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I couldn't walk for 5 years — here's how it taught me to love my body

Attractive woman with her legs next to her
Melanie Macleod
Melanie MacleodWellness Editor
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Many of us are guilty of criticizing our bodies on a daily basis, but if we focused more on what our bodies can do for us rather than what they look like, we could reframe the way we feel about ourselves —leading to a happier life.

Anna Persaud, 53, CEO of skincare brand This Works, knows firsthand that focusing on our body's function rather than how it looks can create a more positive body image. HELLO! spoke to Anna for her advice on learning to love ourselves, and feeling perfect exactly as we are.

1. Focus on function

At 50, after struggling to walk for five years, Anna underwent a hip replacement, and the experience forced her to appreciate her body for what it could do.

"Once upon a time, I was very focused on how my legs looked. But my focus shifted to, 'I really need to be able to walk because it's very difficult to live a life,'" she explains. "When I couldn't move, it totally changed my perspective, and I couldn't care about what I looked like anymore."

"By forcing myself to look at and think about what my legs do and what I do every day, thanks to my legs, I shifted the emphasis from an aesthetic focus to a function."

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2. Make time for self-care

Self-care helped Anna on her journey to appreciating her body too. "When I care for myself, it tells me that I'm not rejecting myself. I'm not being self-critical. I've worked really hard at diminishing my inner critic," she says.

"I learned to silence the voice that says I'm not good enough by being grateful for what my body can do. A sense of gratitude can help to shift and diminish the inner critic."

READ: Can changing your body co-exist with body acceptance?

Anna explains that spending time lavishing love on our bodies can help us appreciate them more.

"I think there's something really valuable in that if you have stretch marks, post pregnancy for example, if you spend time putting oil on them and massaging them with care, you can feel a sense of pride and satisfaction from those stretch marks because [they] enabled you to have a child."

3. Aim for body neutrality

Anna also suggests aiming for body neutrality rather than positivity. "If you aim for positivity that isn't authentic; you can end up quickly falling away from that and back into self-criticism," she says.

 MOST READ: A naked photoshoot taught me to love my chronically ill body 

4.  Tailor the social media accounts you follow

Anna implores the importance of surrounding yourself with diverse imagery, especially on social media.

"We need to normalize diversity by surrounding ourselves with images that celebrate diversity," she says.

"If you keep absorbing the same images of 'perfection', your brain gets used to and starts to see it as normal, whereas if you have constant diversity over time, it changes and you start to see 'imperfect' bodies as the norm."

Two pairs of legs touching against a pink background
This Works uses staff members for promo images

Shining the spotlight on 'normal' bodies is key for This Works, who used their staff members rather than models in their latest campaign imagery.

Surround yourself with realistic images to help you accept your own body
Surround yourself with realistic images to help you accept your own body

Anna hopes that This Works' products will help customers on their way to body acceptance, with their Perfect line designed to help us treat our bodies perfectly, rather than making them look perfect.

Woman massaging skincare into her cleavage
This Works wants us to treat our bodies perfectly

"If you have a positive experience with the product where you are engaging with body part, looking at your skin, enjoying that mindfulness and appreciating the calming scent, the whole experience is positive. and you will hopefully have a positive mood-boosting slice of self-care."

Learn how to be happier with our HELLO! Happiness hub

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