How To Stop Negative Body Image Issues
The biggest misconception that people have about bad body image, whether it’s your size or shape, is that it can somehow be cured with weight loss or changing something about your body.
And, in some ways it makes a lot of logical sense. Focus on something physical that makes you upset, actively try and change it, expect results and then you’re happy…Right? NOPE, not exactly!
Another factor that plays a huge role in our negative self image is the media. In fact I think as females, we are especially vulnerable to this belief. We learn from a young age that the thinner we are the more we will be loved, accepted, respected, valued and even healthy. I know this was true for me way before I ever tried to diet. When I was in 4th grade, I developed breasts before everyone else in my grade so naturally, my mom took me bra shopping and I never even fit in to a training bra! I HATED that they were big and I’d hunch my back to try and make them sink in to my body. It’s crazy if I think about it now. I’ve had countless clients share how they went for a regular checkup at the doctors office when they were younger and received the message that they were too fat and had to lose a few pounds. I mean if a doctor is giving you that message it has to be true right? Wrong. But as children, we don’t know that and of course we trust that whatever the doctor says has to be right. As you can imagine, these messages stay with us and really take a stronger hold throughout our lives making us chase the thin ideal thinking it will be the answer to feeling badly about ourselves. You cannot have conditional love for your body because what happens when it doesn’t morph in to what you want it to? Which is insanely common BTW. Or, even worse what happens when it does initially, but then you gain the weight back?? Hello ME! You end up being miserable and kinda feel worthless as a human being. So, this whole formula of changing what’s on the outside so we can feel better on the inside sort of sets us up to fail no matter what size we are.
Below I will give you tried and true practices that helped me heal my bad body image.
*First, I want you to know that as long as you are at war with your body it is very hard to make peace with food. How can you make healthy, loving and respectful food choices when you don’t even like the body you have?? So, accept your body first and worry about weight loss after or maybe never, hehe!
Body Acceptance: This is actually not the same thing as body positivity or body love. To me body acceptance means I accept my body today, in this very moment, exactly as it is. You may not even like it, you may still actually hate it, but body acceptance is saying this is the body I have in the present moment. It means you wear clothes that fit your exact body, today. It means you eat for the body that you have now, not for the body you wish you had tomorrow. It means you don’t wait to go out to a fun party because you’re not thin enough and you’re afraid everyone will think you look gross. It means you go because today is today, and this is the body you are working with right now.
Body protection: Do you ever notice how you might wake up feeling great about your body and all of the sudden you scroll on IG, walk outside or go to work and as the day moves on you start to feel reallllly bad? Been there! Most of the time it has to do with comparing yourself to others, or being in situations or conversations that don’t make you feel good. I want you to start to notice events in your life that make you feel worse about your body even if they are well intentioned. Is it that group at work that just loves to talk about the latest diet they’re on? Maybe your mom makes comments about your body? Or maybe, it’s that account you follow with that thin girl that’s super nice but reminds you of the body you will never have. Either way, try to remove yourself from spaces like this! It will help you feel better about your overall self image.
Get rid of diet paraphernalia: This was hard and took me many years but essentially helped me clear out the pull to have dieting right in front of me. I got rid of the scale, threw out ‘healthy recipe cookbooks’ that had weight loss advice in them, stopped reading blogs that had idealist ways of eating, opted out from getting weighed at the doctors office, put a time limit in front of the mirror and some days skipped it all together. I stopped buying fat free, sugar free, low fat foods and started going for the REAL stuff. Staying on track and taking away things that trigger me to go on a weight loss plan was life changing in feeling physically good about my image.
Give yourself space from negative body image thoughts: Try to focus on something else that’s not body related. I know when I used to have a bad body image day it was the be all, end all. I went in to total catastrophe brain telling myself it would always be this way and that the only way it would change is if I treated it with a diet! I trained myself to realize that If I took a little space from the negative thoughts and I told my critical self ‘I’ll listen to you in an hour but for now I’m going to be kind to myself’ I got temporary relief that eventually became more permanent.
I want to end off by keeping it real. Body positivity and body acceptance is not something you achieve and then it’s over. It’s a constant returning to. Your relationship with your body is a work in progress. I don’t think the work to accept your body ever really ends. But the more we practice it, the less of a burden and problem our bodies become to us. And of course, there are countless moments of utter bliss!!