Your body image affects how you show up in the world and is impacted by your self-esteem. So, if you find yourself shying away from certain situations and experiences due to your current body image, start with one of these five strategies for lessening body shame and creating a better relationship to Self.
1. Quiet your inner critic
Body image is most impacted by self-talk, so if your body-talk is more deprecating than accepting, it's time to change your inner dialogue. People mistakenly use self-criticism to motivate change, but positive change can only come from self-regard. So, if you often say to yourself "I hate my body", interrupt the thought and then re-word it to: "I choose to honor the body I have today.” or “I choose peace.” The key is to learn to recognize and then step away from negative self-talk so that we can begin shifting our default thinking from “I’m not enough” to “I’m okay.” When we learn to step away from the negativity, choices more aligned with your self-care will follow.
2. Learn to accept compliments
Downplaying what makes you amazing is disempowering and fuels negative body image. Instead, own your strengths and positive qualities, and practicing accepting compliments. You don’t have to understand or even agree with a compliment someone is giving you, but you can learn to accept the compliment and allow the good IN.
3. Move your body
One of the best boosts for body image is to move your body! I'm not talking about the type of exercise that is a means to an end for losing weight, but daily movement and activity that feels good and leaves you feeling energized not punished. So, instead of a boot camp (unless you like that sort of thing) take a nature walk, tend to your garden, play in the ocean, ride your bike on a nature path, take a dance class or participate in whatever type of movement that appeals to you. Joyful movement boosts self-esteem, elevates mood, improves sleep patterns, sharpens memory and decreases anxiety, to name a few benefits. A nurtured and less stressed self tends to be a more confident self.
4. Stop dieting
Weight loss fad diets tend to perpetuate body image issues. Diets are seductive because of the promised messaging around weight loss, but there is a 95% failure rate with diets. Why? Because diets are too restrictive, and we feel too deprived when on them, so diets are not sustainable long term. When a person fails a diet that person tends to feel like a failure instead of understanding that the approach was doomed from day one. When we feel bad about ourselves -hello negative self-talk. Learn a lifestyle approach to food that is about balance. You will feel better physically, which will positively affect how you feel about your body on the outside as well.
5. Let Go of the Weight Loss Tunnel Vision
The sole pursuit of weight loss is unsustainable in the long-term and can wreak havoc on one’s body image. I’m not saying to forego having a weight loss goal if that is part of your health journey, but don’t make weight loss the only motivator or measurement of success. Focusing on the number only is a slippery slope and is usually rooted in a mindset of desperation or ‘not good enough’. Weight loss can happen in the absence of health, but when we feel better about ourselves we tend to make better choices in the name of self-care, which encourages better health in body AND mind.