Six years ago, I embarked on a journey to get healthy and live a better life—not just for me, but for my children too. I wanted to feel more whole. Confident. Beautiful. So I lost 100 pounds.
This didn’t leave me feeling all that confident or beautiful. In fact, I felt more anxiety than ever. I looked thin and aged. Was this health? Why didn’t weight loss answer all my problems like I’d thought it would?
Today, I’m working on my health and beauty from a new place: the inside. In the past, I believed I could work on one facet of myself only. I know now that we can’t expect results on the outside without diving into the impact of the inside.
Here are a few ways—some practical, others more conceptual—I’ve learned (and am still learning!) to dive in and cultivate beauty from the inside out.
1. Challenge your self-perception
Beauty begins with our views about ourselves, aka our self-perception. Unlearning negative thinking can be hard, but it’s also the first step toward turning what we see as “ugly” into something beautiful.
Self-perception changes based on a lot of factors, some of which are discussed in this article, but it’s truly a challenge of the mind. Practice saying something kind to yourself every day and watch how your self-perception changes.
2. Detox your news feed
We spend hours scrolling through social media, taking in the “highlight reel” of others’ lives. This often leaves us with a feeling of inadequacy and something I call a “social media hangover.” Somewhere along the way, we forgot we have control of this.
Tap into your awareness when you’re scrolling. Are you feeling badly about yourself? Jealous? Exhausted? Ugly? It’s time to detox the news feed and unfollow accounts that are triggering these emotions. Instead, follow accounts that will boost your mental health and give you a better experience online.
3. Exercise … but not to change how you look
Many of us assume exercise is for either a) getting big muscles, or b) losing weight. While those can often be side effects of exercise, they don’t need to be the intention. You can exercise because it’s proven to make you feel amazing. No abs required!
Your brain releases chemicals to make you feel great after you exercise. These endorphins are so beneficial to your health and how beautiful you feel. Even if exercise is not your jam (and truthfully, it’s not mine), I think we can all agree that feeling good is!
4. Sleep like you mean it
Sure, we’ve all heard that we need beauty sleep. But does sleep really give us beauty?
Yes! The adult body needs about seven to nine hours of sleep a night to regenerate and repair. Even as little as an extra hour a night can impact your appearance nearly immediately. Some benefits of getting enough sleep may include a reduction in wrinkles, dark under-eye circles, and dry skin, as well as an increased “glow.”
5. Eat tactically
From wrinkle reduction and prevention to that lovely tanned glow, our food can give us so much. Let’s not go down the diet culture rabbit hole of calories and macros. Instead, let’s acknowledge that Mother Nature clearly wants us looking gorgeous.
Avocados, for instance, may help with UV protection in the skin. Walnuts can soothe inflammation. Sweet potatoes and carrots pack a punch of beta-carotene that may add a warm glow to your skin; supplementing with beta-carotene has actually been shown to increase facial attractiveness! Dietary vitamin C and E work together to protect us from sun damage and keep a healthy supply of collagen in our skin. (What’s collagen? So glad you asked … )
6. Try a spoonful of collagen
Hello, practical. Let’s talk about the hottest topic in skincare: edible collagen! Simple spoonfuls a day have promising youthful effects on our skin, hair, and nails.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our—and other animals’—bodies. It binds tissues together and helps them keep their shape. Collagen supplements made of ground fish, chicken, cow, and pig tissues may improve our skin’s elasticity and possibly even reduce wrinkles. (See “An ND explains the science of collagen” on p. 37.)
7. Take the beauty vitamin
Another supplement you’ve likely spotted at your local natural health retailer is biotin. Biotin (vitamin B7) is known as the beauty vitamin. It’s naturally found in foods such as organ meats, eggs, fish, sunflower seeds, and sweet potatoes.
Biotin supplements are often labeled with the words “for hair, skin, and nails,” and that’s because low levels of biotin may cause rashes, thinning hair, and brittle nails. Keeping up on your biotin can counteract those symptoms and help in your quest for beauty from the inside out. Just be mindful that biotin can affect certain lab test results, so if you’re getting tests done, give a heads-up that you’re taking it.
8. Get your probiotics and prebiotics
Probiotics are “good” bacteria for our gut and overall health. Prebiotics are the food those healthy bacteria need. Combined, they impact our bodies in many ways—including our skin. Research shows this dream team may help treat acne and protect against sun damage. While studies are ongoing, it’s clear our skin benefits from a happy gut!
A few months ago, I added a prebiotic/probiotic blend to my diet in the form of a beauty powder. Within a couple of weeks, I noticed (and so did others) that my skin was glowing. Plus, this ongoing rash I’d had on my chest was gone. The only thing that had changed in my life was taking this blend.
9. Know you’re worthy (yes, you!)
You are a living, breathing, beautiful human. Do you know that? Do you feel that?
Take time to honor your body today. Appreciate the journey you’ve been on and how your beauty has evolved over the years. Once you believe you are worthy of a beautiful life and a beautiful reflection, it’s not the reflection that changes, but how you see it. And until you know this of yourself, all the beauty products and good diets and exercises in the world will not allow you to experience it.
For more of Sarah Landry’s insights into the joys of self-love (and truths about life as a 34-year-old mother of three awesome pre-teens), follow @TheBirdsPapaya on Instagram and check out thebirdspapaya.com.