How To Feel Comfortable In Your Own Skin

How To Feel Comfortable In Your Own Skin by Jennifer Ledford

As a personal trainer and someone who has overcome my own body image issues, I am relieved and excited to watch more and more people say no to the pressures of the diet culture and yes to becoming their own best body.  Our society has begun to reject the notion that there is only one acceptable or “healthy” body type and is embracing the fact that health and beauty really does come in all shapes and sizes.  As more and more people recognize that they are uniquely designed and no two bodies are the same, the focus is shifting away from striving for perfection and more toward being healthy and positive about our bodies (flaws and all).

One of the first steps toward being positive about one’s body is self-acceptance and/or “feeling comfortable in your own skin.”  It’s important to understand that self-acceptance does not mean you just “let yourself go.”  What it means is that you will be kind to yourself and your body in every season and every stage of your life.  It means that if you do need or want to lose weight, you will choose a healthy path that can be sustained long-term and won’t force your body to become a weight that is completely unnatural for it.

Being positive about your own body doesn’t always come easy.  Most people, by nature, are compassionate and kind when it comes to how they look at other people’s bodies, but when it comes to things like our own cellulite or the extra five pounds we gained over the holidays, we can be way more critical.  Basically, humans can be downright hard on themselves.

It may seem like no big deal to speak negatively about your body; however, over time, it can start to become your identity.  This is why it’s so important to pay attention to the words that you speak when you are talking about yourself.  Do you say good things about yourself or do you tend to be over-critical?  It’s next to impossible to feel good about yourself if you are constantly bashing your body.

One of the best ways to know if you are picking on yourself too much is to ask yourself if you would ever say the things you say about your own body to your friend or your daughter.  If the answer is “no way!” then it may be time to change the conversation with and about yourself.

Five ways to stop the body bashing, Feel Comfortable In Your Own Skin, and encourage yourself:

  1. Avoid comparing yourself to others.  There is no one else like you on the planet so it is completely unfair and unrealistic to compare yourself to others.  Sure, there are similar body types, however you can place twenty people on the same exact diet and exercise routine and they will usually all have different results.  Comparison to others only causes heartache.  Focus on being the best YOU that you can be.
  2. Create healthy boundaries.  Complaining about one’s body parts has become a way that people connect with each other in social circles.  As harmless as a comment here and there might seem, this is not only bad for your self-esteem, it can completely derail you from your healthy weight loss efforts or any other goal you are trying to achieve.  If you notice that the conversation has turned into people criticizing themselves, address it head on with something like “Hey guys, no beating up on ourselves today, okay?”
  3. Hand out compliments.  Compliments are the exact opposite of bashing which is what makes compliments so powerful.  Give yourself and a minimum of one other person a sincere compliment every day for the next thirty days.  You will be AMAZED at how good it makes you feel about yourself and the trail of goodwill that you leave behind you.
  4. Be unapologetically you.  Life is way too short to spend it worrying about what other people think of you.  Focus on being healthy and living your best life.  Just say no to changing yourself for the purpose of acceptance from society, the media, and/or the diet culture.
  5. Create a folder of positive reminders.  Being positive about your body is an on going process and no matter how good you get at  rocking who you were designed to be,  negative and critical thoughts can still pop up from time to time. Just last week I was looking at some old pictures of myself and judgmental thoughts like “you used to be so skinny” began to pop up in my head.  Fortunately, I know better than to give those types of thoughts much airtime.  I quickly reminded myself “yes, I was skinnier but  I also had messed up hormones and my body was broken down.  I am so much healthier and happier now then I was back then.” Positive thoughts are like powerful weapons used for good. Come up with a long list of kind things you can say about yourself.  Then, when a critical thought pops into your head, pull something from your list to counter the negative thought.


One of the most powerful things that you can achieve is the ability to be comfortable in your own skin.  In a society that places way too much value on the external and not nearly enough value on the internal, it can be difficult at times.  I look forward to the day when it is more common than not for people to be comfortable in their own skin each and every day.  Until then, let’s be the bold ones that step out and lead the charge!

Shared with love,

A Fitness Pro’s Perspective On Sports Illustrated Featuring A Plus Size Model

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Sports Illustrated has taken the words “bodies come in all shapes and sizes” to heart this season and featured the beautiful plus size model (who I don’t even consider plus size) Ashley Graham on the cover of their 2016 swimsuit edition.

Traditionally, swimsuits in this country tend to be modeled by very slim women.  Even the suits that are targeted towards more curvy women are often times displayed on very slender models.  Featuring Ashley on the cover of Sports Illustrated is a refreshing breakthrough in an industry that tends to only highlight one body type.  Ashley’s appearance celebrates a group of women who I believe have not been properly represented or acknowledged by the fashion industry for years!

It’s really important to avoid comparing yourself to others and I recommend you focus on being your own personal best at all times.  However, it can take an incredible amount of inner strength for women and men to continue seeing daily images of mostly airbrushed models and still hold on to their own self esteem.  That is what makes this edition of Sports Illustrated so important and why I’m so excited about it.  Ashley is more than a woman with great curves rocking a swimsuit.  I believe Ashley’s photo shoot will literally help set some people free.  Instead of people dieting and torturing themselves to conform to one look, my hope is that she will inspire the public to focus on being healthy, strong, and comfortable in their own skin.

While many people like myself are applauding Sports Illustrated and incredibly proud of Ashley, there have been some critics.  What I find sad is that one of her critics was Cheryl Tiegs, a fellow model.  Cheryl stated that she is concerned that plus size models are sending an unhealthy message to the public.  I never like to assume what is in another person’s heart and I don’t think Cheryl meant to be unkind.  However, it is very wrong to assume that just because a person wears a certain size clothing they are unhealthy.  That is between the individual and their physician.

Over the years I’ve trained people of all sizes and I’ve learned that it is never a good idea to judge someone’s health by their size.  I’ve had the opportunity to perform numerous health assessments and review enough doctor’s reports to learn that there are larger people in great health.  I personally know curvy women that run marathons, have flat stomachs, and look amazing in skin tight clothing.  Sure, there are people that need to lose weight for health reasons (some of it serious) and I help coach them throughout their weight loss journey.

However, I’ve also seen a lot of damage done to people’s bodies due to yo-yo dieting and overtraining in their attempt to achieve a certain size.  Eating disorders are very real and they are usually camouflaged under the guise of “eating healthy.”

When I read an interview about a supermodel crying herself to sleep because she went to bed hungry or I hear a male model admit to dehydrating his body to look “ripped” for a photo shoot, I begin to question “what are we calling healthy?”  It is disheartening to hear a spokesperson from the fashion industry which is  widely known for its unhealthy behavior and body image issues criticize larger models all in the name of public health.  I find it a flimsy excuse for judging others.

Ashley Graham is not petite.  However, I highly doubt she is unhealthy.  Actually, she looks VERY healthy to me.  She works out harder than I do and I’m guessing she maintains a healthy diet.  The most healthy part about her is her attitude and the fact that she’s so confident in her own skin she’s not willing to starve herself to fit someone else’s idea of what she should look like.  She has such a healthy level of self-esteem that she was able to say no to harming herself for the purpose of fortune and fame which is something I wish more models were willing to do.

Please understand, I’m not discounting the hard work of naturally thin models.  When we as a society make the statement “bodies come in all shapes and sizes” that includes thin women too and they should be equally celebrated for their God-given beauty and talents.  The idea behind embracing curvy women is for prejudice and judgement to stop.  Thin models should not have to experience judgement either.

To say that health is all about being a certain height and weight is to put people in a generic box.   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “positive health is associated with a capacity to enjoy life and to withstand challenges;  it is not merely the absence of disease.”  So far, Ashley fits the bill.

It’s important to eat well, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight.  It’s also important to remember that your number on the scale is personal.  You know when you feel your best and you’re not depriving yourself.  I think Ashley does too.  She’s a great example to us all.

Bring on the swimsuit weather!

With Love,
Jennifer Ledford

Attitude Is Key When Tackling Weight Loss


One of the most important things you can do for your health and fitness is to maintain a positive attitude.  What you think and, even more importantly, what you say about your body has extreme power.  Even the most detailed, well-researched weight loss plan is going to have a tough time standing up to negative thought patterns.

A few years ago I read a great quote by Oprah Winfrey that really stuck with me.  It is such a powerful statement that I wanted to share it with you and discuss the importance of a healthy self image.

“Say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks. Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Oprah that we have actually allowed the media to make us feel inadequate. We have succumbed to unhealthy diets — and sometimes painful exercise just to “fit in.”

I believe that you were uniquely designed. Some of us are thinner than others. I also believe it is perfectly normal to exercise and eat right so you look great in a bathing suit — or obtain those “guns” to look good in a t-shirt. However, not everyone has the time or the desire to look like a model on the cover of a fitness magazine.

Interestingly enough, an unhealthy body image does not discriminate. This type of self-loathing can occur for any body size. When I was a size two, I was never satisfied with my looks. Now, I’m a size 6-8 with lots of curves and I love the way I look. Am I motivated by vanity from time to time? Sure I am. However, I am no longer a slave to it. I exercise, eat healthy, and focus on living a balanced life.


An unhealthy body image can lead to yo-yo dieting, over training, and unhealthy eating patterns. These patterns can actually cause weight gain. Yo-yo dieting and over training can actually cause your metabolism to slow down. Being unhappy with your body can cause binge eating which will destroy your hard work. At this point, guilt can set in which may lead to depression and often times more binging.

What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?  Years ago a fellow fitness coach used the phrase “watch your words, your body’s listening!” That forever stuck with me. When you speak negatively about yourself, your subconscious accepts the information as truth.

And, since the brain “fights to be right,” your subconscious will automatically want to carry out what you said about yourself. If you say “I have a big gut,” then your brain will agree. You will do what it takes to maintain that “big gut.” This is not just ooky-spooky hocus pocus. This has been proven by neurologists.


1) Discover what you want. Take time to write what you want your healthy body to look like — not how the media says you should look. Research what it would take to accomplish these goals. Then decide if your goals are realistic and mirror the life you desire. Not everyone wants to be at the gym five days a week.

Once you have a reasonable set of health and fitness goals, ignore the outside chatter. There will always be some new diet or pill, a well-meaning friend, and Lord knows the magazines waiting to tell you that your plan is not ambitious enough. Or, that their way is better. My favorite is the person posing and asking “don’t you want to look like me?”

Now, I’m not saying to be closed-minded on a better way of doing things. I’m saying you should always question if a health or fitness idea fits into your life and values.

2) Speak Success. Tell your body what you want, not what you don’t want. When you look in the mirror, use phrases like “I am losing weight,” or “I have a flat stomach.” In the beginning this can be tough. You tend to think “you are lying.” However, you are not. In my favorite success book, The Bible, it says “speak as if it is already.” This is called faith, my friend! You are believing you can accomplish your goals.

Negative thoughts will enter your mind. That’s normal. You’re human.  Just don’t let them leave your lips. Replace each negative thought with a positive statement. If that’s tough in the beginning, use one of my favorite personal quotes. If you don’t have anything nice to say about yourself, don’t say anything at all. You wouldn’t say something that mean to a friend so, why say it to yourself?

Leave notes around the house as reminders to speak positively about yourself. This will help you build the mental muscles you will need to make success talk a habit.

3) Birds of a feather flock together. Pay attention to how your friends talk about their own bodies. Do they have a healthy self-image, or do they tend to put themselves or others down? Now I’m not suggesting you dump all your friends. Sometimes we need to examine if a relationship is healthy for us or not. If you notice friends putting themselves down, take the opportunity to respond with positive attributes you can point out about them. This practice will help you do the same for yourself.   Oftentimes your positive behavior will rub off on others and the conversation begins to change whenever you are with them.  And, you may discover people just can’t seem to get enough of you.

A healthy self-image is critical to losing weight and maintaining it without having to be a slave to dieting. This is powerful, my friend. Take it seriously.

To your success!

P.S.  Have a body image story you’d like to share?  Please post it below.  I’d love to hear from you!