The Mindful Way to Overcome "I-Hate-My-Body" Thoughts
A Mindful Way to Overcome "I-Hate-My-Body" Thoughts
Posted Feb 24, 2011
A new Glamour magazine poll revealed what most women already know. We can judge our bodies very harshly. At times, we are our own worst enemy. According to the Glamour poll, 97 percent of women experience daily "I hate my body thoughts." On average, 13 of these negative thoughts pop up a day, according to the poll. If this sounds all too familiar, don't give up hope. Mindfulness may be able to help you turn this around.
While most women would agree that they struggle with "I hate my body" thoughts, keep this fact in mind. Women who frequently look at magazine and media images of thin women tend to judge themselves more harshly. In the journal, Body Image, a 2009 meta-analysis of 47 experiments found that girls and women report greater dissatisfaction with their appearance following exposure to "thin ideal" media.
The noted psychologist Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke gave some wonderful suggestions for putting this inner critic to rest. I highly recommend you read over her tips if this rings true for you.
In addition to Dr. Kearney-Cooke's suggestions, consider dealing with negative body image thoughts with mindfulness. Mindfulness, in general, is accepting the present moment, as it is, without judgment. This is the polar opposite of hateful thoughts about your body.
What most women want is for these negative thoughts to go away. Vanish! But, realistically, these thoughts will pop in your head whether you like it or not. The mindful way to cope is to 1) respond rather than react to these thoughts and 2) actively work on self-acceptance.
A negative reaction to a thought like "I'm so fat" happens when you allow it to spiral into other things you don't like about yourself--"I hate my butt," "no one would ever find me attractive," "I can't stand how I look etc etc." In other words, you can feed into the thoughts like throwing fuel on a flame. Or, you can let the thoughts just burn out on their own. When you don't feed into them with more knit-picking at yourself sometimes these thoughts lessen and even fade away.
1) Notice: When a negative thought pops into your head like, "I'm so fat." Give yourself a gentle nudge and say in a calm and kind way, "There is that negative thought again." The temptation may be to judge the thought--"How could I think something so terrible?" Allow the thought to be what it is without judgment. Say, "It is what it is."
2) Where? Ask yourself, "where did that thought come from?" Typically, the thought doesn't arrive out of the blue. There is often something else that is bothering you that gets translated into a negative thought about your body. For example, although it seems like quite a stretch, a stressful day at work can evolve into worry about your thighs.
3) Let It Go: Actively let the thought go. Imagine that negative thought sitting on a cloud and letting that cloud float by you. Your job is to let it go by without trying to reach out, grab the thought, analyze it, wrestle with it or the like. See it. Let it pass. Remember that if someone throws you a ball, you don't have to catch it. Similiarly, if you have a thought, you don't have to take it and accept it as fact.
4) Acceptance: Intentionally place your attention to more affirming thoughts. Notice that they may not be "positive" thoughts like "I like my body." Sometimes this is too great of a stretch for women. Work on self-acceptance statements like "I accept my body as it is." "My body is healthy." "I appreciate what it does for me." Focus on neutrality, nonjudgment and ultimately compassion toward yourself and struggles with your body.
Stop letting your harsh inner critic get the best of you. Negative thoughts about your body will happen. But, it doesn't have to overwhelm or divert your attention away from other important things. When you have "I hate my body" thoughts, practice responding mindfully. Eat, Drink & Be Mindful!
Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. She is the author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully, Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful, and Mindful Eating 101 and is a Huffington Post blogger. Her books have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, O, the Oprah Magazine, Natural Health, Self Magazine and on the Dr. Oz T.V. show. Visit Albers online at http://www.eatingmindfully.com