Posted on Nov 25, 2021, 3 p.m.
Harboring a negative view of your body can be harmful to both your physical and mental health. Unfortunately, there are many pervasive societal norms and expectations that can impact your view of your body, leaving you feeling dissatisfied with your appearance. Or perhaps even depressed that you cannot change it.
Fortunately, science has discovered a few key approaches that you can take to improve your view of yourself and foster a more positive body image.
Here are 7 science-backed tips for improving your body image!
7 Tips for Improving Your Body Image
1. Watch Your Media Consumption
Reducing your exposure to media and images of unrealistic, idealized, photo-shopped, and airbrushed bodies is one of the best things you can do to improve the way you see yourself.
According to social comparison theorists, the media contributes to high rates of body image problems, especially in young people. We tend to compare ourselves to unattainable physical ideals and inevitably fall short.
The media is full of thin, conventionally beautiful, perfectly made-up women and tall, muscular men. While we’re taught to idealize these physical characteristics, it’s crucial to realize that the people who have them only make up a small percentage of the world’s population.
Research has found that people who view media portrayals of ideal faces and bodies experience more body image dissatisfaction. Regardless of their gender.
2. Assess Your Friend Circle
If your circle of friends is constantly focused on physical appearances and achieving unrealistic standards, you may be holding yourself to the same standards by default. Experts recommend you distance yourself from these people. Instead, cultivate relationships with people who have healthy body images and realistic physical standards.
Our interpersonal connections with friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers can positively or negatively affect our body images.
The things people say to us about their bodies, our bodies, and those of other people reinforce cultural ideals and affect the way we view ourselves. Being around people who judge others’ weight, for example, will lead us to believe that our weight will get judged, too. This also goes for people who speak often about their exercise regimes, their supplements, and their weight control and cosmetic procedures.
If you aren’t able to distance yourself from image-obsessed friends and family, it’s important to assertively set boundaries. This could look like asking to speak about another topic when the issue of weight comes up, stepping outside when sensitive topics come up, or politely refusing to discuss your diet with family members on Thanksgiving.
3. Pen Your Feelings
Many psychologists recommend writing a letter to your younger self, a hypothetical younger person, or even a hypothetical child. In this letter, tell them about the costs and burdens of pursuing an idealized body instead of a healthy one.
Use your letter to write down the advantages of having a healthy, vibrant body instead of one that has been heavily scrutinized, criticized, and starved. This approach helps to reinforce your own commitment to healthier goals and ideals. You might even begin to feel like a hypocrite if you continue to aim for a culturally ideal body at the cost of your own physical and mental health and happiness.
4. Identify Irrational and Unhealthy Thought Patterns
Nearly all of us harbor some irrational and potentially unhealthy thoughts and beliefs that fuel our dissatisfaction with our bodies. It’s essential to challenge these beliefs whenever you do identify them to prime yourself for healthier thought patterns.
The modern cognitive-behavioral therapy approach to body image issues states that we should identify the extreme beliefs that make us unhappy with our bodies, and assess what is wrong with each of those beliefs. Find reasonable arguments against each one. Then, come up with healthier ways of viewing your body and your progress. You can rewire your neural pathways so that you become progressively more accepting of your body and your physical appearance.
One of the most effective CBT approaches for negative body image is to catch yourself whenever you are feeling bad about yourself. Grab a notepad and a pen, and make two columns on a page. On one side, jot down all the extreme things you are saying to yourself. On the other, list more rational, kind, and healthy thoughts to counter the negative ones. Whenever you begin to berate your body in the future, silently repeat your healthier counter-thoughts to yourself.
For instance, if you find yourself telling yourself that you have to have a perfect body to be loved, remind yourself that you love many people who don’t have perfect bodies. And so do other people!
5. Diet for Health, Not for Appearance
Dieting purely to improve your appearance, become thinner, or build more muscle focuses your attention on the aspects of your body that you don’t like and wish to change. Try switching from this way of thinking to focus on how your new diet and exercise regime will benefit your health and make you feel great. Be proud of whatever actions you take, whether they’re exchanging sweets for salad, swapping your car for a commuter bike, or simply reaching your step goal every day.
Aspire to have the healthiest body possible, rather than an unrealistically flat stomach, a thigh gap, or massive muscles in certain places. These ideals can only be achieved with extreme and unhealthy approaches in most cases, if at all.
6. Reach Out When You Need To
Fixating on your calorie consumption, your weight, or your physical appearance can distract you from the many positive aspects of yourself. When you find yourself in a poor mental space, try reaching out to your loved ones, who will gladly remind you of your many positive characteristics and what you contribute to the world.
Reaching out can often make you feel better about yourself, and may encourage you to make positive changes to the world as well.
Remember that no person who has ever contributed to growth and progress has ever been physically perfect!
7. Ask for Professional Help
Many people can successfully address their body image issues on their own. But some people may need extra assistance. Don’t hesitate to ask for professional guidance should you need it.
There are many licensed mental health professionals who specialize in offering therapies that will improve your body image and help to address any negative beliefs or eating disorders you are struggling with.
There are plenty of effective ways to foster a more positive and healthy image of your body. No matter who you are, how old you are, or what your personal concerns may be.
Remember to consume media consciously, to surround yourself with supportive and accepting people wherever possible, and to reach out to a professional if you need additional help.
This article was written by Karen Bradford, blogger and health advocate
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
Content may be edited for style and length.
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