6 Steps to a More Positive Body Image
The national eating disorders association defines body image as: “how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses what you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations), how you feel about your body (including your height, shape, and weight) and how you sense and control your body as you move.” So, body image is about how you feel in your body, not just about your body.
As many as 3 out of 4 American women and a growing number of men are engaging in disordered eating behaviors. The way we eat is a result of how we feel about our bodies: many restrict their food or go on a fad diet as an effort to change their body or lose weight. Many experience the dangerous dieting cycle of restriction, giving up, feeling guilty, bingeing, gaining weight and recommitting. Dieting is actually associated with an increased likelihood of weight gain, eating disorders and a disordered relationship with food.
So, hating our bodies and dieting to change them is not working. It’s not working on a physical level and it’s definitely not working to improve our overall sense of wellbeing.
What if we could create a space where we love our bodies and work with them instead of fighting against them? What if we recognized our value and worth beyond what we see (or don't see) in the mirror? What if our food and eating choices were grounded in a deep sense of self-love rather than self-hate?
I think we can do it. And here are 6 steps to get you started on cultivating a more positive body image.
Make a list of your favorite things about yourself that are not weight or body-related. Keep this list in an accessible place and reference it often. Add more things to the list as you think of them.
Surround yourself with people who are positive about their own bodies. Don’t be afraid to set social boundaries about what types of conversation topics are appropriate and uplifting for you. Also, surround yourself with people on social media who are positive about their own bodies and people who have diverse bodies: bodies of color, larger bodies and really any bodies that aren’t the everyday magazine cover kind (because those aren’t even real—they’re airbrushed!).
Remind yourself that you are a whole person. Think about yourself as a summation of the confidence you bring to the table, your kindness and your personal gifts and so much more.
Treat yourself more like you’d treat your younger self or your own child. Bashing, shaming, hating has never worked to motivate any child in the long run—why would you expect that to work on yourself?
Find ways to move your body that feel good and energize you. Focus on what your body does for you to enhance your life. Yoga, walking, hiking and dancing are all potential ways to move your body that will energize you and help to foster a sense of self-love.
Recognize that you are more than a body. Like the team at Beauty Redefined® famously says: you are more than a body: see more, be more. We often think the solution for body image struggles is to flip the script and say "I'm beautiful, flaws and all!" and while this rhetoric can be a helpful first place to start, there's deeper work to be done to develop true, lasting body image resilience.
Cultivating positive body image is a practice, so don’t expect yourself to get it right the first try. Think about it like learning any new skill—it takes time, effort and tenacity. But, working on creating a body positive approach to life will likely lead toward better mental and physical health. So jump on board and start being more positive and kind to your body!
And if you'd like some help along the way, check out the Body Image Resilience Group in Salt Lake City starting on September 11. We will select 10 people to engage in the life-changing course and group work combining Beauty Redefined's online course with group nutrition therapy led by registered dietitian Paige Smathers. For more info, check out the upcoming group!
This article was adapted from the article that originally appeared on KSL.com