But what if you swapped the endless pursuit of “fixing” or hiding your body, believing that it’s not enough or too much, to pursue a healthy body image instead?
Your body is not the problem. It’s your perception of your body that needs some love.
Having a healthy body image is determined by what you think about your body.
- I am too fat.
- I am too skinny.
- I have too many stretch marks.
- I’m not lean enough.
Focusing on changing your mindset about your body versus changing your body can produce life-changing benefits:
Benefits of a healthy body image
- boosting your self-esteem
- banishing persistent body anxiety
- promoting comfort in personal relationships
- improving relationship with food, reducing unhealthy dieting habits
- improving your relationship with exercise
- reducing the risk of developing an eating disorder
- decreasing social isolation due to body worries, missing out on fun!
- increasing the amount of time and energy available to pursue what matters most
- improving your overall quality of life
Ready to begin?
5 steps to a healthier body image
First purchase a notebook to create your BODY IMAGE JOURNAL.
Step 1: Identify Body Image Goals
In order to change your body image, you must first identify your unique body challenges and where they came from. How did your body story evolve?
Part A: Tell your body story from beginning to present. What influenced it – cultural messages, people, individual physical characteristics, personality traits?
Part B: Next identify your unique body challenges and translate them into goals. What exactly needs to change? Create a detailed wish list.
- Instead of trying to “fix” my body, I need to stop comparing myself to “perfect’ women. How can I ever be happy trying to live up to perfect?
- I need to stop criticizing and trying to hide my belly.
- I need to stop allowing negative thoughts about my appearance from preventing me from going to yoga.
Remember this isn’t about changing your body, it’s about changing how you think, feel and behave. And you can’t change what you can’t articulate.
Step 2: Question Appearance Assumptions
What assumptions have you made about your physical appearance? Are they true, facts? If we belief that something is the truth, it becomes our reality. We can change our reality.
Part A: Create a list of your beliefs about your body and appearance.
Here are some ideas to get started.
- Beautiful people are happy and have great lives.
- My self-worth is dependent on my physical appearance.
- It’s impossible for me to like my body in today’s perfectionist body culture.
- I can only like my body if I change it.
Part B: Now take the opposite view of your assumptions. Dispute them and show they are merely assumptions, not truths.
- Beautiful doesn’t not mean happy. We are all human.
- My appearance should never dictate my self-worth.
- I am pissed off that $72 billion dollar diet industry is trying to convince me that I shouldn’t like my perfectly imperfect body.
- Changing my body won’t necessarily make me like my body. I may change my body and still not be happy with myself. This means that it’s not my body that needs fixing but my body image.
“How your body appears on the outside does not have to determine how you feel in the inside.” – Thomas F. Cash, PH.D., The Body Image Workbook
Step 3: Address Negative Body Talk
In the previous step you debunked assumptions and created new truths. In this next exercise, you will address negative body talk.
JOURNAL EXERCISE: Write down the negative body thoughts that come up in one week. After each thought first notice if it’s based on a false assumption? If so, correct it. Also ask, would you say this to your best friend? What would you say instead? Write this down in response.
- I have hideous legs that I must hide because they repulse people. —- I have cellulite on my legs. Many women have cellulite on their legs.
- I am so fat. No guy will ever want to date me. —-If a guy doesn’t like my body, he’s not the guy for me.
Tip: Add these new statements as “reminders” throughout your day on your cell phone. Remember that your body is actively listening when you attack it and when you attack your body, you are attacking yourself.
Step 4: Change your body image behaviors.
Your next step is to actively engage in changing behaviors that are driven by your negative body image challenges. These are actions that you take or don’t take as a result of specific body discomforts.
JOURNAL EXERCISE: Write down the behaviors you want to change in order of easiest to most difficult to change. Do you avoid certain places, people or practices because of body discomfort?
- Constant mirror checking. (easier)
- Going to a pool party and wearing a swimsuit. (hardest)
Now begin to confront these behaviors beginning with the easiest.
Create a plan.
Then rehearse it, imagining it as a success. Decide on a strategy to use to get out of your head and back into to your body such as using your positive body statements as a mantra or practice a calming breathing technique to shift your thoughts from your mind to your breath. If helpful, enlist a “body buddy” to support you. Then act (and use baby steps if necessary) and then reward yourself in a healthy way.
Example: I will go to a pool party with my body buddy this weekend.
Mantra: All bodies are swimsuit bodies. Breathe in. Breath out. Baby step action: I will take off my swimsuit cover up for 1 minute while talking to my body buddy. Then reward yourself : high-five with your buddy.
“For things to change, you have to change.” – Jim Rohn, motivational speaker
Step 5: Focus on positive body image
If you don’t like your body, it’s difficult to like the person who lives there, YOU!
We are used to focusing on what we believe is “wrong” with our bodies. Now it’s time to focus on the positive.
JOURNAL EXERCISE: Write a letter to your body focusing on the positive aspects of your body only. Start from toes to head and describe your body in positive (or neutral terms). Post this letter where you will read it daily.
“What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” – Robin Sharma, leadership expert
Remember, your body is not the problem. It’s what you believe about your body that’s the problem.
By practicing and staying committed to taking the action steps necessary to change your body image (instead of changing your body), you can improve not only your body image, but *the overall quality of your life*. Now that’s powerful.
Give yourself permission to be a perfectly imperfect human being.
Like yourself. Be a rebel. Practice radical body acceptance.
Have a comment, question? I would love to hear from you.