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Body Image

How to Improve Body Image: The Three D's

At war with your body? Learn three ways to improve body image.

How to Improve Body Image | Dr. Jamie Long | Finding Cloud9

Thanks to society’s obsession with food, diets, and narrow definition of beauty, many individuals are at war with their bodies and sweating to lose weight this summer. Improve positive body image with these three steps.

Three D's To Body Esteem

DITCH THE DIET MENTALITY: For the average person, diets are not an effective nor healthy means of weight control. Some diets wreck metabolism and many take a hefty toll on emotional wellbeing. Diets are notorious for encouraging extreme calorie restriction or complete elimination of entire food groups/ingredients. Think about omitting your favorite food, meaning you can NEVER eat it again. What do you imagine happening? The complete omission of a food (usually an enjoyable one) typically increases the craving for it. When cravings increase, so do behavioral urges. Not only are you more likely to eat the forbidden food, but to consume a lot of it! Following the common diet restriction-binge episode is the diet crash: Feelings of shame and failure.

Diets often rely on external sources to tell you how to eat (calorie/point counting, obsessive weigh-ins, measuring food, etc.). Learning about healthy nutrition is important, but the fact is some days you need more food, some days less. An external source cannot always tell you what your body needs nutritionally. What's more helpful is learning how to recognize hunger and satiety cues. There is a difference between emotional hunger (such as eating out of boredom) and true physical hunger. Problems with weight aren't usually caused by hunger issues alone. More often, problems arise from underlying emotional issues that become tangled with unhealthy eating behaviors.

DEEPEN YOUR DIALOGUE: Both self-talk and conversations with others are important for healthy body image. Pay attention to the dialogue you have with friends, your children, even your co-workers. Often, topics of food, diets, and weight creep into discussions only adding to body-conscious obsessions. Elevate your conversations by making a point to discuss the many interesting things about you that don't include a diet!

Negative self talk is poison to self-esteem and half the time these inner thoughts can be out of your awareness. Pay attention to how you negatively examine yourself in the mirror, evalute yourself, and magnify any perceived flaws. Once you're aware of the inner saboteur, you will have more power to catch the harmful thought patterns and correct them to healthier, more realistic ones.

DAILY AFFIRMATIONS & SELF CARE: As mentioned in the second "D," positive self talk is key to improved body image. In addition to challenging distorted thought patterns, daily affirmations are critical. If you experienced years of negative messages, these statements must be diffused with positive messages said every day, sometimes several times a day. For example, try stating an affirmation such as: "The size of my pants does not determine my self worth."

Self care also encompasses healthy nutrition and physical activity. Instead of seeking nutritional guidance from a rigid diet regimen, try educating yourself on food groups, portion sizes, and how to incorporate a variety of food items into your meal plan. Exercise doesn't have to be an cumbersome routine, try getting active doing physical activities that you actually enjoy.

Watch a powerful video from Dove's campaign for real beauty highlighting the negative impact of distorted self image.

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Copyright © Jamie Long, Psy.D. | Finding Cloud9

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