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Understanding Negative Body Image & How to Overcome It

Understanding Negative Body Image & How to Overcome It
Body image is a tricky topic. We all have feelings about our bodies, some of which are good and some of which are not so good. Having negative body image thoughts is normal from time to time, but if you find that all of your thoughts about your appearance are distressing, it may be worth exploring. Physical appearance is just one small piece of the very nuanced puzzle that makes up us humans. Still, it’s a pervasive part of society. We live in a world that tends to emphasize physical appearance as a determinant of worth. Given that, it can be extremely detrimental to your overall sense of well-being if you have a negative body image. Still, that’s easier said than done – I’ve been sent this video by a few clients and I think it is so relatable! Maybe you will think so, too. Moving towards body acceptance or neutrality involves a combination of inner work and external factors. Here are some strategies that can help.

Practice Self-Compassion

Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding. It means acknowledging that nobody is perfect and embracing your perceived flaws and imperfections. Remember that everyone feels insecure at times; that’s part of being human. Even more so when we live and move through a world steeped in fatphobia, weight bias, and when diet talk is as common as talking about the weather (I wish it wasn’t!). Everyone comes with their own set of struggles and challenges. No matter what your baggage looks like, you are deserving of love and acceptance.

Surround Yourself with Positive Influences

The people we surround ourselves with can have an impact on our self-image. Seek out friends and family members who support and uplift you, and distance yourself from – or practice boundary setting around – toxic relationships that breed negativity and comparison. Also consider how the people in your life talk about themselves with respect to body image. Constantly hearing friends and family putting themselves down or talking about the diet they’re on could make it harder to go against the grain. Alternatively, let it start with you. A discourse of non-diet culture could require you being the one to bring conversation topics that steer clear of food, exercise, and calories. Sometimes it’s on us to change the narrative. If that’s the case, write out a list of pop culture topics you can bring up in a social situation. If the conversation starts to turn toward everyone’s diets or exercise routine, offer a pivot into your favorite new tv show. Or, excuse yourself for a moment to regroup.

Practicing Body Acceptance

We all have unique strengths and talents that make us special. Instead of fixating on your perceived flaws, shift your focus to your strengths and the things you excel at. Celebrate your accomplishments and remind yourself of the qualities that make you unique and valuable. Body acceptance can be a powerful lens as you work to move away from feelings of distress or negative body image.  It involves offering yourself some non-judgemental curiosity and respecting your body, regardless of its size, shape, or appearance. Here is how to build body acceptance.

Acknowledge Societal Beauty Standards

Societal beauty standards often perpetuate unrealistic ideals that can negatively impact body image. Recognize these standards are arbitrary and challenge them by embracing diverse representations of beauty. I shared this post on instagram and received a strong response that it resonated with many! Think about how we see animals, nature, even a sunset – we often observe it, notice things about it, we might be surprised by aspects of it but we rarely see it with the same harsh or critical lens with which we view our own bodies. What would it be like if you viewed your own body this way, even as an experiment. What would you notice?

Practice Gratitude For Your Body

Gratitude is a powerful tool that can help shift your mindset towards body acceptance. Take time each day to appreciate your body for all the amazing things it does for you. Whether it is the ability to walk, dance, carry your groceries, or simply breathe, focusing on the functionality and resilience of your body can create a sense of appreciation and acceptance.

Engage in Self-Care

Self-care is an essential part of building body acceptance. It is not realistic for us to *love* all of our bodies, all the time. And, it is really hard to take care of something we hate. Take care of your body by nourishing it with enough foods, participating in physical activities you enjoy, getting enough rest, and prioritizing your mental and emotional well-being. By treating your body with respect, you can cultivate a caring relationship with it.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

The way we speak to ourselves matters. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations and words of encouragement. Whenever you catch yourself criticizing your body, redirect your thoughts to positive attributes and remind yourself of your self-worth. Write out 3-5 nice things (they don’t have to be over the top!) about yourself.  Even if it feels corny at first, do it anyway! There’s real merit to the “fake it ‘till you make it” concept. If you’re feeling stuck, think of what you’d say to your best friend, a loved one or even your pet (I bet you are sooo nice to your pet!).

Participate in Activities That Bring You Joy

Doing things just for fun can be great for combating negative body image because it takes the onus off how things look and puts it on how they feel. Whether it is painting, dancing, or hiking, find a few foolproof activities that can be your go-to’s throughout the week or month to allow yourself to feel in your body when you’re able.

Seek Support

Overcoming negative body image can be challenging, and you don’t have to do it alone.  Seek support from trusted friends, family, or professionals who specialize in body positivity and self-acceptance. They can provide guidance, encouragement, and tools to help you on your journey towards self-love. Remember, building a positive self-image, embracing body acceptance, and practicing self-love is a lifelong journey. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the small victories along the way. Embrace the uniqueness of your body and appreciate all that it allows you to do. You are worthy of love and acceptance, just as you are.

The Wellful – Rebuilding a Positive Body Image

The Wellful provides personalized nutrition therapy to meet you where you are, without restriction or obsession. We are a non-diet community and private practice dedicated to moving beyond diet culture. Our goal is to support you in rebuilding a healthy relationship with food and your body. On our website, you will find a community dedicated to  self-acceptance, compassionate resources to reduce food guilt, and support to care for yourself. When you spend less time stressed about food and your appearance, you open up space to pursue what really matters. We are here so you do not have to feel alone. Reach out today to start valuing yourself. Contact us at 925-725-2761 to begin your journey of self-care and acceptance.

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