Meet Wellness Collective, our immersive curriculum with Athleta that hooks you up with actionable advice from the smartest experts and brand founders in wellness right now. Get the goods at our monthly event series in New York City plus our online one-month wellness plans. Here, Mama Cax—blogger, model, and body positivity and disability advocate—shares her four-week guide to total body empowerment.
You don’t have to scroll far on social media to find someone applauding body positivity, and with good reason: It’s easy to give lip service to the movement (who couldn’t use a little more self love?). But sometimes it’s not so easy to actually put the concept into practice.
Because, let’s face it, we all have insecurities. Disability advocate, blogger, and model Mama Cax is no stranger to the feeling. After having her leg amputated as a result of bone cancer when she was 16, she had to factor in losing her leg to the body-image issues most teenage girls were already feeling.
So how did she not only embrace her post-surgery body, but also become a voice for disability visibility in the fashion world and beyond? Celebrating the small steps forward, and not stressing over setbacks. “Since my surgery, I’ve dealt with added body insecurities, but have come to realize that loving my body is not a destination,” Cax says. “Rather, [it’s] a journey, and I need to appreciate every step of it.”
Along her journey, she’s picked up some solid wisdom, which we asked her to share in a four-week challenge that will help you embrace a more positive outlook on your own body—for real this time.
Start your mindset shift with a digital detox by deleting all your social media apps for the week, so you aren’t tempted to peek (it’s only a week—you can do it!). Why? To allow you to focus on celebrating your own body instead of comparing it to others.
“Social media can negatively impact women’s personal body image because it is saturated with bodies that are photoshopped, filtered, or altered through plastic surgeries,” Cax explains. “Young women have come to think that any bodies that deviate from those images are not perfect—i.e hairy, saggy boobs, stretch marks, acne, scars, disabled bodies, or gender non-conforming bodies.”
Bonus points if you hit the unfollow button on anyone who doesn’t make you feel encouraged (not envious) once your digital detox is over—your self image will thank you for it.
Once you’ve gotten in the habit of ditching comparisons, you can start honing in on the things you like about your body. This week, be mindful of what your body does well—whether that’s powering you through a workout or sustaining you through a hectic work day—and keep a running list in your phone.
For the days you’re just not feeling all that positive about your body’s physical appearance (we all have them), Cax suggests adopting a mindset of gratitude rather than criticism. “I don’t have to always love [my body] for how it looks,” she says. “But I’ve come to show much gratitude for its capacity to go through traumatic experiences and still be here.”
Next up is overhauling your (existing!) wardrobe. Take inventory of your closet and identify the pieces that make you feel most confident. For Cax, that means lots of dresses, high-waisted pants, low heels, sneakers, and other colorful pieces that make her feel both sexy and comfortable.
“The clothes you wear impact how you feel,” she says. “When I had a negative view about my body, I made it a point to wear outfits that accentuated what I liked.” Finding a uniform you love is a major step forward in feeling comfortable in your own skin, but keep in mind that it’s also a step toward working for something deeper. “Know that true beauty is [more than] skin deep,” says Cax. The goal? Feeling good even after you shed the clothes and cute shoes.
Your last challenge will take more than a week to complete, but that’s because true self love is a lifelong process—and that’s the point. So don’t get frustrated if you don’t feel drastically different after this four weeks. The little changes you’ve made will help you along your continued journey.
“Someone once told me loving your body is like trying to train a muscle,” Cax says. “You don’t just lift weights for one hour and expect your body to change. You have to put in the work.”
One of her suggestions for training your self-love muscle is standing in front of a mirror and telling your body what you love about it. “Have you watched Marie Kondo and how she hugs and kisses items before discarding them?” Cax asks. “Well, do that… except you get to keep your body forever.”
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In partnership with Athleta