If you’re one of my regular readers, you’ll be familiar with why the concepts of body positivity and self-love are something that you should most certainly try and introduce to your life (and if you’re a new reader, get started here).
But, aside from the obvious happiness, contentment and relief that can come with self-love… what are some of the other, less-obvious benefits to feeling more loving towards your body?
It’s easy to break down the general gist of self-love into some Pinterest worthy inspirational quotes but in reality, the science behind self-love is far more complex.
Here are 3 ways self-love impacts your physical health:
1. Self-love boosts cardiovascular health.
When our self-esteem is raised through positive self-talk and affirming habits, our heart benefits. In a world first study out of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, the cardiac vagal tone (which is a measure of how strongly the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) influences the heart) is reported to be higher in individuals who’ve undergone self-esteem enriching experiences. This was the first study of its kind to provide evidence that self-love not only has a physiological benefit (as well as a mental benefit), but an immediate physiological benefit.
“Low self-esteem means more than just feeling bad.It also means the body isn’t functioning in a very healthy way, and this could have serious health implications down the road.”
— Psychologist Andy Martens, who headed the study.
And on the note of self-love boosting overall physical health (as well as mental!), those who embrace self-love take fewer sick days. Researchers at Columbia University revealed from a study of over 150,000 people that the way a person feels about their body size may have a greater impact on their health than their actual body size itself. had less to do with a person’s overall sense of healthfulness than how he or she felt about that size. And again, this is regardless of their actual weight.
2. People who make peace with their “flaws” are able to better handle setbacks and disappointment.
A study from Canada’s Waterloo University revealed that self-cacceptance led individuals to not only have better body image but also to be more resilient during stressful situations. It also made them less likely to engage in behaviours associated with eating disorders. It makes sense… when we’re more accepting of ourselves, it’s understandably easier to accept other situations throughout our lives.
“There is something about a high level of acceptance and understanding of oneself that helps people not necessarily view their bodies more positively, but rather acknowledge their bodies’ imperfections and be OK with them.”
— Lead researcher, Allison Kelly.
And now on the opposite end of the spectrum, what happens when individuals internalise negative weight stigma and body-related shame….
3. People who experience weight discrimination – (regardless of their weight) are more likely to experience adverse weight-related health impacts.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again and again) – shame is an awful, awful motivator.
Feeling ashamed of body fat has been linked maintaining or increasing a higher body mass… it’s your classic self-fullfilling prophecy. A study of several thousand teens from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston discovered that teenagers who thought of themselves as overweight were twice as likely to actually be obese one year late, regardless of their current weight.
Similarly, another study of over 4,000 adults found that non-obese people that had been subjected to weight discrimination (such as name-calling, bullying and negative comments online) were 2.5x more likely to become obese within the next 4 years. The study also found that those who were already considered as overweight and had experienced weight discrimination were 3x more likely to maintain their current weight.
One more time for the people in the back:
SHAME IS AN UNSUSTAINABLE MOTIVATOR.
And not to mention, body mass is but one indicator of an individual’s physical condition and there’s far more to the picture of someone’s health than how much they weigh.
Self-love and body positivity draw on themes of your sense of self, which is a hugely important piece of the psychological puzzle that makes up who you are – and this has a flow on impact on literally every decision you make, every word you speak and every action you take.
And when you consider the link between mind and body, it’s unsurprising that self-love would have a profound physical impact, too!
So… if you’re not already making self-love a priority in your life, why not?
The benefits are real. The payoff is real. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.