I think it’s safe to say that everyone has felt unsatisfied with or uncomfortable in their bodies at one point in time. For some, it’s a fleeting negative thought, and for others, it’s an all encompassing feeling that never seems to subside. Particularly among women, it’s seemingly more common to have an unhealthy body image than a healthy one. In fact, The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report uncovered staggeringly troubling results from their study which included 10,500 females from 13 different countries.
The study found that 85% of women and 79% of girls opt out of important life activities due to dissatisfaction with their appearance, even in the case of visiting with family or loved ones.
This is demonstrative of the detrimental impact that a negative body image may have on an individual, and withdrawing from activities, interests, friends, and loved ones can have lasting effects on someone’s life, relationships, and self-esteem. A poor body image is something that should not be taken lightly and is not always something that can be simply combatted. This being said, during the times in which I have had the least healthy relationship with my body, I would have strongly benefitted from taking my own advice below. I do not allege to be a medical professional or an expert of any kind for that matter, but I know that these tips helped (and continue to help) me more than I can express.
Here are 5 tips from me to you to help promote a healthy body image:
Dial Back on Judgement
First and foremost, try with all your might to dial back on your self-judgement. Don’t worry, I know this is FAR easier said than done, so no pressure; just something to be aware of. Believe it or not, this tip is not actually in regards to self-judgement. Judging others is unhealthy and unproductive for a whole slew of reasons, but in terms of self, it creates a personal environment of negativity and comparison when you are consistently judging others (particularly on their appearances). If you are having trouble celebrating your wonderful qualities, try to do so about others first. It can be a little easier when you’re one step removed. If you create a personal mindset of celebration and admiration outwardly, it may become increasingly easier to do the same inwardly. Tip: wear a hair elastic around your wrist and snap it every time a judgemental thought about someone else pops into your head. I know we’re not Pavlov’s dogs here, but hey, the method works!
Work to Feel Good Not Look Good
At my lowest point in terms of body image, my driving factor in terms of decision making was almost always how it would make me look. I was striving for a conventionally “healthy” looking body, but for some wacky reason, health was left out of the equation. The solution? Listening to your body rather than looking at it. Cravings are the body’s way of telling you what it needs, so if you’re craving carbs you’re likely hungry and in need of sustenance, so listen! If you’re feeling stiff, stretch, if you’re feeling sluggish, exercise, if you’re feeling malnourished or tired, eat some fruits and veggies! Your body is constantly talking to you, so listen up!
Be Mindful About Your Relationship With Food
Let’s be honest, humans are pretty damn weird. Every other creature on the planet eats to sustain themselves, but here we are eating truffle fries and FroYo (speaking for myself here). One of the best and worst things about humans is that we LOVE out indulgences. With all of these delicious flavors and extravagant food creations floating around, it’s pretty difficult to go back to the basics and eat what we need. On top of that, from a very young age, we’ve been told what to eat and how much to eat (“you’re not leaving the table until you finish your dinner!”). So, here we are, all grown up, and our relationships with food may be screwed or unhealthy as a result of a number of factors including poor education about food, nutrition, and our bodies. When I say to be mindful about your relationship with food, I say “mindful” because that’s simply all we can ask of ourselves. Be mindful of when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Sometimes boredom or stress can feel a whole lot like hunger, so leave room for a little self-awareness. Also, be aware of when you’re full, no one’s going to make you go to bed without dessert anymore (I hope). So, all and all, ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and listen to the answers.
Strive for Body Neutrality
I’m going to start by saying that there is nothing wrong with body positivity in the least, it’s a wonderful state to be in, and those who are body positive should celebrate and be celebrated. This being said, body positivity is not something that is attainable for everyone. Frankly, a staggering number of humans do not feel positive about their bodies, in fact, quite the opposite. If someone has an incredibly negative relationship with their body, transitioning to body positivity can seem an impossibility. So, finding a space to exist between the two is something we should promote in others and ourselves. Body neutrality means not loving or hating your body; merely acknowledging it in its current state and existing together with it. Not negative doesn’t have to mean positive. So, not being necessarily body positive is not something to discourage.
Acknowledge & Celebrate the Body’s Ever-Changing Nature
Bodies are ever-changing, always beautiful, wondrous entities. Though the ever-changing nature of the body can cause individuals a great deal of grief if their body transitions into a state which they are unhappy with, this same nature of the body can be a really wonderful tool for a healthier mindset. The body is ALWAYS changing. It is never the same from one day to the next or even one moment to the next. There is always room for changes, fluctuation, improvement, or growth. So, this same characteristic that may cause unhappiness with the body can also remind us that change is always possible, for better or worse. We’re in charge of our bodies, and for me, there’s always some piece of mind in that fact alone.