Are you unhappy with the way your body looks? Do you get upset when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror? Are you having a particularly difficult body image day?
I get it! As a Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor I see many individuals that have been struggling with body dissatisfaction and a poor body image for practically their whole lives.
I’m here to tell you what I tell them, and that is that the issue was never your body, the issue has always been, and still is, your body image (and thankfully you can change that).
In this article, we will dive deeper into body image and how to deal with bad body image days. Let’s dive in!
What is body image?
Body image refers to the perceptions, thoughts and feelings you hold about your body. It involves how you view yourself as well as your level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your appearance.
Having a positive body image doesn’t necessarily mean you love your body and the way it looks. Rather, body positivity can simply mean that you accept and appreciate your body regardless of its shape, size or appearance. This may also be referred to as body neutrality.
On the other hand, negative body image involves a critical view of your body that is often distorted. Rather than accepting and appreciating your body, you spend time dwelling over the parts you despise most while potentially trying to change those things.
Negative body image often contributes to disordered behaviours such as unnecessary food restriction (a.k.a dieting) and excessive exercise, as well as lowered self-esteem and increased risk of developing an eating disorder.
Those with a positive body image are more likely to eat more intuitively and have greater life satisfaction and quality of life.
Who struggles with bad body image days?
We all have days when we look in the mirror and feel dissatisfied and critical about our bodies. Bad body image days affect many individuals regardless of age, life stage, gender, cultural background or body size.
People of all body sizes struggle with poor body image. This includes individuals that live in “socially acceptable” bodies as well as those that live in bodies society deems “ideal.”
I would also like to take a moment to point out the importance of recognizing that people living in larger bodies do experience additional struggles contributing to poorer body image, including those related to weight stigma and discrimination, however that goes beyond the scope of this article.
Why is body image an issue today?
Poor body image has been an issue for quite some time and it only seems to be getting worse. The media plays a big role in this.
Think about it, when you scroll through Instagram or Tik Tok it’s hard not to notice a similar trend in the most popular posts. You’re bombarded with images of girls and women who seem to have these “perfect” figures and not a single roll or hint of cellulite in sight.
It makes you question your own body and makes you feel like you’re not measuring up.
It doesn’t stop there, if you watch a television show or movie, you’ll often find that the main character is someone with a jaw dropping appearance. It’s like they’re hand-picked to fit society’s narrow standards of beauty.
Seeing this over and over again can make you feel like something is wrong with your appearance, making it quite difficult to escape this pressure to live up to this “ideal” body.
How do you fix a bad body image?
Fixing your body image is not something that can just be done overnight. You have likely spent your whole life being conditioned to believe that only one body type is worthy so it’s going to take time before you truly recognize the opposite to be true and can fully internalize this for yourself.
Start slow and take it day by day. Coming up are 6 tips on how to handle bad body image days.
How to deal with bad body image days (6 tips)
1. Recognize where the feelings are coming from
First things first, let's take some time to just recognize where these feelings come from. Think about the first time you had an opinion about what a body should look like. You probably didn’t make this up yourself.
Chances are you heard a negative comment about a body, whether it was your grandma commenting on your moms body, or your mom commenting on her own body, or someone on TV telling you how to shrink your waist.
We are constantly faced with messages telling us how a body should look. For years and years our society has conditioned us to believe that you can only be healthy, accepted or loved if you look a certain way. So it only makes sense that most of us struggle with our body image at some point.
2. Re-frame your negative thoughts
We can't prevent negative body image thoughts from arising, but we can choose how we respond to these thoughts. You can choose to dwell on your negative thoughts or you can choose to put a more positive swing on these thoughts.
For example a negative thought would be: “I hate my legs, I have so much cellulite.” In order to move on from that negative thought you could add a positive swing such as “I may not love the way my legs look but boy am I happy with what they allow me to do” (i.e. stand, walk, run, etc).
If you can find some appreciation for your body, you will slowly start finding yourself accepting your body.
3. Distract from your thoughts
Alternatively you can choose to simply distract yourself from your thoughts about your body, because the truth is we spend way too much time and energy thinking about the way we look and trying to change it.
One way you can do this is to minimize body checking. You know those moments when you can’t resist glancing at your reflection every time you pass a mirror or window? Well, try refraining from doing that.
Instead, consciously redirect your focus elsewhere. Take a moment to appreciate the scenery, whether it’s a beautiful view outside the window or an interesting painting on the wall. Let your attention be captivated by something other than your appearance.
By consciously avoiding constant body checking, you’re giving yourself a chance to break free from the cycle of self-scrutiny.
4. Respect your body
Principle number eight of intuitive eating is “respect your body.” The idea behind this is that all bodies deserve to be respected regardless of size, shape or appearance.
One way you can show respect to your body is to fuel it appropriately. It's easy to give into the vicious diet cycle when you're feeling down about the way your body looks. You think that if you go on a diet and lose weight you will be happy with your body.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. There are so many disadvantages to dieting, with one of those disadvantages being that dieting further contributes to a poorer body image.
Another way you can respect your body is to move your body. Consider intuitive movement, in which you move in ways that feel good to your body and that you enjoy, rather than engaging in exercise as a form of punishment and as a means to change your body.
5. Try out some body image affirmations
You may find body image affirmations helpful in fostering a better relationship with your body. Either pick some from the list below or come up with your own!
“My worth is not defined by my appearance, but by my qualities and actions”
“My body is capable of amazing things”
“My body is not an object for judgment”
“My body is smart, I trust it to tell me what it needs and I will honor those needs”
“My body deserves to feel good”
6. NEVER let your bad body image hold you back
Last but not least, NEVER let your bad body image days hold you back. Too often, individuals miss out on experiences due to insecurities about their bodies.
This may look like avoiding the pool or beach in fear of others seeing you in a swimsuit or missing your high school reunion because you’re ashamed of the way your body looks. This is one sure way to suck the joy out of living.
The only way to get over this is to do the things that make you uncomfortable. Wear the swimsuit, show-up to the pool party, attend your high school reunion.
It’s up to you, you can push yourself to do the things that make you uncomfortable and not let your thoughts about your body hold you back, or you can continue to remain in a constant battle with your body and miss out on many of the joys life has to offer.
Final words: There is more to life than the size of your body
Just remember, your body itself is not the problem, it’s your body image and you have the power to change that.
Continue to recognize where your feelings come from and challenge societal standards, reframe your negative thoughts or choose to direct your thoughts elsewhere, focus on appreciating your body’s abilities and offer it respect, despite your feelings towards it.
And most importantly, never let your body image hold you back from living your life to the fullest.
Leave a comment below and let me know your favourite tip from this article!