You’re reading If This Is The Year, a series of guides to tackling those big life goals the pandemic has put on hold – with the help of experts, we’re breaking things down into more manageable steps to take in 2022.
“New year, new me” can be an unhelpful mantra when looking at the 12 months ahead, especially if you’re using it in relation to your appearance.
Research shows that gyms see a 42% increase in membership in January and February, but self-esteem is often a year-round issue. This new year fitness burst clearly isn’t helping to remedy ill feelings long-term.
In reality, self-love doesn’t come from going to the gym and focusing on losing weight – we’re more than how much we weigh – it’s about accepting our strengths and weaknesses and deciding that against all the expectations set for us, we’re still doing a good job.
If you’re someone who struggles with the way you look, there are things you can do – that go beyond merely joining a gym – to finally start loving yourself from the inside out this year.
Whether that’s realising hidden qualities, or developing a new one, or simply telling yourself that you are important, you are powerful, and you look great.
We spoke to Nazia Khatun, an award-winning transformation coach, who focuses on empowering women the fitness industry often forgets: South Asian homemakers, mums, aunties, and youngsters.
The 36-year-old from east London encourages people to practise self-acceptance, realise their self-value, their boundaries, and their goals.
“Instead of focusing on weight loss, create a theme for each month in 2022,” Khatun tells HuffPost UK. “This will make wellness more fun and take your mind off an outcome related to just weight.”
Khatun recommends theming each month with a positive emotion. “This helps fire up new neurons in the brain and it’ll help you stick to it longer,” she says. “Find out exactly how you want to feel in your mind, body and spirit. Feeling is the key here.
“Take some time to explore what that emotion means to you and the things you can do to help you feel that way. I want you to think outside of the box. This will help you to not fall into the new year fitness/ diets trends we so often see.”
Want to stop hating on your body in 2022? Khatun’s year-round tips include:
January: Practise self-love
“What would someone who loved themselves do?” is the question for this month. This will help interrupt the thought pattern of wanting to focus on weight loss all the time.
Focus on self-care and ways to elevate your self-confidence. This can include trying things for the first time such as eating alone in a restaurant or going to the cinema alone. It can look like booking annual leave to do a spring clean, or read the books you’ve been meaning to.
February – Seek adventure
Book new activities that will stimulate your brain. Go on a hike in a different part of the city or a long walk somewhere out of your comfort zone.
March – Feel strong
Challenge yourself to do things that make you feel strong mentally and physically.
April – Focus on happiness
Bring (more) joy back to your life. List things that make you happy Write it in your calendar and go do it.
May – Explore more
Pick any city, maybe even the one you live in now, and go explore the historical places, nature parks etc. Not only will it keep you active, but you’ll discover wonderful new places.
June – Create a morning/bedtime routine
Healthy body, healthy mind. Stay on top of feeling energised everyday with good routines. Do skincare, stretches, a morning walk – something that can become a routine.
July – Make new memories in nature
One of the best things I did one year was go to different beaches and create fond memories. You could try a long walk by the sea, a camping trip with your besties, zip-lining, or climbing a mountain.
August – Learn to relax
Try new things that you didn’t do last year, for example yoga, meditation, breathe work, journalling.
September – Take a dancing course
Find something fun to do that gets you moving, but doesn’t feel like a chore.
October – Chat to a professional
As the cold sets in, invest in your health. Chat to a wellbeing expert, find ways that will help you stay motivated in your journey to self-love.
November – Create vision boards with affirmations
Find out exactly what you want and create a vision board. Most importantly affirm what you want on a daily basis and step into your best version of yourself.
December – Reflect
Use the last month of the year to do reflections. What worked, what didn’t? What made you happy, what brought you joy? Going into the following year, repeat what worked, change what didn’t.
A tip from someone who’s done it
One person who’s practised some of these steps, including affirmations, is 35-year-old Krystle Brock, a client partnership manager from Atlanta, US.
She explains how a few years ago she was in a difficult relationship, depressed and didn’t make time for herself.
But in 2021, she developed healthier patterns which allowed her to get fitter, work on her skin, and ultimately remember the badass she is, she says.
“I first had to stop thinking I needed to look like someone else that I considered beautiful to be beautiful,” she tells HuffPost.
“I also started saying positive affirmations to myself every morning (‘You are beautiful, your smile is amazing, your body is strong, feminine and divine’) until I believed I was exactly what I wanted to be.
“In a world that is constantly judging your looks, once you are able to believe and exude that confidence no matter what size you are or what imperfections you see in yourself, you become a force. You no longer worry about how you look in comparison to another person, but it’s about how you feel and playing the cards we are dealt.”
There’s no one sure-fire way to end up in a place where you love yourself. As clichéd as it sounds, it’s a continuous journey which might take a few detours. But it’ll be worth it when you can finally say you love your body, all parts of it.