If you are struggling with the way you perceive your appearance, how can you improve your body image?
Improve your body image
Body image is the way we view ourselves when we look in the mirror but also the way we feel about our bodies internally. How do you talk about your body? What thoughts do you have about your body? The internal dialogue about your body negatively or positively affects your body image. Here are 5 steps to improve your body image.
1. Improve your body image with body neutrality
If your average day is full of negative thoughts about your body and generally feeling uncomfortable in it, then pushing to love your body and be body positive may feel like too big of a stretch. There is a middle path when improving your body image and that is one of body neutrality.
Body neutrality is what can be viewed as the middle ground between hating your body and loving your body. It’s about taking away the focus on your outward appearance and focusing on what your body does for you.
Think about these statements, ‘I love how my body looks today’ or ‘My body is pretty amazing because it enabled me to go on this beautiful hike this morning.’ Which one seems easier to tell yourself?
You’re more likely to get stuck in negative thinking when you focus on appearance rather than the non-appearance-based things your body does for you on a daily basis. Summer Innanen, a professional coach specializing in body image, self-worth, and confidence, and the best-selling author of Body Image Remix, says, “I think we just have to know that this isn’t like a path of perfection or a hundred percent positivity, it’s about knowing that there’s going to be ups and downs and knowing that the end goal is to get to a place where you just don’t think about your body so much anymore.”
Body neutrality allows us to appreciate all the things our body allows us to do. When you take away the expectation that your body needs to look or weigh a certain way you are moving towards body neutrality which is a huge step in improving your body image.
2. Ditch the scale
What is your relationship with the scale? Do you have one? How often do you step on it? How does it make you feel before, during, and after? And how is the scale affecting your body image? Hit pause and give this a little thought.
So many things you do on a daily basis are making it hard to improve your body image. I know for me that, when I was in the trenches of my eating disorder I’d have the urge to step on the scale every time I was in the bathroom. Getting rid of my scale was a monumental step forward in my recovery because it took away a big trigger that sent me spiraling into destructive eating disorder behaviors.
Summer Innanen says that, “it’s controlling the way you feel about yourself. It’s controlling your mood and your actions. And the only way to really start to listen to yourself and start to trust yourself and honor yourself is to get rid of it. Get rid of those external factors that make you question how you feel about yourself.“
3. Show your body Self-Compassion
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, “Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” How we talk to ourselves has a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves. In the same way, our inner critics can talk down on our bodies, negatively affecting our body image.
A research study in the Journal of Mindfulness found that increased self-compassion is significantly associated with improvements in body dissatisfaction, body shame, body appreciation, and contingent self-worth based on appearance. Self-compassion is like a muscle and gets stronger the more you use it. When taking steps to improve your body image it’s important to strengthen your compassionate voice. Give it a try, try to treat your body the same way you would treat your friend.
4. Stop checking your mirror
How often do you look in the mirror? Just like scales, mirrors can be used as a form of body checking and can impact our internal state of being, and our mood. If looking in the mirror tends to make you feel bad about yourself and negatively affects your day, getting rid of some of these mirrors can be helpful. Summer Innanen emphasizes that “you want to get rid of any of that external stuff that is dictating how you feel about yourself.”
The goal is not to get rid of all mirrors in your house but to minimize those external factors that lead you to fixate on your appearance and dictate how you feel about yourself.
5. Rewire your brain
Your brain has the ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. This is called Neuroplasticity. Many of the behaviors that you’ve used to try and control your body or beliefs about your body are rooted in diet culture. And it takes intention and action to unlearn toxic messages. According to Summer Innanen, “we have to really challenge the beliefs we have about weight. We have to unlearn all the things that we’ve been taught about weight, health and body size.” In order to improve body image, we have to rewrite the script in our minds. We also have to change the thoughts and beliefs that are preventing us from all the amazing things we truly want to do in our life.
A better body image
Improving your body image doesn’t happen overnight but with these 5 steps to improve your body image, you can slowly change the way you view your appearance.
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(Last Updated: December 5, 2022)