’re doing, take a few deep breaths and bring your awareness into the present moment. Mindfulness is a muscle that will grow as you prioritize connecting with yourself.

Eating well- the ultimate sign of self-respect is taking great care of your body by choosing your fuel wisely. Eating well is a daily step you can take to ensure that you have the energy, mental clarity to do the things you love to do.

Movement- instead of thinking of this as exercise, consider moving your body for the sake of joy, self-expression and experiencing the full range of what you can do. Movement can be a meditation that allows your mind to come into alignment with your senses. It’s often during physical activity (playing sports, yoga, kayaking, etc.) that you’ll receive insights from your intuition because you’ve slowed your mind down enough to listen.

Creativity- any kind of creative expression that speaks to you (singing, playing music, painting, writing, etc.) will connect you with your inner knowing. Being in creative flow feels fantastic! Getting to know this inner creative nature will help you appreciate and value your body and mind and want to treat them well.

Relaxation- this takes many forms, but what I’m talking about here goes deeper than laying on the couch watching a movie. Find an activity that allows your nervous system to calm down so it can heal. This can be meditation, yoga nidra, or going for a massage or acupuncture. The more time your nervous system can spend in the parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode, the more you’ll be connected with your true self as opposed to living in a state of reaction.

How A Self-Loving Person Acts

Sometimes it’s helpful to witness self-love in action so you can find a way it fits for you. This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are a few characteristics of self-love that you can look for in yourself. If you’re not exhibiting one of these, think about what would need to shift in order to make it happen.

A self-loving person…

  • Prioritizes needs over wants because they’re committed to the health of their long-term relationship with themselves. This includes eating and moving in a way that serves their body.
  • Sets boundaries in their work, personal relationships and with themselves. They communicate their boundaries with others and feel reassured rather than threatened when others set boundaries with them.
  • Has difficult conversations because they recognize that everyone involved will be at ease when things are clear and out in the open. While these conversations might be challenging, they’re committed to clarity in their relationships so they can be fully themselves and others can too.
  • Listens to themselves. This often takes the form of a regular practice like journaling, talking with trusted others, or spending time in contemplative thought. They listen to their thoughts and make a point to feel their emotions and use both as an internal guidance system to keep them on track.
  • Doesn’t compare themselves to others. This one can be tricky, because comparison and self-judgement can happen so naturally. But someone who’s committed to self-love will not compare themselves to others as a way to boost their ego or to justify self-judgement. Instead, they focus on paying attention to their own life and doing their best.
  • Practices forgiveness with themselves and others. This takes a deeper level of emotional awareness, which their committed to for their own health and wellbeing.
  • Speaks kindly about themselves. They treat themselves with the same respect they would treat their closest friends.
  • Prioritizes joy and fun because they know that they deserve to feel happy, joyful and to do things that light them up.

Remember, like any other relationship learning to love yourself is a process. There are always opportunities to connect with yourself in a deeper way. Stay open and be willing to take them as they come. Which self-love practices will you start with?

How to Have More Time for Yourself

I used to do this thing where I’d go out of my way and sacrifice my needs to help my friends and family.

I wanted them to feel taken care of, supported and loved (still do!). But what I found after a while of putting everyone else first, was that my stuff was always on the back-burner…

I’d have hectic weeks because I said yes to something on the weekend and lost my meal prep time.

I’d stay on the phone during my workday for an hour with a friend in need, and end up having to work late.

I love my people, but something had to give because I was always left holding the bag – MY bag, with all the things I needed to do for myself in it.

Recently I did a Facebook Live where I talked about the 3 important realizations that I had about how to make more time for yourself. Check it out here….

Here are some things I learned about how to make more time for myself:

  1. When I’m clear on my priorities, it’s easier to say yes/no to other things because I know what I need to dedicate my time to.
  1. Efficiency saves the day – I’ve learned to double up on my time by taking walking meetings or planning my work tasks around the errands I need to run.
  1. Usually, things can be done faster. Rather than giving myself a whole Sunday to accomplish housework, if I condense the task into 2 hours in the evening I can usually get it all done in that time, leaving more time for something else.

A note on perfectionism – in learning to make myself a priority I’ve had to let go of some perfectionist tendencies. To be honest, I don’t think I realized I was being a “perfectionist” about things, I just lived by this internal set of rules that I held myself accountable to. It wasn’t until I started feeling overwhelmed by the amount I’d need to do to keep up with all my personal expectations that I realized it was a bit much. So, I slowly started to loosen the grip on some things…

For example, I used to pressure myself to show up “professionally” at all my meetings. It became overwhelming to try to balance a full meeting schedule and get my daily workouts in, or teach yoga. Considering I live my life in yoga clothes (I’m either coming from or on my way to the studio) I’ve decided it’s ok to take business meetings in my yoga clothes.

Now I book my meetings right after a yoga class at the cafe next door. My colleagues understand that I’m prioritizing my wellness and respect me for it. I’ve come to respect myself for it too because it’s one way I prioritize my health vs stressing over superficial details.

So, if you find yourself suffocating underneath the expectations you’ve set for yourself, try loosening the grip a bit. If you do this and put the three tips above into practice, you might just find you have more time for yourself.

Adaptogens 101: Part of Natural Stress Management

If you haven’t heard of adaptoens, you’re in for a treat! This is one group of supplements that anyone can benefit from. Their name says it all – they help your body adapt to stress. Adaptogens work in a unique way, by helping you perk up or calm down, depending on what your body needs. They’re like the chameleons of the supplement world.

Read on to discover the different types of adaptogens and how they can support you.

You may hear the word ‘STRESS’ and immediately think of the mental and emotional aspects along the lines of feeling overwhelmed, overly busy, and/or anxious.

In reality, the body actually encounters different forms of stress every day and is always working to restore homeostasis (the body’s happy place, or natural equilibrium).

Your body is constantly being bombarded by stressors – even when you don’t feel stressed. In fact, you probably won’t feel stressed day-to-day from some of these ongoing sources of stress because your body is adept at dealing with them.

Here are some examples of common, daily stressors:

  • Exercise – yep, it’s good for you, but it’s a form of stress the body has to deal with!
  • Lack of sleep
  • Toxins – like exposure to environmental pollutants, heavy metals, and chemicals in personal care and cleaning products
  • Viruses/Colds
  • Anxiety – which can be caused by stress or exacerbates existing stress
  • Stimulation – in the form of light, screens, loud or constant noise and bombarding visuals
  • Negative thoughts – patterns of thinking that affect your emotions and body’s hormonal response

Decreasing stress is critical for good health. There are many effects of ongoing stress including: weight gain, poor digestion, increased inflammation, accelerated cellular aging, hormonal imbalances, including adrenal dysfunction – your adrenals are responsible for your body’s response to stress.

Good news – there are plenty of ways to reduce the impact of stress in your life, including:

  • Getting to bed before 10:30 pm and getting enough sleep
  • Keep up with a regular exercise routine
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of whole foods
  • Consuming enough healthy fats to support your hormones
  • Practicing tried ‘n true stress relief techniques
  • Processing your emotions (through talking, journaling and personal reflection)
  • Yoga, meditation and other practices that calm your nervous system

But, if you’re looking for something to naturally supplement your diet with, in a way that can minimize the impact that daily stressors have on your body, you might want to consider adding an adaptogen (or two) to your health plan.

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens – or Adaptogenic Herbs – are plant-based supplements (usually in pill or powder form) that do just what they sound like: they can help your body adapt to the stressors of your personal environment.

Adaptogens have a long history of use in ancient medical practices, like TCM – Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic practices.

Current research has found that Adaptogens boost mental function, attention span, and energy during times of stress and reduce the overall production of inflammatory stress hormones, like cortisol.

Here are 5 common adaptogens:

  • ASHWAGANDHA – decreases anxiety, calming effect
  • ASIAN GINSENG – decreases fatigue, calming effect
  • MACA – boosts energy levels, balances hormones
  • RHODIOLA ROSEA – boosts energy and immune system function
  • SCHISANDRA FRUIT – enhances energy and cognitive function

How do Adaptogens work?

The molecular pathways involved in the body’s stress response are complex.

The 3 glands responsible for regulating stress hormones:

  • Hypothalamus
  • Pituitary
  • Adrenals

These glands function in your body’s stress response. This is called the HPA axis which refers to the cascade of hormone secretion and effects that your body launches to cope with stress in your body.

Contrary to what you might think, your body’s stress response isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually a helpful, adaptive mechanism that supports you in living your best live. When you’re experiencing prolonged stress this healthy sequence of events can be disrupted (something called HPA Axis Dysfunction) which is when you’ll start seeing negative symptoms (like hormonal imbalance) resulting from stress.

Research has found Adaptogens help support these glands in achieving equilibrium or homeostasis – a fancy way of saying that they help stress hormones get back into balance.

Unlike caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs, Adaptogens can gently help reduce stress hormones, decrease anxiety levels, and prevent fatigue without any crazy spikes or crashes in energy.

How do you take Adaptogens – and are they safe?

Adaptogens are available in pill or powdered form, of which powders can easily be added to teas, smoothies, soups, and other recipes – see our recipe at the end!

The best part about these herbal supplements is that it’s not necessary to take every Adaptogen every day, and choosing just one to add to your routine can still provide health benefits.

It’s recommended to rotate between Adaptogens, using one at a time for several weeks and then switching to another, if desired, to reap the benefits of several varieties.

You should follow the dosing instructions on the product label or consult with a Natural Health Practitioner for specific Adaptogen recommendations related to the health conditions that you may be experiencing.

It’s important to note, though, that while most adaptogens are generally safe for nearly everyone, please supplement with awareness.

RECIPE

Maca Mocha Smoothie

Ingredients

¾ cup coconut or other dairy-free milk
¼ cup brewed coffee, cooled
1 banana, frozen in chunks
1 tsp maca powder (can work up to 2 tsp per day)
1 tsp – 1 Tb cacao powder, raw & unprocessed (non-Dutch)
Optional: 2 tsp raw cacao nibs

Preparation

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender.

Blend until frothy and desired consistency.

Add in cacao nibs for last 10 seconds of blending for added texture. Crunch with benefits!

REFERENCES

Healthline: Adaptogenic Herbs: List, Effectiveness, and Health Benefits

Healthline: Smart Girl’s Guide to Adaptogens for Hormonal Balance and Stress

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2017: Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals

Pharmaceuticals, 2010: Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity