You might be reading this blog because you have had a challenging time with body image. Body image is how much you equate your self-worth with how your body looks. If you have struggled for a long time with negative body image, I know that it might seem nearly impossible to look in the mirror and be content with how your physicality. A positive body image does not necessarily mean that you will always love your body; that day in and day out you will look adoringly at yourself in the mirror. Rather, a positive body image means that you will look at your body and be accepting of it and not devalue your self-worth as a result of it. Thus, a healthy body image has little to do with the actual shape, size, and weight of your body and everything to do with how you relate (or do not relate) it to feelings of worthiness.
Below is my how-to guide for a better relationship with your body.
1) Write down a list of attributes about yourself that have nothing to do with your body.
As noted, body image has as little to do with the actual shape, weight, and size of your body as diet culture has to do with food choices. When we limit our worth to the physical aspects of ourselves, we enclose our being into a very narrow frame. Our world becomes small.
If we focus on aspects of ourselves that we enjoy that have nothing to do with our physical being, we can get a larger and more in-tune perspective about our worthiness and value. Whether it be your sense of humor, your kindness, or your passion for cats, write down what makes your being tick.
2) Think about what you can bring to the world besides “a perfect body” that does not exist.
This ties into the first tip, but is crucial. Again, if we spend so much time focusing on the superficial parts of ourselves, our world becomes very limited. Our powers to see the beauty of the forest for its trees diminishes.
I have said many times that we must live in our bodies, but they do not need to dictate our every action and move. Think about the positive things that you can bring to the world, whether that be your compassion for animals, your wisdom about music, or your impeccable ability to solve complex math problems. This is the stuff that life is made of and has nothing to do with your body.
3) Do activities that make you feel good.
When we spend time doing what makes us feel good, we will think less about minor details that we feel less confident about. If we are focused on what we enjoy in life, we get more pleasure. I guarantee you will be thinking less about the parts of your body that you are not 100% in love with when you are engaging in an activity that brings you joy. And, this is a magic equation for feeling a little better in the body we live in.
4) Think about the wonders of the human body that are not related to superficial aspects.
The body can do amazing things! If we can look at this with appreciation and marvel at what the body is capable of, then maybe we can spend a little less time focusing on what it looks like. Simply thinking about the complexities of the body, down to the tiniest cells that make it tick, might just help you to have a better relationship with it. In other words, honor it!
5) Take time to treat yourself.
We live in a society that is very set in an attitude of “go-go-go”. This can make it hard for many people to take time to engage in activities that quiet our minds and give us a little pleasure. I am a true believer that it is important to take at least a few minutes of alone time to ease the busyness and stress of everyday life. For some people, this might mean meditation. For others, it might mean relaxing reading. Whatever your niche, try to devote a little bit of time to yourself. When we are less stressed, it comes easier to focus on the positive instead of the negative and that includes unhealthy thoughts about our body!
6) Get away from the mirror and step off the scale!
Hyper-focusing and nitpicking at the parts of ourselves that we tend to think negatively about causes what we perceive as imperfections grow bigger. When we spend time looking in the mirror, weighing ourselves, and degrading ourselves for everything we find wrong with our body, it is no surprise that we will have a less than healthy body image! Let’s stop making our perceived imperfections grow even bigger in our minds, give ourselves a break, and just live life!
7) If you find they make you feel worse about yourself, stop reading fitness and “health” magazines.
I know. They sit in just about every doctor or dentist office waiting rooms, are in the impulse section at the grocery store, and insist that they have the magic secret to reducing “thunder thighs”. However, if these magazines only cause you to feel more anxiety about your body, do yourself a favor and put them down. I believe that every person knows deep down inside what is right and best for them and you do not need a magazine to tell you what that is.
8) Help others.
Body obsession is really self-concern (the negative kind). It can cloud our judgment, distract us from the more important aspects of our lives, and keep us from truly participating in the world around us. Spending time helping others can do us a grand favor by shielding us from our own worst enemy, self-defeating thoughts. When we help others in need, we have less time to think about petty things we believe are wrong with us. Helping others can teach us what is truly important in life.
9) Connect with other people in a way that does not include body/weight/diet talk.
People are made in such a way to enjoy human connection. Without it, we might feel very lonely, afraid, distant, and miserable. It is hard to truly connect on an intimate and emotional level with other people when our minds are warped by thoughts about how “wrong” we look. Human connection can go a long way to help us think about what truly matters to us. It teaches us that the world is bigger than our petty and pesky body concerns.
10) When you are in a moment of bad body image, ask yourself: what is really going on?
As I have uncovered about diet culture, I believe that body concerns have little to do with superficial matters. I believe that people focus on their bodies as a way to distract themselves from deeper issues in their life, whether that be a sense of loss of control, fear of lacking security, or feelings of not being good enough. Instead of looking at what is going on emotionally with us, it can be too easy pick on our body and attempt to manipulate and control it as a way to temporarily feel a little more comfortable with ourselves. However, even after we achieve that “goal weight” or that “perfect pant size”, underlying issues will still be there, bubbling up inside. So, next time you are focused on how your body looks, dissatisfaction with your weight, etc., try to dig deep and ask yourself what is really bothering you on an emotional level.
So, that is my little how-to guide on how to feel a little better about your body. Notice that I focused very little on the actual body and a lot more on the mind and human connection. I do not believe in telling people what they should be looking at in terms of their bodies, as that is one of the many banes of diet culture. However, I do believe in helping others see the bigger picture and ways that they can live more comfortably in the only body they have.