5 Tips for Tackling ‘Bad’ Body Image Days
Reframe the way you view body image issues
Often in my work as a dietitian, I have the privilege of talking to my clients about their relationship to food and how it is deeply entwined with their relationship to their bodies.
I’ll often hear clients express how their food choices may change or their relationship to food may be impacted by how they feel about their body on any given day.
It can feel incredibly frustrating and overwhelming because positive body image feels like a moving target. One day we’re strutting down the street to our own personal fabulous playlist (here’s mine), and suddenly the next day feels “blah”. We’re frustrated with how our clothes fit, or we’re just feeling out of sorts in our body.
The truth is, everyone has bad body image days, regardless of what their body looks like. And that’s because body image is more about our perception and beliefs about our bodies than it is about our physical bodies. But that’s not what diet culture would have you believe – in fact, our dieting culture LOVES bad body image days because we are vulnerable to the enticing marketing that promises a new fad diet will provide you with the body of your dreams, unending confidence and eternal happiness!
Re-framing Difficult Body Image Days
When I work with clients to begin healing their relationship to food and their bodies, you may hear me reframe a bad body image day similar to a bad hair day. We’ve all had a bad hair day – maybe it’s flat, or too poufy, or you have that one piece of hair that won’t stop sticking straight up! Bad hair days are frustrating and might be annoying, but usually we can implement a few fixes and still have a pretty great day for the most part. We might tie our hair up, pull out the dry shampoo, or even rock a baseball hat for the day. It would seem pretty extreme if every time we had a bad hair day, we decided we needed to dye our hair, or even cut it all off, wouldn’t it?! Even in the stress and uncomfortable tension of a bad hair day, we know the feeling will pass, and we can try strategies to make ourselves more comfortable without taking it too far and shaving our heads!
If you’re struggling with body image today, can you think of it in a similar way to a bad hair day? It can feel unexpected, overwhelming, and even scary when negative body image takes center stage, but we can implement a few tangible strategies to make ourselves more comfortable and get through the day.
5 Tips for a ‘Bad’ Body Image Day
1) Wear comfortable clothing.
Nothing brings the focus back to the discomfort in our bodies quite like clothes that pinch, squeeze, or dig in. Choose to wear something that fits your here and now body, and expresses your own personal style.
2) Eat regular meals and snacks with a variety of food groups.
Regardless of how you are feeling about your body, remember that your body is deserving of respect. It’s very difficult to even consider having a positive relationship with something that we treat poorly, so resist the temptation to treat your body poorly. Respecting your body can look like choosing to eat regular meals and snacks to fuel your here-and-now-body throughout the day, and not engaging in restriction or dieting. It may also look like moving in a way that feels enjoyable for you, or perhaps taking a day to rest.
3) Consider a social media-free day.
Comparison is the thief of joy, and nothing breeds comparison quite like scrolling through social media, especially platforms that are image-based. In fact, research has demonstrated that scrolling through images on social media (especially images depicting the body types that are considered the “cultural beauty standard”) is associated with increased comparison, more body dissatisfaction and lower mood¹²³.
4) Focus on what your body can DO.
Notice what thoughts are coming up about how your body looks, and see if you can shift the focus to all of the things your body can do. Try to view your body as your teammate – it’s the vessel that lets you move through the world, hug your kids, laugh with friends, create, play, and live! Basing our identity and sense of self on our physical appearance can feel like shaky ground, because bodies are meant to change – it’s the only constant!
5) Practice Compassion.
Remind yourself that this too will pass, and you are far more than your body. It may be helpful to reflect on whether or not restricting or dieting in the past ended up helping your body image (spoiler alert: likely not!), and gently shift your focus back to respecting your here-and-now-body.
More Support for Better Body Image
If you are wrestling with negative body image and a difficult relationship with food, you are not alone. This work is vulnerable and brave, and you are deserving of support and kindness.
Please reach out to me for support in making peace with food and learning to respect the body you’re in!
You might also want to check out these previous articles on our blog: