Let’s cut through all the negativity we have been told about our bodies and start accepting them no matter what we weigh or what our shape is.
What is body image?
Body image is the perception we have of our physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception. Body image is an important key to how we feel about ourselves, as a majority of our self-esteem is associated with it. Our body image can be formed by experiences both past and present, our weight, shape and environmental factors.
Our body image can be made up of four aspects:
Perceptual body image: how you see your body Affective body image: how you feel about your body Cognitive body image: how you think about your body Behavioural body image: the way you behave as a result of your perceptual, affective, and cognitive body image (NEDC, 2017)
In the age of social media and images of specific body types constantly showing up in our feeds, on television or when we go shopping, it’s easy to get trapped into feeling bad about our bodies. You may be surprised to know that people can lose a lot of weight and still have a negative body image. Why, you ask?
One reason is that they continue to have a mental image of how they used to look in their minds, and are identifying with the old image.
The second reason is they are still not happy with their body shape, which leads to a negative body image. Hopefully, now you can see why positive ‘Body Image’, no matter what shape or size, is such an important factor in our lives. Negative body image needs to be addressed in order for weight loss to be maintained. If not, it can result as an unfavourable motivator.
Can you imagine waking up every day and a friend, family member, or partner says to you, “You are ugly, fat, I hate you…” What would you say back to them? Hopefully, “Get out of my house!” These are the things people say to themselves every day. Our own inner dialogue can be our worst enemy. This kind of thinking is very common with people who are overweight, and can lead to negative behaviour that contributes to more of what you don’t want in your life like overeating and binging.
The problem isn’t with your body; the problem is what you think of it and what you think of yourself.
How can we improve our body image? I can feel your discomfort as you read that question. You may want to push the idea away and distract yourself from even thinking about working on it. But it can be done; small steps lead to big changes.
Start where you are. You can scream if you want to let out the frustration of not liking where you are, then brush it off and read below.
I tell all of my clients, “Start to neutralise your thoughts and feelings towards your body.” By that I mean you don’t love it or hate it, but you accept it where it is at this moment. It’s okay!
Now you are starting to create space so that you can make peace with your body and start to let go of the weight. This has powerful positive effects with all of my clients who have eating distress. Working with the body and not against it can be very enlightening
Tips on improving body image:
❖ Spend time with loved ones. ❖ Do something to help others. ❖ Surround yourself with positive people. ❖ Appreciate all that your body can do. ❖ Let go of the negative thoughts you have towards yourself and your body. ❖ Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and good about your body. ❖ Stay off social media or become more aware of media messages. ❖ Do something nice for yourself – try something new. ❖ Call a friend, have a good laugh. ❖ Start a journal and write your feelings it in. ❖ Sing, dance, learn yoga, and connect with your body. ❖ Be more curious about life and have lots of new experiences. ❖ Write 7 things you like about yourself. I’ll start for you, “I AM AMAZING“. ❖ Be adventurous, travel, there is so much more to life than obsessing about calories and food.