4 Tips to Improve Body Image
Body image is the way we perceive and act towards our body. Negative body image contributes to increased risk of eating disorders, depression, isolation, and low self-esteem (among many other issues). In the United States, roughly 80% of women and 37% of men are unhappy with their bodies. With as prevalent as poor body image is, we thought it important to share a few tips for developing positive body image.
1) Appreciate your body for what it does.
Your body is so much more than its shape or size. Each body part contributes to miraculous functioning. Think of your favorite activities, and consider how your body allows you to participate in these. When you are so caught up in looking a certain way, you forget to express gratitude for what your body does for you every day. Those legs that you are complaining about? They carry you around from place to place. They allow you to walk, run, bike, hike, and more. Those arms that aren't as toned as you want them to be? They carry, lift, hug, comfort, create, and more. What body parts do you tend to be most critical of? What if you made a list of all the functions they perform for you, and expressing gratitude for them?
2) See yourself as a whole person.
Your body is only one aspect of your identity. There is so much more to you than your appearance. One of my favorite body image resources, Beauty Redefined, is based around this exact idea: See More. Be More.
The truth is, there's a genetic component to your size and shape that is out of your control. If 100 people were put on the exact same diet, there would *still* be unique body variations between those individuals. What's on the inside of you? Those are the most important characteristics about you. That's what makes you, YOU. And more importantly, those pieces of you are within your control. What makes you amazing? What makes you loveable? What are your passions, your hobbies, your meaningful contributions to society? Those things matter so much more than your clothing size.
3) Recognize the inner critic.
Catch yourself when you start to beat yourself up. Learn to identify the voice of the inner critic. Do you complain about yourself when you look in the mirror, when you go clothes shopping, when you see other people with the "perfect body" on social media?
Once you've been able to identify that voice, fight back against it utilizing self-compassion. What words of kindness, encouragement, support, and acceptance can you offer yourself? What would you say to your best friend if they were vocalizing the same complaints? Utilize the RAIN exercise from our previous blog post if you need a more structured format.
4) Understand the influences around you.
Societal ideals get pumped into us from a young age, through friends, family, media outlets, social media, etc. Practice critical consumption of media. Pay attention to the messages that are being sent, sometimes overtly and sometimes subtly. Ask yourself:
Who created this message?
What do they want me to believe?
Why is this message being sent?
Is this message aligned with my own beliefs/values?
The truth is, many companies profit off of your body dissatisfaction. If you truly believed that you were good enough just the way you were, you might not pay for that "miracle product" someone is trying to peddle. The beauty industry would be hit pretty hard if people stopped worrying so much about their appearance.
Surround yourself with positive people (friends, family, and media outlets) that send empowering, supportive messages.
Treat your body with respect and kindness. Care for it. Love it. Nurture and nourish it. What is one thing you can do to improve your body image this week? What would you add to this list? Feel free to reach out and let us know; we love to hear from you!
If you are struggling with negative body image and are having a hard time addressing it on your own, feel free to reach out to one of our trained therapists and/or our registered dietitian nutritionist.
Carrie Nicholes is a Maryland Board approved Licensed Certified Social Worker - Clinical (LCSW-C) and the founder of Cedar Counseling & Wellness. Recognized as one of the top therapists in Annapolis, she has a lifelong passion for teaching people tools to improve their lives.