Now, I know what you might be thinking: how can a chronic illness help you love yourself?
I thought the same when I first got my diagnosis. I felt betrayed by my body, frustrated that my body decided it didn't want to work correctly for some reason, and out of control. We have to let ourselves feel those things so we can work through it. And then, once the grief has passed, we can work on learning to love our bodies even more.
I found out I had Hashimoto's thyroiditis after a doctor's visit. I was gaining weight like crazy without changing anything about my diet or exercise, I could hardly get out of bed, and I had the worst brain fog. They did a thyroid blood test, saw that my thyroid levels were super low, and got me on medication.
I felt better and was able to function normally, but still couldn't seem to lose weight no matter what I did. As a certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and yoga teacher, it took a toll on my self-worth and mental health.
That's when I decided I need to focus on the inside and not the outside.
While I might not have control over my physical body, I have control over my mental and emotional being – so that's where I decided to focus. Of course, I continued to exercise and fuel my body with the foods it needs, but I put most of my focus into working on my inner self.
Ahead, my five biggest tips to work on self-love—thyroid problems or otherwise.
5 tips for self-love with Hashimoto's
Focus on self and body neutrality and acceptance first
It's hard to leap directly into self-love, and it takes TIME. So, start trying to focus on being neutral about your body. Notice it for what it does for you – it breathes, it holds you up, it gets you from point A to point B. Thank your body for that.
Take it away from the physical
Body love is excellent, and we should learn to love our bodies in any shape or form – but we need to bring it inward. If you're having a bad body day, take it away from the physical and compliment yourself as a human being. "I am a good person." "I am kind." "I have a great sense of humor."
That brings us into a big one –
Cut the negative self talk!
I know it's easier said than done. But, here are a few tricks. Name the negative voice in your head. Call it the Gremlin, the Mean Girl, your Inner Critic – whatever you want, but know that it isn't real. Then, for every negative thought, list five positive. Say them out loud, write them down, repeat them in your mind. Train your brain to switch the negative for the positive! Mantras and affirmations really work. Maybe it sounds crazy, but simply repeating a mantra every day can work wonders. Try simple ones like "I am strong." "I am loved." "I am worthy."
Find movement that you enjoy
Science proves that exercise increases endorphins and improves our mood. Try not to work out because you 'have' to or because of external motivation. Find the movement that you enjoy! Maybe it's dancing in your room to your favorite music; maybe it's yoga or taking the dogs for a walk; perhaps it's lifting heavy weights. All movement is acceptable movement!
Self-care, self-care, self-care
Aside from eating well and sleeping enough, part of self-care is to do at least ONE thing a day that brings you joy. For me, I take a bath every day. It's my happy place. Self-care can look like reading your favorite book, snuggling with your pet, doing a face mask, getting a manicure or pedicure, meditation, gratitude journaling. There are so many versions of self-care; find the one that works for YOU!
At the end of the day, my Hashimoto's diagnosis ultimately helped me stop focusing on my physical body and start focusing on what was more important—my self-love, self-worth, and happiness. It has truly changed my life, and I have never been more confident than I am right now.