When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you feel? Are you content with how you look? Do you accept your body as it is or do you feel ashamed of your body?
Body image is simply what we imagine our body to be. It includes all our thoughts and feelings about how our body looks. Several things influence our body image including culture, family, friends, and the media. Unfortunately, many people these days struggle with a poor body image and it can influence our health in many ways. We may turn to extreme dieting which can lead to nutritional imbalances and trigger emotional eating. If you struggle with emotional eating, improving your body image can have huge benefits for your self-esteem and your relationship with food.
Most people try to heal their negative body image by trying to change their body. They may turn to diet and exercise, or even surgery to manipulate their body. But even having an “ideal body” (by cultural and media standards) doesn’t guarantee self love and a positive body image. Luckily, the opposite also rings true – having an “imperfect body” doesn’t mean you’ll have a negative body image. Sounds good, right? To get rid of the pressure to have a “perfect body” and just be happy with yourself?
So, if extreme dieting and exercise don’t lead to a positive body image, what does?
Here are 5 Ways to Improve your Body Image:
1. Focus on Nourishing your Body (Self-Care)
Nourishment is both physical and emotional. Physical nourishment is giving our body nutritious foods for energy and vitality. Focusing on nutrition for optimal wellness instead of weight loss can help heal your body image because the focus is on self-care. Similarly, emotional nourishment is also self-care – through love, affection and connection. Focusing on nourishment instead of restrictive dieting can have a positive effect on our body image because we are focusing on taking care of ourselves and showing our body the love it deserves.
2. Focus on the Joy of Movement rather than Exercise
If you missed my previous blog on Movement versus exercise, you can read it here. Eliminate any punishing exercise and experiment with any kind of movement you may enjoy. Consider dance, yoga, Pilates, walking, or playing with your kids outside! Focus on being present and in your body while you move instead of focusing on changing your body with punishing exercise.
3. Control Media Exposure
There are many ways we affirm our negative body image with one of them being images we see in the media. Constantly reading magazines with photoshopped images can make us feel less than and unattractive. Reading diet books or blogs can feed into our tendency to diet. Consider taking a break from these things and instead, focus on body positive messages, practicing self-care or unrelated areas of personal interest.
4. Avoid Talking about your Appearance
Have you ever caught yourself complaining about your weight or appearance to a friend? Do they make their own comments of body hate? Talking and obsessing over our appearance is another way we affirm our negative body image. Notice what you and your friends talk about and try to refrain from conversing about your body in a negative way – which only feeds your negative body image. Instead, speak kind works of encouragement to each other and focus on giving and receiving love and support.
5. Let Go of the Numbers
Whether it’s the on the scale, measuring tape, or in your jeans, let go of the number. Most people try to heal their negative body image by aiming for an impossible-to-reach standard. Even if you think its attainable, let go of the pressure to be a certain size or weight. Your self worth isn’t determined by your weight or appearance. You are so much more than that! Realize that and remind yourself every day that you are worthy. Health comes in all different shapes and sizes!
Healing body image is all about creating a new relationship with your body. Just a reminder that this will take time and requires lots of practice. Start by implementing one strategy at a time. When you learn to love your body just as it is, you can heal emotional eating and truly be content and at peace with yourself.