It’s not surprising most of us are not happy with our bodies. We live in a world where there is constant pressure to look a certain way and larger bodies are often discriminated again. We associate thinness with happiness, fitness with muscles and the ‘ideal body’ with the ideal life. But the reality is weight loss doesn’t bring you this. Here’s what you need to know about body image. You don’t need to change your body to feel better about your body. Here’s how to improve your body image
Change your focus & perception
Body image has less to do with what you look like and more to do with your perception of how you look and what you believe it means about you.
People of all shapes and sizes struggle with how they look – and in the same respect, there are people of different shapes and sizes who are comfortable in their own skin doing the things they love doing without being held back by body image.
How is that possible? Well our body image isn’t based solely on how you look. Our body image is influenced a number of things including:
– eg perfectionists often struggle more with poor body image
An ‘ideal’ body is something portrayed in the media routinely.Despite the fact that there is a diverse range of body images, it’s not something potrayed in the media. The ‘ideal body’ portrayed to us is generally of one size and shape and only a small percentage of people will naturally look like that. There’s lots to say about the cultural impact on body image but we’ll talk about that later.
Your experiences growing up
Parents and other close relatives comments about body shape influence your beliefs around your body in relation to self worth. If you grew up believing a bigger body was a bad body, it’s not surprising that your experiences with body image may be less than positive. As you get older, other people’s opinion of size can also affect your body image.
It’s easy to think that when you reach a certain number on the scales or a dress size, or a body fat percentage that you’ll suddenly be happy with how you look. But talking to many people, and from my own experience, being smaller doesn’t always make you happier.
So many people have said to me that they wished they’d been happier with their body years ago and wondered why they were so self conscious back then.
Thinking back to a time when you may have been a different size, where you happy with yourself back then, or did you still want to change?
The way we look WILL always change so instead of investing your mental and physical energy into trying to make your body something it’s not, building better body image is less about loving your body and more about loving what your body can do for you.
Myths about bodies
You can diet and exercise yourself to the shape you want to be
We’re led by the diet industry to believe that if we just exercise enough and eat the right types and amount of food we can be whatever size or shape we want. But it’s just not true. And when you think about it, it doesn’t make sense that we’d all be the same shape and size. Just as people are different heights, people naturally carry different amounts of body fat. Trying to force your body to be something it doesn’t just doesn’t work long term.
Our bodies have a set point range of weight and our body will act like a thermostat to protect that range so that when you lose weight, hormonal changes mean we eventually gain it back. Sometimes we gain back more, as an ‘insurance policy’ in case we lose weight again. Many dieters will know that they end up heavier than when they first started dieting. Your set point may be a small body, it may be a larger body or it might be somewhere in between but fighting it is fighting a losing battle. You can read more about it here. Some feel that giving up on dieting is giving up but the alternative way is a process of self care that can help nourish your body, boost energy, find enjoyable movement and give you time and energy that’s been spent pursuing dieting to spend on other things.
I can’t be healthy if I’m in a bigger body
Anyone at any size can start engaging in behaviours that will benefit their health. This is a whole other topic and blog post in itself, but studies show that health behaviours such as being active and eating vegetables benefit health regardless of weight. If you want to know more, this website has some great information.
How can you start to improve your body image?
Mix up your social media feed
If you’re only following teeny tiny people who constantly parade in bikinis then you are reinforcing that there is only one type of body when in reality it’s only a very small part of the population that look like that. Follow a range of shapes and sizes and follow those that are doing cool things, not just showing their bodies! I’ll also be sharing a post of lots of awesome people to follow on social media so subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out 🙂
It’s really common to only compare yourself to people who are smaller than yourself. So stop comparing and instead take a look around and notice ALL shapes and sizes. A little exercise you can do is next time you’re out shopping or at the supermarket is spend about 10 minutes being really aware of everyone around you. There will be all shapes and sizes out and about.
Stop body checking and negative talk
Pinching your body fat, scrutinising every detail in the mirror, negative self talk about your body…. these practices have zero benefit and only leave you feeling bad about yourself. Try to be at least neutral in your self talk.
Remind yourself of what your body can do to you and thank it.
Sounds a bit cheesy but lots of people find that it helps to reflect each day on what they’ve done and how their body made it possible. This is a good step in moving towards body appreciation, being grateful for everything your body lets you do. After all your body is what lets you live your life, it shouldn’t consume your life.
What are your biggest struggles with your body image? Anything else you want to know about in how to improve your body image? Let me know and I’ll see if I can address the topic in future posts.
Keep posted as over the next few weeks we’ll have lots of inspiration and practical tips on how you can start to live your life without worry about your body shape.
If poor body image is really affecting the quality of your life and causing disordered eating patterns it’s vital to seek help from someone appropriately qualified in the area.