I remember when I first learned about body positivity and the body acceptance movement.

It sounded like a pipe dream at best. And, tbh, just a little bit crazy.

Why on earth would I love my body? Hadn’t these people seen Mean Girls? Do they even know how many different body parts I’m supposed to hate?

I imagined that these confident, body-loving goddesses must lead entirely different lives. “You sexy BEAST,” they would chant to the mirror, standing before it wearing nothing more than a crown of flowers.

I could never be like those women.

But why not?

Just because I wasn’t ready to book a boudoir photo session or head to the bar in a bodycon dress, didn’t mean I couldn’t start to love my body.

In one small shift, I decided to see love as a verb instead of a noun. I could start to treat my body with love — even though I wasn’t fully in love with my body just yet.

Self-Love and Self-Loathing

Our starting point with body acceptance is pretty bleak. It’s basically a given that, at best, our bodies aren’t quite good enough or, at worst, we absolutely hate our bodies.

We may want to better ourselves, but it seems downright inappropriate to say, “hey, I like my body. I’m happy with the way I look.”

Negative self-talk is everywhere. From coworkers who mean no harm to ads that rely on our self-loathing to sell products.

It’s hard to break free. When a friend says “ugh, I look so gross today” the response “whatever, I’m looking SO fat after pizza last night” is all but reflexive.

But in a true case of fake it ’til you make it, you have to stop the cycle.

Even if you’re not ready to radically, fully love yourself, what if you simply stopped hating yourself?

Treating Your Body With Love

With some small behavior changes, you can start showing your body some love today. Here are 3 simple tweaks that can make a big difference.

1. Stop Negative Self-Talk

The body-bashing, fat-pinching, jean-squeezing inner monologues have to stop. You don’t have to replace it with a declaration of love if you’re not ready, but you can drop the negativity immediately.

I’ll give you a minute to think of a reason why you should keep bullying yourself.

Ok. There’s not one? Didn’t think so.

If your best friend gained 5 pounds would you walk up to her, pinch her stomach, and tell her how “gross” she looks? What about your mom? Or your daughter?

So stop doing it to yourself.

Next time you try on a pair of jeans that’s too tight, try eliminating all commentary and judgment. Simply put them down and find a pair that fits your body.

2. Don’t Punish Yourself

As if telling our bodies how gross they are isn’t bad enough, there are tons of other ways that we punish ourselves.

When you had too many tacos for dinner and then the next day you eat a cucumber for lunch, run on the treadmill for 2 hours, and eat a can of tuna for dinner…that’s punishing your body.

And when you eat half a box of cookies so then you shrug and finish the whole box…that’s punishing your body, too.

Whether you think you’ve failed at your diet or an important task at work, don’t make things worse by punishing yourself.

When things are tough, treat yourself to some kind thoughts or gentle self-care.

3. Listen to Your Body

Speaking of self-care…I know it’s hard for me to make myself a priority.

But sometimes our bodies are basically shouting at us “hey, slow down!” Of course, the problem is when we don’t know how (or choose not) to listen.

This isn’t about dropping hundreds on a spa day or taking a 4-hour bubble bath.

It’s permission to take a deep breath, tune into your body, and give yourself whatever you need.

This might be a 20-minute nap when your body is fatigued but your brain insists that you’re “too busy.” Or maybe it’s skipping the weights in favor of some restorative yoga.

It might even be indulging in the croissant at your local coffee shop that you’ve been dreaming of all week. Go ahead and eat up! I won’t judge you (and you shouldn’t either).

Let’s Redefine Love

If you’ve been trying to lose weight for years or constantly struggle with your diet, it can be hard to flip the switch to body acceptance.

Loving your body isn’t about making a 180-degree change. Think about the small, 1-degree changes you can make each day.

You may not be overcome with love when you look in the mirror today, and that’s ok. But try loving your body the way you’d love a partner or friend: support it, nurture it, and be kind to it when things are tough.

Don’t let a number on the scale or the size of your dress dictate when it’s time to start loving yourself. Try implementing one small mental change today and show yourself the love you deserve.

If you’re tired of bad body image days (or weeks), download my free 5-day Body Image Detox

Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com