Negative body image can have a detrimental effect on someone’s life. It can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and even clinical depression. People with negative body image may frequently feel shame about their physical appearance and as a result, may cover up, retreat and/or avoid social interaction. A negative self-image is further aggravated by the impossible societal body ideals that we face every day.
Not surprisingly, we know body image disturbances and disordered eating habits often go hand in hand. Behaviors like skipping meals, restricting calories, binge eating, and purging are often directly connected to attitudes and feelings about one’s body. We know that when body shape and weight become central to how you value yourself, you are vulnerable to getting caught up in a cycle of disordered eating that can self-perpetuate and snowball. Disordered eating behaviors can lead to serious health consequences such as nutrient deficiencies, digestive problems, and a weakened immune system.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to address negative body image and improve self-esteem. With the right help, anyone can learn new ways of thinking positively about their bodies and work towards a healthier outlook.
If you are looking to improve your body image, here are 8 tips to help you begin the journey of self acceptance:
1. Surround yourself with positive people
Actively pursue contact with body neutral or body positive figures in your life. This could be friends, family members, or mental health professionals who accept and support your body as it is. Self acceptance can be contagious; it can be helpful to spend time with people who feel free and at ease in their bodies – especially when their bodies don’t conform to standard beauty ideals.
2. Curate a body positive social media environment for yourself
On a similar note (as #1), we have more control than we think about the energy we surround ourselves with; while social media can be toxic, with some effort, it’s possible to curate an environment of body positivity in your online world. Try seeking out body positive influencers, accounts, and hashtags that focus on promoting acceptance and celebrating diverse bodies. Of course, be sure to unfollow accounts that promote unrealistic or unhealthy ideals. If you find that you’re torturing yourself by making comparisons to someone impossibly “perfect” on one of your feeds, do your best to redirect… and ask yourself why you might be intentionally exposing yourself to such harmful content. It’s a good question to explore. You’re not alone at all if you have the tendency to self-sabotage in this way.
3. Use positive affirmations
Each day, remind yourself of all that your body can do and how much it has accomplished through your own list of positive affirmations. This will help you to focus on what makes you unique and strong instead of what sets you apart from society’s standards. Whether you write them in your journal, your phone’s note app or on sticky notes around your mirror – this can be a positive step to accepting yourself.
4. With intention do one thing each day that gives you a positive feeling and has nothing to do with your body.
Start with one and continue building from there to two things each day… three things etc. This could be anything from engaging in a warm exchange with a stranger, writing in a journal, taking a walk, listening to music, or doing yoga. The more positive activities you engage in, the more your self-worth will grow and shift away from focusing on body image. Engage in practices that help you to re-frame how you think about your body.
5. Treat your body gently and with care even when you have negative thoughts about your appearance
It’s normal to have days where you experience negative feelings or thoughts about yourself and your body. Remember, the aim is not to love your body all of the time – it is instead to approach yourself with kindness and understanding despite any emotions that might arise. This could mean taking a warm bath, putting on comfortable clothes, and making sure you’re eating enough. This can help you practice gentleness and self-compassion for yourself, rather than harsh criticism or judgment.
6. Blocking body checking behaviors
Experiment with blocking body checking behaviors like getting on the scale or examining yourself in the mirror – for a day, two or even three and see how this impacts your mood. This can help you to break out of the habit of constantly scrutinizing your body and start to focus on other aspects of yourself.
7. Take time to practice gratitude for the qualities you like about yourself
Think about aspects of yourself that you like that have nothing to do with your body shape or weight.This could be anything from your artistic talent, great sense of humor, or intelligence. By shifting your focus onto all the other great qualities you possess, you can help shift from negative thoughts about your physical appearance.
8. Join a body image support group
Joining a body image support group is a great way to improve your negative body image because it provides an understanding and non-judgmental environment in which individuals can discuss their feelings openly and honestly. These groups typically provide education, resources, and tools to help individuals cultivate a healthier relationship with their bodies. By taking part in conversations with others, you can gain perspective and insight into why people think and feel the way they do about their bodies. Additionally, support groups offer encouragement, solidarity, hope, and motivation to keep striving towards positive body acceptance. With the help of a supportive community, individuals can work together to achieve their goals and improve their negative body image.
At Columbus Park, we are committed to supporting our clients with their goals of recovery from eating disorders, disordered eating and body image concerns and offer body image groups to clients in New York City and virtually.
With treatment, it is possible to improve self-esteem and recover from disordered thoughts and behaviors in relation to food and body image. No one should feel ashamed or embarrassed to reach out for help; talking with a qualified professional can be an important step towards improving body image and overall mental health. While it may seem daunting, taking the first step towards recovery is a powerful choice that could lead to a healthier relationship with your body.
Be kind to yourself and remember that you are so much more than just your physical appearance. By taking small steps each day, you can begin to cultivate a healthier relationship with yourself and your body!
Reach out to us today if you are interested in learning more about Columbus Park services.