How to Achieve a Better Body Image
By Rae Lawrence
As humans, we all have the tendency to fall prey to struggling with body image. However, there are ways to overcome this trap and re-learn self love and self acceptance.
- Stop avoiding your body
We know that one way to maintain negative body image is to avoid your body. So, in order to break this cycle, stop the avoidance! Face up to your body and get to know it, lumps, bumps and all. Get used to being with your body. If you usually avoid mirrors, start approaching them. Look at yourself as a whole person – don’t just focus on the bits you don’t like. Try to spend more time naked. Walk around the house nude! Practice touching your body: a good way to do this is to buy some nice moisturizer and rub it all over. Try other activities that you would normally avoid: go to the beach, go clothes shopping, go belly dancing! The more you do to get in contact with and accept your body the way that it is, the more you are likely to develop better body image.
- Stop checking
Some people check rather than avoid, which also perpetuates negative body image. Checking is when people repeatedly check their bodies for evidence of continuing “disgustingness”. A person might study their body in the mirror for hours at a time, or pinch their sides to check on the “fat”. Write a list of your “checking” behaviors. Once you have recognized what you are doing, make a point of refusing to check, or try to cut down. If you have “pinch the fat on my stomach” on your list, and you notice you are doing this 20 times a day, aim to cut down to 15 times, then 10, then five … then stop!
One form of “checking” behavior is comparison. This is when you constantly compare your physical attributes to those of other people. It can be challenging to stop negatively comparing yourself to others: for many people, it’s such a habit it is automatic and happens hundreds of times a day. Try to notice when you compare yourself to others and make a note of when you compare, who you compare yourself to, and what you say to yourself when it happens. Is it fair? Is it realistic? What effect does it have on how you feel about yourself? What can you say that may be more helpful?
- Check out your assumptions
People sometimes interpret normal, everyday things as evidence of their “fatness”. For example, a lot of women think that if their thighs or stomachs wobble, this means they are “fat”. In actual fact, wobbliness is a normal female characteristic. We’re made to wobble! For other women, the normal fluid retention that happens when they are premenstrual can be viewed as a “sign” that they are putting on weight. Try to notice what you are assuming to be evidence of “fat”, and look for the facts. This may mean doing a Google search, discussing your assumptions with friends and family, or even asking your GP.
- Separate feeling bad from feeling fat
When you have weight or body image issues, it can be hard to separate feelings from how you feel about your body. For example, if you have a stressful day at work, a fight with your partner and get a parking ticket, you start to feel bad. You may then start to also feel “fat” and unattractive. If you start to feel this way, ask yourself what has triggered this feeling. Try to identify the real issue, and separate it from your body-image issues. Another common experience is for people to feel “fat” after they have eaten. In this instance the trigger is body image-related. When this happens, remind yourself that your weight and appearance was the same before this feeling hit. So, though you may feel different, your weight hasn’t changed.
- Practice self acceptance
Having a negative bod image is like having a critic in your head. The critic is a harsh, derogatory narrative that makes nasty comments about you. For example, “I look disgusting in this outfit” or “I can’t believe how fat I am”. The critic makes you feel awful, because you believe it. Because you feel terrible about yourself, you look for ways to feel better. You may eat something, which gives momentary pleasure, but minutes later the critic is back to comment on how much of a pig you are for eating. The big key to changing negative body image is to kill the critic, and learn self-acceptance. This means accepting yourself as you are. Cognitive techniques are very effective in helping identify and change critical thinking. It can take time, but it’s worth it!
Rae is currently a 3rd year doctoral student where she is studying psychology. She aspires to work in the field of forensics. Rae suffered from an eating disorder for 10 years and has been in recovery for nearly 5 years. She finds that she feels her best when she is helping others.
As a result of this, she has created a non-profit organization, Rae Across America, where she creates and hosts several fundraisers per year which raise money to help send individuals in need to eating disorder treatment. Rae and her husband, Ryan, live in Richland, Washington. Together they enjoy hiking, watching football, spending time with their children, visiting family, and traveling.
I’m an artist and writer on a mission to bring healing arts into the mainstream. If you would like to support my heart work, please consider becoming a monthly patron on Patreon. For as little as $1 a month, you can fund programs like my D.I.Y. Therapy: Healing Depression E-course, my monthly “Radical” e-zine and other creative healing projects, like “Cultivating Radical Self-Love: A Collaboration of Healers, Artists & Writers“.