Negative Body Image Bumming You Out?
Helpful tips to love the skin you’re in
What do you see when you look in the mirror? What internal dialogue goes on while you’re looking at yourself? Do you tend to pick apart certain body parts? Or do you focus in on your favourite attributes? There are many variables that can affect our body image on any given day, including our upbringing, family environment, social media, diet culture, attitudes of peers and more.
If you’re noticing that your internal dialogue and overall feelings towards yourself and your body are on the negative side, read on for some helpful tips.
What is Body Image Anyway?
The National Eating Disorders Collaboration of Australia, (NEDC), defines body image as a combination of the thoughts and feelings that you have about your body. It can be influenced by internal (e.g. personality) and external (e.g. social environment) factors; and varies between positive, negative, or a combination of these experiences.
NEDC also defines 4 aspects of body image:
- Perceptual body image (the way that you see your body)
- Affective body image (the way you feel about your shape, weight, body parts etc…)
- Cognitive body image (the way you think about your body)
- Behavioural body image (behaviours you engage in as a result of your body image)
What the Numbers Show
If you’re someone who’s feeling like their body image is poor, you’re not alone. A 2006 study examined associations of body satisfaction to age, height, gender, and body mass index (BMI) in over 52 000 adults and the findings weren’t much of a surprise. They noted that 60% of women thought they were too heavy and were self-conscious about their weight, 30% reported being too uncomfortable in a swimsuit, and 20% thought that they were unattractive. For men, 41% thought they were too heavy and were self-conscious about their weight, 16% reported being too uncomfortable in a swimsuit, and 11% thought that they were unattractive.
Doctors Lexie and Lindsay Kite, sisters and co-authors of the book More than a Body shed light on why these stats may be high:
“Too many of us not only feel awful about our looks, since we can never achieve or maintain the aspirational beauty ideals presented to us, but also feel awful …because all we care about is how we look. This is truly the root of negative body image. To add insult to injury, we will likely feel awful about ourselves as a whole because we’ve learned that our bodies define our worth.”
So how can we improve our body image?
Try some of the strategies below and practice those which resonate the most with you:
- When you look in the mirror focus on what you like about your appearance. You can also choose to focus on more neutral areas such as your ears or hands.
- Remind yourself that true beauty is not skin-deep. Think of the most important people in your life and ask yourself why you love them. Odds are its not because of their weight or wrinkle-free skin.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable, that express your personal style and that make you feel good about your body.
- Practice self care: visit a loved one, take a bath, read, cook your favourite meal, watch your favourite movie
- Make a list of all the things your body can do, and does for you daily.
- Challenge negative self-talk. Are these thoughts actually true? Where do they stem from?
- Unfollow any social media accounts that trigger negative feelings about you or your body. Follow accounts that promote unfiltered body diversity.
- Come up with a mantra to say when times gets tough, such as “I am loved, I am worthy, I deserve respect”.
- Speak to yourself as you would speak to your best friend, or loved one if they were having a bad day.
- Ditch the scale. Stop weighing yourself if you find it brings you down. Advise your doctors or nurses that you don’t want to know your weight at your next check-up.
One final note:
Showing up for ourselves with compassion isn’t always easy. Remember that it’s natural to have both good and bad body image days. It can be helpful to consider why you might be having a negative day, for reasons such as life stress, sleep deprivation, or a family member raving about the new diet they’re on. Be kind to yourself and look ahead to more positive days!
For more information and tips from NEDC, visit this body image fact sheet.
For other tips to help build a positive body image, click here.
Interested in seeing a difference? Craving confidence? Let us help you love the body you live in.
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Christine Devaney Towsley B.A.Sc., RD
Registered Dietitian & Online Nutritionist
Specialty: weight concerns, intuitive eating, heart
health, family nutrition, IBS (irritable bowel disease)
A nurturer at heart, Christine will always greet you with a smile and
attentive ear. Kind hearted, empathetic and sensitive to others,
Christine takes the time to connect, build trust and truly understand
each client and tailors her sessions to each person's specific needs.