How to deal with a 'bad' body image day
Can you think of those days when you just feel ~good~ maybe your hair is doing it’s thing, or you are rocking a new outfit, or you’re just feeling yourself? You might not link anything specific to result these days, but we’re normally pretty happy when they come around! On the other hand, there are days when you might feel ‘blah’ - maybe you’re upset by how your clothes fit, feel like you don’t look or feel yourself, or are feeling out of sorts. These days can feel just as random as a ‘good’ body image day, but often, our reaction to them is more extreme and exacerbated by our diet culture and history with dieting.
‘Bad’ body image days happen to everyone - from the person on the cover of a magazine, to you, me, and everyone you pass on the street. They are tough and when they come up unexpectedly, can feel overwhelming, frustrating and sometimes scary. Diet culture loves these days because they make you an ideal candidate for their diet pitch by saying “if you diet you’ll feel better about your body, be thinner, and therefore happier, and feel more confident!” But, when you think about your history with dieting, has diet culture kept these promises? And at what cost?
Why ‘bad’ body image days are like bad hair days
We’ve all had bad hair days - you know when it looks flat, or just isn’t holding up like you’d prefer. When this happens, it can be frustrating and annoying, but for the most part, you can move on and still have a pretty great day. If you tell someone you’re having a bad hair day, they’ll likely tell you “Ugh those are the worst, you look pretty much the same as yesterday to me!”
A few hacks to a bad hair day might be - a ponytail day, wearing a headband, some dry shampoo etc. It would be pretty extreme if you decided on every bad hair day that you needed to shave your head, dye your hair or get a perm, right? Even if you’re uncomfortable for the day, you know that this feeling will pass, or you can do a few things to make you feel more comfortable and have an okay day without going to extremes. (Imagine if every bad hair day, you cut off all your hair??)
So, what if you thought of your ‘bad’ body image day in a similar way to your bad hair days?
Here are a few tips to start with and questions to ask yourself:
Is something else going on or causing me stress that I might be blaming on my body?
Body Image isn’t in a vacuum! What else is going on that might be making you uncomfortable? Maybe work stress, family relations, seeing an upsetting news article, a nasty work email - think about what other factors or things impact your body image? Bringing awareness to these factors can help you get a clearer picture of where these feelings come from.
What negative thoughts or feelings are coming up for me around this? What’s the dialogue you’re having with yourself?
Would you say these things to a friend? How would you respond if a friend or loved one told you they felt this way about their body or self today?
If dieting or restricting is tempting today, think about how that behavior has served you in the past? Did it improve your body image? Did the diet fulfill all it’s promises or just give you the illusion of control/success?
Reframe this back to the bad hair day - would you cut off all your hair for a bad hair day? Why is the reaction to a bad body image day so different than a bad hair day? There’s no right answer!
How can I be kind and make myself more comfortable today?
Some ideas: wearing a favorite outfit, doing something for yourself, getting coffee with a friend, going for a walk, or wearing something that fits (if you spent the day in shoes 2 sizes too small, you’d be thinking about your feet all day! If you wear clothes that are uncomfortable, it’s hard to think about anything other than your body.)
Some favorite quotes from clients doing this work:
“this feeling is temporary”
“I know that I have gotten through this before”
“I am more than my body”
“I know that it’s hard, but that going back to restricting hasn’t improved my body image in the past.”
Body image is a moving target and there are many factors that impact our body image day-to-day. It is completely normal to feel like some days are tougher than others, but you don’t have to do it alone! If you’re interested in getting support and working 1:1, I’m accepting new clients for virtual nutrition therapy and body image work.