Whether it’s thinking your nose is too big, or your legs are too chunky, nearly everybody has struggled with their body image sometime in their lives.
I read in the news today that eating disorders are affecting primary school aged children as young as 10 years old. 29 children under the age of 13 where hospitalised for eating disorders between 2007 – 2010 in NZ. I’m sure there were many more suffering eating disorders during that time period that didn’t require hospitalisation too.
Having suffered and beaten my own demons with body image issues during my tween and teenage years, it made me sad to think that it is becoming more common that children. So I thought I’d share four steps that I feel are important and useful to maintaining a healthy body image.
1. Give up on the idea of perfection, work with what you have
There is no such thing as a perfect body. You might think that somebody has the perfect figure, but it’s just a perception. Everyone has different body shapes and wishing you had a booty like Beyonce isn’t going to happen if you’re a tall, slim build, and again wanting legs like Heidi Klum isn’t going to happen if you are short and pear shaped. If you feel you have to have the perfect weight, or perfect muscle tone, you’ll never be satisfied with who you really are.
Work with what you’ve got and learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Everyone has their own unique and beautiful features. Whether you’ve got a great waist, long legs or beautiful, thick shiny hair – whatever your best bits, show them off and remember that every one will have some part of their body that they don’t love – just don’t hate it!
2. Looking a Certain way Doesn’t Equal Happiness
Often when we’re struggling with body image issues, we feel that if we looked like Miranda Kerr or Jessica Alba, we’d be happy. When you think like this, how you feel about your body holds you back. Lots of time and energy goes into thinking about changing your body, which means less time for things that really bring about the things you want in life. Looking a certain way won’t mean that you’ll find the ideal partner or get the job you want. And it won’t make you happy. Spend your time focusing on your real goals to get where you want to be.
3. Eating Healthy & Get Physical
Rather than focusing on fad diets in an effort to lose weight, focus on being healthy. Fad diets set you up for failure. Eating healthy on the other hand increases energy levels, strengthens the immune system and helps you to feel at your best. Eat nourishing, healthy food and treat yourself once in a while.
Physical activity has so many benefits. It boosts your mood, reduces blood pressure, strengthens the heart and helps to maintain a healthy body weight. When you feel you can walk further, jog faster or lift heavier weights, it helps give you positive feelings about what your body can do and what you can achieve. Don’t see physical activity as merely a tool for weight loss. See it as part of keeping well in mind, body and soul.
4. Deal to the Negative Thoughts About Your Body
When those negative thoughts such as “I hate my body” pop into your head, deal to them! Here’s how. Firstly, acknowledge it – think “there’s that thought again”, then think about where the thought came from. They don’t often pop into your head from no where. It might be that you’ve been rejected by a guy; or that you’ve just had a bad day. Even though it might seem like a far off idea, we can turn negative experiences during the day to negative thoughts about our bodies and how they have contributed to this.
Thirdly, let it go – don’t dwell on it, release the thought from your mind and place more positive thoughts in your mind. It doesn’t have to be the opposite to what you have thought. For example, you could say “my body is healthy” or “my body has many good features”. If this is even hard for you, even saying “I accept my body as is” replaces negative thoughts in your mind. Don’t let that inner critic get the best of you.
You can read more about this technique in the book “Eating Mindfully” see more here.
If you’ve got serious body image issues, be sure to get some help by talking to your GP or other registered health professional.