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Body Image

One Simple Exercise to Improve Your Body Image

Research suggests a brief writing exercise may improve body image.

What are you grateful for about your body?

Gratitude, defined as a “wider life orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in the world,” may be a promising approach to change the way that we see our body. Too often, we focus on what we don’t like about our body—the perceived imperfections in appearance, the aches and pains, the ways that our body doesn’t behave in the ways we wish it would. But new research suggests that shifting our focus to ways that we are grateful towards our body can improve body image and decrease weight bias internalization—two factors associated with both psychological and physical well-being.

Aaron Burden/Unsplash
Source: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

Want to try it at home? All you need is something to write with. Ready? Here is the exercise that the researchers gave participants:

Think about aspects of your body that you are grateful for. This can be anything, including your health, physical appearance, or the functionality of your body. Try to come up with at least five things. Take a minute and really think about those things, picturing them in your mind. Once you have finished thinking about these things, choose at least three of them and write about why you are grateful for those things.

How do you feel now towards your body? Do you notice any differences? In the research study, participants (both men and women of varying different body sizes) reported more favorable appearance evaluation, body satisfaction, and lower internalized weight bias.

Of course, individual interventions such as these only go so far. What we really need is a fundamental shift in the ways that our culture views weight, thinness, and health.

Alexis Conason is a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of psychological issues related to bariatric surgery, overeating disorders, body image dissatisfaction, and sexual issues. She is the founder of The Anti-Diet Plan. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Reference: Dunaev J, Markey C, and Brochu P. (2018) An Attitude of Gratitude: The Effects of Body-Focused Gratitude on Weight Bias Internalization and Body Image. Body Image, 25: 9-13