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8 Ways to *Love* Your Body

Dr. Jess     
Learn to have a better relationship with yourself with these strategies for improving your self-confidence and body image.

This article is adapted from The New Sex Bible by Dr. Jessica O'Reilly.

The way you feel about your body is intrinsically related to your experience of sexual pleasure.

Research continues to confirm that those who feel most comfortable in their skin report higher levels of sexual functioning and those negative thoughts about your body can impede both sexual desire and response.

Body image is all about how you feel about your body, as opposed to what your body actually looks like.

Accordingly, changing your shape, size, weight and overall appearance on its own will not amount to a hotter sex life. A positive attitude toward your body, however, may be just what the sex doctor ordered.

Developing a healthy relationship with your body doesn’t mean that you have to idealize every square inch 24/7. Positive body image involves seeing your own value and learning to appreciate your body for its many functions.

Here are some strategies for improving the way you see your body.

1. Surround yourself with positive friends, family, and peers

Much like happiness, science suggests that attitudes toward our bodies may be contagious. One study of 150 women found that our own body image and emphasis on weight loss is linked to our perception of how our friends feel about their bodies.

So avoid commiserating with friends about weight, shape, and size, and hang out with people who focus on their strengths as complex beings. If someone in your life continues to complain about their body or disparage other people’s bodies and it makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to speak up and/or remove yourself from their presence. You have the right to love your body right now — no exceptions -- and you do not need to subject yourself to negative body talk, including criticism of food and exercise habits.

2. Spend more time naked

Research suggests that nudists report greater life satisfaction, higher self-esteem, and more positive body image. The data suggests that seeing others naked (even through live drawing classes) is associated with improved body image, as real-life nudity may help us to appreciate the diversity of human beauty. This leads us to our next strategy…

3. Expose yourself to diverse images

Unfortunately, mainstream popular culture tends to celebrate and showcase one body type that doesn’t account for the diversity of beauty in terms of weight, skin color, ability, and all of our other glorious human qualities.

If you’re only exposed to one type of beauty and you don’t see your body reflected in these limited (and heavily filtered) images, it follows that you may not learn to see your body as beautiful. Fortunately, you have some control over the media and images you consume, as you can now select whom you follow online. Some great Insta accounts that feature a range of beautiful bodies online include @Mamacaxx, @BodyPosiPanda, @GabiFresh, @TessHoliday, @NotoriouslyDapper and @iSuperSheng, to name a few.

4. Move!

Do what you can to let your body perform for you — dance, hike, climb, shake, stretch, explore and more. You don’t have to hit the gym to derive benefits from physical movement, but you will likely find that you have more energy and feel more confident if you allow your body to perform for you.

Physical activity isn’t primarily tied to body image in terms of the impact it can have on your weight, shape, size, and appearance. More importantly, exercise releases feel-good endorphins and research suggests that even short-term exercise can change the way you feel about your body. In one study, both men and women reported feeling fitter, healthier and more satisfied with their bodies after just six 40-minute workout sessions. This shift in attitude occurred in the absence of any weight or shape change over the course of the study.

5. Keep a gratitude journal

Keeping a list of the people, experiences, and things for which you are grateful is a great way to help generate positive affirmations about yourself and others. The benefits of gratitude are many and include greater likability, improved health, more happiness and higher self-esteem. Broad-based self-confidence is essential to positive body image, as the way you feel about yourself as a whole person is intrinsically related to how you feel about your body.

6. Develop healthy stress-coping skills

But what does this have to do with sex and body image? According to experts...everything. Shannon Snapp, body image researcher from the University of Arizona, found that those who have constructive skills to manage stress are less likely to develop poor eating or over-exercising habits that can reinforce negative body image.

7. Masturbate!

Self-pleasure and self-esteem are positively correlated, so reach down there and soothe yourself into a frenzy of warm, fuzzy feelings! When your body performs for you, whether through daily tasks, sports or sexual pleasure, you tend to feel better about its appearance and function.

8. And finally…Stop complaining about your body

Try it — for one day, one week and then one month. It’s a life-changer. If and when the negative thoughts enter your mind, try visualizing them floating away on a leaf or being locked away in a cabinet. You don’t verbalize every thought you have, and you don’t have to put every negative body thought into words. If you break this commitment, don’t be hard on yourself, but try to offset each negative thought or statement with a positive or neutral one. It’s worth the effort.

Start implementing these practices to feel better about your body and you’ll reap the sexual benefits of a more pleasurable sex life.

Dr. Jess

"An award-winning speaker, Jess has worked with thousands of couples from all corners of the globe to transform their relationships via her wildly successful Marriage As A Business program. From Prague and Istanbul to Albuquerque and New York City, her relationship retreats receive rave reviews from some of the most powerful couples in the world who are drawn to her enthusiastic, practical and no-nonsense approach to happily ever after. Jess's doctoral research focused on sexual health and relationship education and she is passionate about accessible, classroom-based education. When she isn't globetrotting for speaking engagements, she volunteers with students, teachers and social service organizations to empower young people to embrace healthy, happy relationships. As a global ambassador for several brands, Jess contributes regularly to the biggest names in international media. You'll find her advice weekly in the likes of Women's Health, Men's Fitness, Cosmopolitan, SELF, Showtime and The Movie Network. Her insights into couple' issues reaches millions of homes across America as the host of the hit reality series Swing, which just capped its fifth season on PlayboyTV. Canadian-born and Chinese-Jamaican and Irish by descent, Dr. Jess loves ultimate frisbee, crab, airplane turbulence, cheese and red wine. Makes perfect sense, right?"
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