The back of a woman, who is sitting on a grassy hill overlooking a body of water

9 Steps For Overcoming Body Image Issues

How often do you control, starve, punish, speak harshly to your body? Or about your body? Overcoming body image issues is challenging for most women, and, most women have them. It just seems to go along with being a woman. (And, increasingly, a man.)

The mean things you may do and say about your body happen automatically, without you even realizing it. And the self-bullying only worsens body image. Your body hears everything you say or think about it.

The good news is that overcoming body image issues is possible.

Although no one article, tool, wisdom, fad, or behavior that will flip a switch. But, when you use a combination of these 9 steps, you’ll know how you can successfully fall back in love with your body.

Infant girl joyfully looking at her own reflection & playing pattycake.

Toddlers rejoice about the size of their thighs and round bellies!

The 9 Steps:

1. Be aware.

Thoughts turn into actions and actions turns into character. The mind is the powerful aspect of the human body.

Buddha

  • Awareness of how you speak to yourself means you recognize and can therefore change your self-talk to make it more accurate and neutral. By self-talk, I am referring to thoughts.
  • Instead of thinking “my stomach is disgusting and looks like I am carrying twins”, you could simply say “right now I am feeling dissatisfied with how my stomach looks and feels.” The first thought is mean, untrue, and self deprecating. The latter is true and in the moment. Awareness of thoughts means you can gently question their validity and reframe them.
  • Every time you think a particular thought, that thought is strengthened. We are always practicing something. When we think a thought, we are practicing thinking that thought. Be aware of what you’re thinking/practicing and therefore what you’re strengthening. (The fancy term for this is neuroplasticity.)
  • Neuroplasticity means we can actually change thought patterns and behaviors. We can develop a new mindset, new skills, and new abilities.
  • Your body hears, internalizes, and feels everything you say about it. Be aware. Be deliberate.

2. Be here, now.

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

Buddha

  • Your body carries history and brings you into the future, yet the here and now, in time and space, IS your body.
  • In any given moment, your relationship with your body is a blend of the past and present; biology, culture, and the environment; emotions, perception, and behaviors.
  • The more immersed in the past or the future your body image is, the less present you are in the here and now. And, the here and now is all any of us has.
  • If you are not in the here and now, you are missing out on presence in your own life. Instead, you’re immersed in judgey, self-critical chatter about the past and future.
  • When in the here and now, you are more likely to notice the deep burgundy color of leaves, melody of robins chirping, and the overall beauty surrounding you.

3. Be-yond objectification.

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  • Body image is a relationship. It is the relationship you have with your body. Like all relationships, the depth of the relationship is something over which you have some agency.
  • When we objectify our body, we relate to it as if it is a thing. An object to manipulate. Something to focus on, i.e. size and shape. Unidimensional. Like a shoe, pillow, or toaster.
  • Consider if an objectified relationship is the kind you want with your body.
  • Cultural messages are designed for you to believe your body is not good enough, that your relationship must be conflictual.
  • Advertisers and social media are brilliant at promoting body as enemy. Relationships with enemies are rarely neutral or happy.
  • What if you embraced with delight, or at least accepted with neutrality, the whole of you?


4. Be on your own side.

  • Your body is with you for life. It will carry you through life’s ups and downs.
  • Your body will age, experience illness and injury, and change. Everything does.
  • Your body provides you with feedback about emotions, health, the environment and so much more.
  • The more friendly you are in the relationship with your own body, the more you will be able to access its wealth of knowledge.



5. Be joyous.

A joyous woman in a pool, seated in an inflatable and smiling
  • Your body is your own personal pleasure source. Sensory capacities are your gateway into joy.
  • Stop for a moment. Look, listen, feel, taste, smell.
  • BREATHE. That breath of air? That is life.

6. Be active.

a paddle for a kayak
A woman's feet in purple sneakers on a skateboard.
  • Your body is a type of instrument, and not just an ornament.
  • Your body, in water or on the ground, is meant for you to enjoy; it is not just something to decorate.
  • Regardless of age, health, or size, your body has the capacity to move.
  • Maybe the movement is dipping your toe into an ocean’s wave, as it comes to shore. Or stretching your fingers. How about expanding your lungs with a deep breath in, and contracting them with your exhale. Or skateboarding in purple sparkle sneakers.

7. Be courageous.

  • How about tapping into your well of courage and experimenting with these body image recommendations?
  • Be a rebel and be the change you wish for the world.
  • Choose one of these 9 ideas and notice how you feel in and about your body.
  • You DO have agency with your body….especially when you are on your own side.
Well-Behaved Women Round Magnet

8. Be respectful.

  • Your body does hear everything you think.
  • Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your body. Or at least not cruel.
  • Speak to yourself as you would a friend.
  • Consider all your body has carried you through.
  • Have thanks. Give yourself grace.

9. Be you

  • “You” are made up of all the amazing people who came before you. You may have your mom’s hips. Or your grandmother’s ears. Or your dad’s eyes.
  • Your body contains the genetics of your ancestors. You are a walking family tree.

Body image issues are complex. Overcoming them takes time, awareness, and trust.

Start with one of the ideas. Add another as you are ready. You don’t need to do all at once. One step at a time.

Remember to love yourself. Once you do, everything will fall into place.

I am a non-diet, Certified Intuitive Eating specialist and clinical psychologist in MA. If you’re struggling with your body image and/or an eating disorder, and want to chat with me, please contact me here.

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