Body Image

How to Improve Your Body Image

Start the new year off right; learn to be comfortable in your own skin

Posted Jan 06, 2015

A stunning 91% of women report being unhappy with their bodies, though far less than this number are actually overweight. Pressure to conform to the mythical perfect body can leave both women and men feeling miserable, overwhelmed, and inadequate. In a society where thin models parade across billboards and every fashion magazine contains dozens of weight-loss tips, though, it's most frequently women who struggle with body images issues. Bad body image isn't just a minor psychological problem, either. It can lead to serious, life-threatening physical and psychological health issues, in addition to destroying your quality of life. In one study, researchers found that 75% of women had patterns of disordered eating.

You don't deserve to go through life hating the place where you live – your body. Your body image should not hinge on whether you look like a fashion model. Indeed, it's possible for you to get a better body image no matter what your body looks like.

Prioritize Function Over Form

Your body's job isn't to be appealing to others. Its purpose is to carry you through the world. Rather than focusing on the way your body looks, focus on what it can do. Hate your stomach? Contemplate how adeptly your stomach carried you through pregnancy. Sick of flabby arms? Consider how strong your arms are instead.

Even if you're not happy with what your body can do, consider setting goals that have nothing to do with weight loss. Rather than trying to lose weight, you might endeavor to be able to do 10 push ups, aim to lift more weights, or work to increase your running endurance.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

People with body image issues often torture themselves with an endless stream of negativity that tells them they're too fat, not pretty enough, or incapable of reaching their body goals. Cultivate mindfulness by working to notice these automatic negative thoughts. You may be surprised by how frequently you think them and how damaging they are to your sense of self.

Once you begin to notice this automatic stream of negative consciousness, you can begin doing something about it. Develop a few mantras – “My body is so healthy,” “I am not my body,” “I'm proud of what I've accomplished,” “I love my strong arms,” etc. – and begin replacing your negative self talk with these more positive messages. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones may feel silly at first, but it's a key tool in cognitive-behavioral therapy, one of the most effective psychotherapy techniques.

Find a Hobby

The pursuit of beauty can begin to feel like a full-time job. From shopping for cellulite creams to spending endless hours inspecting yourself in the mirror, if you're spending too much time hating your body, you're letting your life slip away. Commit to checking the mirror only twice each day, and to getting rid of your scale. Then spend the time you previously spent worrying about your weight on something healthier that makes you happy.

Your hobby can even do double-duty if it improves your health. Yoga, for example, reduces pain and stress, while running can help you burn calories and achieve better health. Exercise can also help reduce depression and anxiety, and may even steadily improve your body image. If you opt for an exercise-based hobby, be sure you're pursuing this option because you want to get healthy, not because you want to be thin.

Avoid Body Image Triggers

Everyone has a unique set of circumstances that conspire to lead to self-loathing and body hatred. If you want to surmount these obstacles, you need to determine your own body image triggers. Some options for reducing your self-loathing throughout the day include:

• Getting rid of your bathroom scale.

• Avoiding lunch with people who are on diets or who engage in negative talk about their own bodies.

• Asking your doctor not to weigh you unless medically necessary.

• Avoiding mirrors.

• Redirecting your attention to something else when you find yourself thinking about your body.

• Preparing a clever rejoinder for people who make negative comments about your body and, where possible, avoiding these people altogether.

If you're still struggling to get a hold on your negative body image, it may be time to consider therapy. Therapy can help you regain self confidence while teaching you the skills you need to accept your body just as it is. Don't suffer indefinitely with a bad body image. Make 2015 the year that you finally learn to love yourself.

References:

11 facts about body image. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-body-image

Malachowski, C. C., & Myers, S. A. (2013). Reconstructing the Ideal Body Image in Teen Fashion Magazines. Communication Teacher, 27(1), 33-37. doi:10.1080/17404622.2012.737926

Nauert, R., PhD. (2008, April 23). 75 percent of women have disordered eating. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/04/23/75-percent-of-women-have-disorde...