The daughter of an Olympic cyclist and a rock climber, Nikki Sharp was born “inherently active,” but she didn’t start to enjoy working out until college. She first fell in love with running, then weight training and cycling. But when her career as a model took off and took her to seven different countries, her workouts became less about enjoyment.

“Fitness became a much bigger part of my life … but I did too much of it. I didn’t believe in rest days, and I was fatigued and tired all the time, trying to maintain the body I had for modeling” Sharp says.

Like many, Sharp fell into the mindset that fitness was a punishment for eating too much and that if she skipped a day she would lose all results. It wasn’t until she left the modeling industry that she realized that she wasn’t happy and she wasn’t healthy. Searching for her path, she started looking into nutrition and personal training programs.

“The more that I learned about nutrition, and leaving the modeling industry, [the more] I had to change my mindset completely on fitness and food,” she recalls. Instead of using fitness as a punishment, Sharp would not let herself work out on days when she binged or ate unhealthy. Instead, she would reward herself for eating healthy by allowing herself to go to the gym.

“By doing this, I was rewarding myself for good behavior and giving myself a positive mind change about something that a lot of times has a negative aspect to it,” she explains. “I began to enjoy working out without feeling like I was punishing myself.” She also began eating healthier—the binge eating stopped—because she felt better when she worked out.

The new Sharp

Today, Sharp is a certified yoga teacher, health coach, lifestyle blogger, best-selling author—with her second book, “Meal Prep Your Way to Weight Loss” (Random House) coming out in May 2018—and social media influencer, with more than 300,000 followers on Instagram alone. Because of her career and life path, Sharp is also a huge proponent of self-love, and she practices it frequently.

“Self-love—and this is coming from a girl who then went to the modeling industry and was never good enough because you’re too skinny or not skinny enough—is really about loving yourself in exactly the stage that you are in right here, right now and not comparing yourself to who you were a year ago or who you want to be in a year. It’s just saying, ‘Right here, right now, I am who I am. I’m f***** fabulous.’”

But Sharp says that to find true happiness, self-love is about changing what’s inside first, not focusing on the physical.

“I’ve had the model body. I’ve had the ‘career’ that most people dream about. I can tell you firsthand, it does not bring you happiness. It does not bring you self-love,” Sharp says. “We, especially in the West, seem to associate self-love and value with how you look, how much money we make, how big our house is, and all these very materialistic things. And one thing I learned through my entire journey is that if you focus on that, you will not be happy. You will not become the person you’re trying to be. You have to focus more so on the inner than the outer because the outer will absolutely reflect when your inner is good.”

Here are four simple ways Sharp practices self-love daily—practices anyone can do to foster more self-love.

Keeping a gratitude log

Every morning, Sharp tries to sit down and reflect on the day prior and keep a list of things she’s grateful for.

“I find that if I’m feeling bad, it’s because I haven’t been doing my gratitude log,” she says, “and if I’m feeling good, it’s because I’ve been doing my gratitude log.”

It can be anything, she says. “Almost every day, I write, ‘I’m grateful for my bed and my apartment’ because I love where I live. It’s just a reminder to myself of the small things that make me happy.”

She says that it can be something as small as the sun shining through your window that brings you joy, or a meeting that went well and made you feel valued. “I’m trying to talk about positivity … When I speak with people and I coach clients,” she explains, “we’re always doing the gratitude journal. ‘You have 20 pounds to lose but where are you today? What are you grateful for today?’ Focusing on what you are grateful for each and every day will get you to your goals a lot quicker.”

Moving and nourishing her body

Sharp tries to move her body every day—in any form, even if it’s not what we typically think of as “exercise.”

“It can be a walk around the block. It’s getting off my phone, putting on music or a podcast, and checking out and getting back to myself,” she says.

She also tries to make sure she’s eating in a way that nourishes her body. “I find that if I’m not eating healthy or there’s been a few days when I haven’t eaten so well for whatever reason, immediately my mindset changes,” she says. “And so the next day, I’ll do a green smoothie. I’ll try to go to a cycling class. I just immediately try to get back on track with something healthy, whether it’s a smoothie or forcing myself to go to a group fitness class that is going to kick my ass. Sometimes we just need that motivation.”

Glamming up

“This is going to kind of sound funny, but dressing up and putting on makeup and looking nice really puts me back in check,” Sharp says. “If I’m not feeling great, I will put on a fantastic outfit and do my makeup, wear some red lips, and go out and run my errands like that because automatically I feel better.”

Or she’ll wear a really cute workout outfit to the gym, she says. “It’s [my way] of saying, ‘I’m going to invest and spend money on a really cute outfit because I know that when I feel motivated like that, I’m going to go.’”

Signing off social media

“Last year, I did a 43-day technology and social media detox. And it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life,” Sharp says. “I find that if I’m not feeling great, it’s typically because I’ve been scrolling and I’m not living my life anymore. I’m comparing my life to other people. I have to put my phone away. It’s just little things like getting off social media, because when you’re on it, you are absolutely comparing yourself to other people whether or not you mean to—we all do it.”

Photo credit: Tamara Muth-King; Alexa Gray; Kaelan Barowsky; Ray Katchatorian; Nikki Sharp; Ray Katchatorian