How to Achieve Self-Love and Body Acceptance

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Some of us want to get stronger, some of us want to eat healthier, and some of us want to get more sleep, but the one goal we all have in common is to feel more self-love. Self-love is not something that’s taught in school. In fact, we’re more likely taught how not to love ourselves and accept our bodies from friends, parents, and the media (more on that below). But thinking we’re not good enough or constantly trying to change the way our bodies look is stressful, destructive, and a complete waste of energy.

Think about all the time and energy you spend obsessing about the way your body looks or not loving who you are. That time and energy could be spent on more important things like running successful companies, growing fulfilling relationships, and actually going through life feeling happy (imagine!). So how do we get out of the self-hate cycle and accept our bodies as they are? I turned to an expert for advice. 


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Dr. Adrienne Youdim is not your regular weight lost specialist—she’s a cool weight lost specialist. And by that, I mean she uses her expertise and practice to teach women how to achieve self-love and body acceptance first, knowing that true health can only begin when you love yourself. Dr. Youdim is an internist who specializes in weight loss and nutrition and served as the medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Center for Weight Loss before opening up her own private practice in Beverly Hills. Read: She’s seen a lot of patients who do not accept their body as it is.

As if her long list of experience wasn’t enough, she’s also the author of the book Hungry For More, which connects the desire for weight loss with what we’re lacking emotionally. While she’s a weight loss expert on paper, she’s really a self-love expert because she knows that you cannot reach any health goal without it. Read on for her definition of body acceptance, where it comes from, and six tips that will help you achieve it. 


Meet the expert
Dr. Adrienne Youdim, MD, FACP
An internist who specializes in medical weight loss and nutrition
Dr. Youdim served as medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Weight Loss Center before opening her own practice in Beverly Hills. She wrote the book “Hungry For More,” an empowering memoir and how-to guide for women looking to reach their health goals and love their bodies.



What does “body acceptance” even mean?

We talk a lot about accepting your body and loving yourself, but what does that really mean? Does it mean looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking everything is perfect, or is it like any other romantic relationship where you feel unconditional love and respect? According to Dr. Youdim, body acceptance is different from self-love, but they both share an important factor. “Body acceptance and self-love are not the same, but they are both unconditional and are not dependent on outside factors,” she explained. “We can accept and love ourselves regardless of how we look, how much we weigh, what kind of car we drive, or how much money we make.”

Another important PSA: Body acceptance and loving yourself does not mean that you don’t have goals or aren’t prioritizing self-improvement. Rather, you love and accept yourself so much that you know you deserve to reach your goals. “For example, you can want to lose weight, but body acceptance means that you still accept yourself for who you are in this moment. In fact, that acceptance makes it more likely that we will achieve our goals.” In other words, you don’t accept your body once when you reach certain health goals, you can reach health goals because you accept and love your body as it is right now.



We talk a lot about accepting your body and loving yourself, but what does that really mean? Does it mean looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking everything is perfect, or is it like any other romantic relationship where you feel unconditional love and respect?



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Where do body insecurities come from?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a “joking” conversation with your friends over which body part you hate most (Mean Girls style). I am certainly guilty. The sad truth is that body insecurities are so normal that it’s something we bond over with other women. If you’re the Cady Heron who can’t think of anything to dislike about yourself besides bad morning breath, you’re probably the outsider. When we grow up and assimilate to societal norms, we learn pretty quickly that hating our bodies is not only socially acceptable but expected. 

“There is so much outside noise that affects how we see ourselves and particularly how we see our bodies,” Dr. Youdim explained. “Not only does social media, TV, and our culture at large dictate how we should look, but many of us are even affected by people we love. For example, a mom who struggles with body image may criticize her own body or engage in unhealthy weight loss strategies. Her words and actions are a form of role-modeing that sends a message to her children that a body needs to look a certain way in order to be acceptable.”

Bottom line: Your body insecurities actually have nothing to do with your own body. They come from external pressure to look a certain way or feel a certain way about yourself. For that reason, no pant size, weight, or body shape is immune. But good news: There’s a way out. Read on for tips to accept your body and love yourself more. 


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Tips to improve self-love and achieve body acceptance:


1. Start by being more aware

“The first step to achieving self-acceptance is self-awareness,” Dr. Youdim suggested. Self-awareness means knowing what we are saying to ourselves and the messages we’re sending to our bodies. She also suggested distancing yourself from the negative thoughts. For example, if you find yourself hating your thighs or feeling like everyone is staring at your stomach, notice the thought and then look at it objectively. Ask yourself, Is this belief really true? Would a close friend or confidant tell me the same thing? Then, think like the opposite is true, like your thighs look amazing, your jeans fit perfectly, or everyone is staring because of how good you look. “Operate from a place of possibility,” Dr. Youdim advised. “Dare to imagine a different story and allow for that new narrative to stick. With time and practice, it will!”


2. Know that self-love is a skill, not a circumstance

Self-love doesn’t just happen to you once you reach a certain weight, promotion, or get in a relationship. Self-love is a state of mind you work on internally, not a factor that hits you from the inside. If you need some proof, even Dr. Youdim has had to overcome insecurities too. “I was just as critical of myself at size 2 as I was at size 10,” she explained. “Self-love is an inside job, and being overly critical, engaging in self-limiting beliefs, or not accepting our bodies can and will happen at any size.” For whoever needs to hear this: Yes, you can and should love yourself, regardless of “imperfections” you see in the mirror. Stop thinking that changing those imperfections will make you love yourself more and start cultivating self-love as you are now.


Self-love is a state of mind you work on internally, not a factor that hits you from the inside


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3. Notice where your relationship with your body is physically manifesting

And now where the tie between lack of self-acceptance and Dr. Youdim’s weight loss practice comes in: Your relationship to food has everything to do with your relationship to your body. “There is a physiologic reason why we can’t control ourselves when it comes to food,” she said. “When we are sad, unfulfilled, anxious, etc., we seek comfort and often turn to food for that comfort.” While a glass of wine or a tub of Ben & Jerry’s might feel temporarily comforting, it does not fix what is making us uncomfortable to begin with and, as Dr. Youdim said, does not address what we are truly hungry for. If you’re anxious or hateful when it comes to your body, those feelings manifest into uncomfortable feelings that then physiologically trigger food cravings. Your body is affected by negative emotions, including when you have negative emotions about your body. Start getting curious about cravings. Identify what you are truly hungry for and what would actually comfort the uncomfortable feeling. 


4. Try intentional mindfulness and meditation 

As for tangible practices we can add into our routines to cultivate more body acceptance, Dr. Youdim cited mindfulness, meditation, and journaling as being the most effective tools to improve our self-love. Since negative thoughts are typically automatic, being more mindful will allow you to catch yourself in these thoughts (read: self-awareness), and change thought patterns. As the mental health practice taking the world by storm, “studies show that we can foster greater self-acceptance through meditation,” Dr. Youdim said. Meditation in general can help with clarity, but try meditating with an affirmation like “I love myself” or “my body is healthy and powerful” to make it specific to body acceptance. And if meditating isn’t for you, journaling is also a powerful tool. “Writing is a gateway to awareness, self-healing, and transformative change. Gain awareness of thoughts and patterns, set intentions and goals, and offer yourself compassion and grace.”


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5. Remind yourself that you are not alone

It may sound cheesy to say that you are not alone, but when we’re struggling with body image issues and lack of self-love, we often are overly focused on our own experience. For example, we’re thinking that everyone is judging us or that other people notice the insecurity like we do. In reality, no one thinks of you as critically as you think of yourself (duh!), and everyone is dealing with their own insecurities. Personally, when I start feeling overly insecure about the way I look, I take it as a sign that I’ve been too focused on myself and start checking in with friends or call my mom to see how she is. 

“When we suffer, we imagine that we are the only one,” Dr. Youdim agreed. “Being human means being imperfect. A sense of common humanity can make you feel differently about negative beliefs you have about yourself. Remind yourself that you are not the only one suffering or experiencing insecurities.” When you’re focused on your body, remind yourself that you are not alone. Remember that no one is perfect and everyone has their own insecurities. And then, shift your focus to loving and taking care of other people; it will translate into loving and taking care of yourself. 


6. Practice self-kindness (not self-judgment)

The last thing you should do when noticing your insecurities and negative thoughts is to add even more insecurities and negative thoughts on top of that. Don’t be angry at yourself every time you notice a negative thought come up. Instead, practice self-kindness as much as possible. Look into your reactions when you’re feeling inadequate or insecure: Do you feel compassionate and understanding, or are you criticizing? Dr. Youdim suggested thinking of a negative belief you have about yourself. Do you think you’re bad at your job, aren’t likable, or aren’t as attractive as someone else? Now think about how to reframe this belief with an attitude of kindness. How would your best friend, mom, or whoever is kindest to you reframe this thought? Even if you don’t believe the kinder version of the thought, after enough practice, you eventually will. 


5 Things My Therapist Taught Me About Self-Love



8 Ways to Finally Get out of That Dry Spell

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I can recall a time when I found myself in a season of what I like to call “accidental abstinence.” For 20 months and 19 days, I had no one to date, mate, or relate with, and I thought that that would be my way of life until I got married. That was until one day, I woke up and realized that I was no longer about that abstinence life and was ready to get back to my sexually liberated self and end this dry spell once and for all.

Getting back into the sack was not as easy as I thought it would be. After all, it had been almost two years since I last laid skin to skin with a man and was worried that I may have lost my touch. I overanalyzed, obsessed, and contemplated everything from what to do when the next opportunity presented itself to if my body was acceptable or not. Finally, after all of the back and forth, I came up with these eight ways to help ease my way back in.


1. Flirt

Going through a dry spell can indeed do a number on your confidence. You begin to feel unpretty and undesirable, thinking that no one would want you since you’ve gone so long without sex. Flirting is a great way to build your confidence back up, so take every opportunity to flirt. Whether it’s online, at the club, or when you’re out for drinks with friends, flirt with various people just to see if you still have it. You’ll find that each time they flirt back, it helps make you feel even sexier, more desired, and more confident.


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2. Date more

After flirting comes the dates. Dating helps get you more comfortable with interacting with potential suitors in intimate settings. You can overcome any awkwardness and get to know the person more to see if they are even worth sleeping with. It can also help you get an idea of what they would be like in the sack (because you can sometimes tell based on their conversation and characteristics).


3. Feel sexy for just yourself

Because you feel like you don’t have anyone to keep yourself up for, you might begin to forgo the tight dresses, higher-than-high heels, lingerie, and of course, monthly hair removal treatments. Once you’re ready to get back into the sack, slowly begin to make changes to get you back to your sexiest self so you can feel like the most confident, best version of yourself. Daily workouts, monthly waxes, regular lingerie purchases, fewer leggings, and more dresses can make a world of a difference in making you feel a bit better in your own skin. If you can’t be sexy for yourself, then how can you be sexy for someone else?


4. Masturbate

For some, going without sex means sex with themselves too. Sometimes you get so used to not having regular orgasms that you deprive yourself of yourself. So after getting sexified, begin having more solo intimate sessions. Running baths, lighting candles, and getting yourself in the mood more often can help you remember what you liked and what those feelings of pleasure feel like.


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5. Communication

While we should always be communicating our sexual needs with our partners, it’s especially important to have those conversations following an extended period without sex. After finding someone worth sleeping with, you should explain your sexless season. This allows your partner to be patient with you and not rush into anything. It also helps develop an extra level of comfort knowing that they will be as gentle as possible.


6. Release expectations

Getting back into the sack following a dry spell can cause you to have the highest of expectations, many of which are unrealistic. While we would all love for someone to throw us over a bed of roses and to see fireworks with each orgasm, it just won’t happen that way. Things are going to go wrong, it might get awkward at one point, and in some cases, it may be over before it even gets started. Just know that it won’t be perfect. The most important thing is to be relaxed and comfortable.


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7. Foreplay

Now, we all know how important foreplay is. But it is even more important after not having sex for a while, and not just physically—foreplay helps with the mental and emotional sides of things too. It can help develop emotional connections and get you mentally prepared for what’s about to happen.


8. Just do it

Remember that sex is like riding a bicycle: You don’t forget it. While we may think that after having gone through a dry spell, we don’t know how to do it anymore, the reality is that we do. We just need to jump right into it—or on top of it—and allow our memory to be our best guide.


What “Libido” Really Is—and How You Can Tap Into Yours


Have Insomnia? Here Are 7 Expert-Backed Tips to Help

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I don’t know if you’re as up-to-date on Beyoncé news as I (always) am, but recently, the only news alert I’ve been getting is that Beyoncé has insomnia, a common sleep disorder in which you experience persistent problems falling and staying asleep. The original source: the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar, in which Queen Bey graced us on the cover and with a headline-making quote in the interview that stated, “I’ve personally struggled with insomnia from touring for more than half of my life.” While I’m not surprised that Beyonce’s health habits became news-worthy across platforms like People, Insider, and Yahoo! News (I mean, when she mentioned she was vegan, the whole world gave up dairy), I was surprised how many people resonated with not getting enough sleep.

According to The Sleep Foundation, as many as 30 percent of adults (and up to 48 percent of older adults) struggle with chronic insomnia. Moreover, women are 40 percent more likely to experience insomnia in their lifetime than men (*eye roll* as if we didn’t already have enough to deal with. I bet Jay-Z is sleeping soundly!). Sleeping troubles are so common that the CDC even declared sleep disorders a public health epidemic. Basically, Beyoncé is just like us! Since lack of sleep is one of the most common health issues out there, we definitely need to be talking about it more.

I grilled sleep experts for all the info on how to identify insomnia as well as their best tips and tricks to relieve it and help you get a good night’s sleep. Even if the cause of your sleep troubles does not have to do with a demanding tour schedule à la Beyoncé, read on for a guide to insomnia and expert-backed tips on getting the best sleep of your life. 


In this article

What is insomnia?

How do you know if you have insomnia?

Tips to help with insomnia:


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What is insomnia?

Insomnia can have many definitions. For one, the word can be used as a name to mean any kind of sleep troubles that have to do with your body not getting the quality sleep it needs. “Insomnia can present itself in various forms,” explained Dr. Cassandra Aasmundsen-Fry Psy.D, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of MindWell. “It can look like trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, frequent waking, or waking up too early. Often, it’s a combination all of these.” 

Another definition is a diagnosis: insomnia disorder. Dr. Allison Siebern PhD, CBSM, a clinical psychologist who is certified in behavioral sleep medicine by the American Board of Sleep Medicine and the head sleep science advisor for Proper, explained that insomnia symptoms are when someone struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep periodically, which most people go through at different periods in their lives. Insomnia disorder has specific clinical criteria that health care professionals use to diagnose. Insomnia disorder is typically chronic, meaning a patient experiences insomnia symptoms consistently.

“The criteria of insomnia disorder versus insomnia symptoms include difficulties getting to sleep and/or staying asleep at least three nights a week for at least three months, or if this sleep disruption leads to distress or impairment,” she explained. Dr. Siebern also pointed out that a medication, substance, or illness might be the cause of difficulty falling or staying asleep, which is not technically defined as insomnia disorder and should be identified and worked through with your doctor. 


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How do you know if you have insomnia?

“Insomnia” sounds like a big word, but insomnia symptoms can be used to describe not being able to fall asleep or if you wake up throughout the night and can’t fall back asleep. “You have insomnia if you have been struggling to fall or stay asleep or are waking earlier than intended,” Dr. Aasmundsen-Fry said. You also might experience symptoms throughout the day that are caused by not getting enough sleep like chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and physical symptoms like headaches. Everyone might experience bouts of sleeplessness here and there, but consult a doctor if you have trouble sleeping for more than three months.  

Not sure what “normal” falling asleep looks like? Not sure if waking up from a bad dream or a need to pee falls under the insomnia category? “An adult should first fall asleep within 10-20 minutes,” explained Dr. Carleara Weiss, Ph.D., MS, RN. “If you do wake up in the middle of the night, it should be short (no more than 30 minutes).” Another factor that can signal insomnia is how you feel when you wake up. “If you don’t feel well-rested when you wake up, it might be a sign of poor sleep quality and insomnia,” Dr. Weiss said.

If it takes you longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep, you consistently wake up for 30+ minutes throughout the night, or you feel exhausted even after seven to eight hours of sleep, talk to your doctor about sleep disorders or possible causes. For the occasional bout of insomnia symptoms or while you’re working with your doctor, read on for expert-backed tips to help you sleep better. 


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Tips to help with insomnia:


1. Don’t have caffeine after noon

Bad news: Caffeine could be disrupting your sleep. It varies based on how caffeine is metabolized in the body. Some people can have an espresso shot at 5 p.m. and sleep like a baby, while some people cannot even have a cup at 9 a.m. without feeling the effects at night. If you’re not sure which camp you fall into, Dr. Aasmundsen-Fry recommended stopping your caffeine intake after noon as a good rule of thumb. Yes, that might mean kissing your 2 p.m. Americano goodbye (sigh), but caffeine is in more than just coffee. Everything from soda to pre-workout supplements to green tea to chocolate can contain caffeine, so check the nutrition labels if your body is struggling to sleep at night.


2. Limit screen time in the evenings

More bad news if Netflix is your go-to bedtime ritual (guilty) or your only time to catch up on Bachelor in Paradise is late at night: “The light from electronic devices (TV, tablets, laptops, and cellphones) have a negative impact on the natural production of melatonin, which impacts your body’s ability to sleep,” Dr. Weiss said. “Screens are both stimulating and can be a source of stress and tension,” agreed Dr. Aasmundsen-Fry. Yes, that means turning off Hulu and having a designated work cut-off time before bedtime, but it also means that if you do wake up in the middle of the night, don’t start scrolling on your phone in an effort to lull your body back to sleep. If you’re feeling restless or anxious when you wake up, turn on a dim light to read something relaxing or get out of bed altogether (more on that below). 


3. Be consistent in your sleep schedule

If you’re sleeping in until noon on weekends or pulling an all-nighter once a week, your body is probably struggling to identify when it’s supposed to be asleep and when it’s supposed to be awake. Dr. Ruth Varkovitzky, a clinical psychologist specializing in treating sleep disorders, recommended being as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible. “Wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekend!) and try to avoid napping, which breaks up sleep and takes away from the consolidated sleep span we need,” she said. Unlike bad boys, sleep works best when it’s consistent, so aim to fall asleep and wake up within the same hour every day. Oh, and if you’re prone to naps, try to avoid falling asleep during the day and get to bed earlier at night if you’re feeling tired. 


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4. Prioritize stress relief

Many experts I talked to explained that stress is the most common cause of insomnia, probably because most of us deal with stress on a regular basis (curse you, work deadlines!). “When the body is on high alert throughout the day, it can be hard to fall asleep at night,” Dr. Siebern said. “It’s especially problematic because lack of sleep due to insomnia can affect your ability to cope with demanding situations, causing even more stress,” agreed Dr. Li Åslund, PhD, a sleep expert at Sleep Cycle. “Then, we stress about not getting enough sleep, which makes it even harder to sleep and forms a vicious cycle.” In other words, your stress about not getting enough sleep is stopping you from getting enough sleep. 

In general, work on stress relief throughout the day and make sure to have routines in place to help manage stress, like meditation, taking regular breaks, or therapy for a long-term solution. Especially if you work from home, set boundaries to transition out of your workday so as to not bring stressors into your night. Allow your body and mind to calm down by giving yourself a cut-off time, changing clothes, or having a ritual like lighting a candle to signify the workday is over. 


5. Use your bed only for sleep and sex

As a general rule of thumb: The bed is only for sleep and sex (sex is important for sleep too, FYI). Watching TV, working on your laptop, having a snack, or even scrolling through Instagram can negatively impact your sleep at night. If your bed is just for sleep (or, you know, sex), the mind understands that getting in bed means it’s time to fall asleep. But if you work, watch TV, or even fight with your partner while in bed, the mind will associate your sleep space with other activities (including high-stress ones).

Make your bed a sacred space so that when you crawl into it at night, your mind and body know what to do. Besides just the normal no-no’s like watching TV or working on your laptop, look into your pre-bedtime rituals. For example, reading before bed is a great way to relax the mind, but a career-related book could spark work anxiety, or a thrilling novel could be overstimulating. Consider reading on the chair in your bedroom until you’re tired enough to get in bed or reading something relaxing. When it comes to waking up in the middle of the night, Dr. Aasmundsen-Fry recommended getting out of bed if you can’t fall back asleep in 20 minutes and doing something else until you feel tired. “Your brain needs to know that the bed is not for other activities and to learn to associate it with sleep,” she said. 


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6. Try essential oils

PSA:Aan oil diffuser on your nightstand is not just for decoration or making your bedroom smell good. Essential oils can be a powerful tool to help the body relax and fall asleep. “When I see patients who are suffering from insomnia, my biggest hack is essential oils,” said Dr. Peter Bailey MD, a family practice physician and expert contributor for Test Prep Insight. Dr. Bailey recommended lavender oil, which helps relieve insomnia and anxiety by promoting through relaxation. “When diffusing, aromatic therapy provided by lavender oil can even help to stimulate the release of melatonin, which makes you sleepy.” Try diffusing essential oils through a diffuser or using a pillow spray with lavender oil. 


7. Get to know what does (and doesn’t) work for you

While these tips may help alleviate some of the common causes of insomnia, every body is different, and your causes and solutions for insomnia will likely be different from anyone else’s. Whether you’re affected by a demanded tour schedule like Beyoncé or that 10 a.m. espresso shot is affecting your body more than you realize, insomnia looks and feels different to everyone. “There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, as everyone’s sleep situation varies,” explained Dr. Siebern. Start by observing what might not be working for you: What does your pre-bedtime routine look like? Are you working on stress management as much as you could be? Is an afternoon nap chipping away at your sleep, or is a glass of wine at night leading to sleep disruption? Bottom line: Do whatever you need to do to get a good night’s sleep, including working with a doctor or psychologist to find a solution. 


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