What comes to mind when you think of a positive body image? Most people think positive body image means running to the mirror every day (with joy) & saying to themselves, “daaaaang girl, you look good!!”. However, do you know anyone in the world who actually does this on a regular basis? Probably not.
Another thing to note about body image is that most of my clients feel that they need to lose weight in order to have a positive body image. My question to them when they tell me this is: Think back to a time when you were in a smaller body. Were you actually happy? Did you always feel good in your body, or did you have days when you felt anxious about your body? Were you worried about gaining weight, or were you constantly worrying about the food you were eating or how much you exercised?
The fact of the matter is, body image work is BRAIN work, not body work. Below are some tools you can turn to when you are dealing with a bad body image day that have nothing to do with weight loss or changing your body, because we know research show those methods don’t actually lead to improved body image.
Step 1 – Speak To Yourself In Facts.
Make it a rule that you only speak to yourself about your body in facts. If you notice yourself thinking things like, “ugh, I’m so disgusting”, you can see how that isn’t very kind. Is there a way you could frame this to a more neutral & factual thought? Maybe something like, “I feel different today”. You can see how this is less emotionally charged.
Another example I hear from clients is they will say they “feel fat”. Well, my friend, fat is not a feeling. When you “feel fat”, what is the deeper feeling beneath that? Maybe you aren’t feeling loved or accepted, or maybe you’re feeling lonely. Getting to the deeper feeling can help you identify what your needs are and maybe offer some ways to meet those needs. For example, if you’re feeling lonely, what makes you feel connected to others? Can you call a friend or watch a favorite TV show full of characters that feel like friends? Being able to identify and name true emotions will help you to meet your own needs outside of doing things to change your body.
Step 2 – Uncouple Your Body Image From Your Worth.
Just because you’re having a bad body image day does not mean your worth and value as a human being has decreased. It may be helpful to place uplifting sticky notes around your house or set alerts on your phone to remind you of this.
“The way I feel about my body has nothing to do with how it deserves to be treated.”
“My body cares for me in ways I don’t even know, and I will do my best to care for it back today.”
“My body is the least interesting thing about me.”
Step 3 – Do Something For Yourself That Feels Good!
Make a list of all of the things that you can think of that make you feel good inside. Stash this list so you can revisit it when your body image is in the tank.
Step 4 – Intentionally Distract Yourself
Take the focus off of your body and shift it onto something else if you notice you are starting to spiral. Things like reading a book to escape your thoughts, going for a walk outside and naming the colors you see, taking your dog to the dogpark, etc. Exercises like this can be used to diffuse big emotions related to a thought so that they don’t seem so big or unmanageable.
Step 5 – Dress Comfortably
Now is not the time to put on the jeans (unless those jeans are stretchy & extremely comfy). Wear some clothes that feel good on your body. Clothes that do not feel good on your body only cause you to fixate on your body & make it difficult to take your attention off of your body. If necessary, purchase some soft, stretchy pants of a flowy dress that you can always turn to. Cut the tag off if the size bothers you, after all, no one has to know what size you are wearing!
I hope these tools are useful additions to your body image toolbox. Hang in there, friend, these bad body image days are fleeting, just like weight loss results from dieting. The come and they go!
If you found this helpful & want more individualized support with healing your relationship with food, body image, or movement, set up a no obligation connection call to see if my services would be a good fit for you!