It goes without saying that aspects of the culture we grow up in relating to body image and what it means to be beautiful can be toxic. Between the expectations of thigh gaps, a flat stomach and the absence of cellulite; it’s no wonder so many of us struggle to accept and feel comfortable with the appearance of our bodies. In the past, I was also someone who fell victim to the mentality that I needed to look this way.
As a result of this, I developed an unhealthy and disconnected relationship with my body; convinced that in order to be beautiful, I had to conform to these unrealistic standards. In the years following my realisation that the habits that this pursuit for skinny required were neither healthy or attainable, I have dedicated my time to basically ‘un-learning’ everything we are taught through media about the way our bodies are supposed to look.
Below are seven things that I have found to be helpful in shaping a more positive body image and mindset throughout this process.
- Curate a positive social media feed.
How many accounts do you follow that constantly post pictures of thin women in bikinis, crop tops, and active wear (editor: or excessively muscular men!)? Considering how much time we spend scrolling online, it’s not hard to understand the underlying pressure that viewing these images on a daily basis can create.
Please understand that these images are highly staged and edited; making them entirely unrealistic, unattainable, and most of all unhealthy. Next time you see a post like this in your feed, ask yourself the following question:
“How does it make me feel looking at this picture?”
If the answer is anything other than good; then I strongly encourage you to unfollow them. Trust me when I say you will benefit from this.
On the flip side, it’s also important to seek out accounts that promote a healthy body image. Try checking out @jshealth and @nude_nutritionist. They are just a couple of my favorites!
- Recognise your body for everything that it can do.
Think of 3 things you love to spend your time doing. For me, this includes being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and cooking. One thing that all of these have in common is that they require me to have a strong and healthy body. Emphasising the importance of the functional capacity of my body over its physical appearance is something that has been helpful in removing the power that self-critical thoughts around the appearance of my body once held.
- Appreciate the parts of your body that you do like.
We can get so caught up in obsessing over every little detail of our body that we don’t like, that we can sometimes forget to remind ourselves of the things that we do like. Next time you look at yourself in the mirror, I challenge you to name something you like about yourself.
For those of you who are used to picking apart everything you dislike about your body, complimenting yourself may feel like a foreign concept. I encourage you to try it even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Everyone is unique and beautiful in their own way. I know you can think of something.
- Speak kindly to yourself.
Following on from the last point, it is not abnormal for us to have a negative internal dialogue when it comes to the way we think about our bodies. In the past, this type of thinking used to dictate the way I perceived myself. Your thoughts are powerful. Although it sometimes may not feel like it, they are something that you have control over creating. In moments where self-critical thoughts arise, I now choose to stop myself and replace these thoughts with something more kind towards my body, such as:
“I am grateful for my healthy body”
“I love and accept my body”
Again, this is a habit that requires patience to learn. It is entirely normal for it to feel unnatural if you are used to speaking to yourself in only a negative way.
- Focus on your non-physical qualities.
As cliche as this may sound, true beauty really does come from within. Rather than spending all of your time worrying about the size of your clothes or the number on the scales, try and focus on working on your non-physical qualities. Being kind, caring and genuine are all beautiful qualities to possess. When you start to invest in and embody these traits, they will automatically project outward and have a positive influence on the way you are perceived by others.
- Ditch the scales.
I speak from experience when I say that if you can’t learn to love and accept your body at the weight it is now, you never will no matter how low the number on the scales is. Not only can this type of behaviour become incredibly obsessive, it also invites so much unnecessary stress into your life. Focusing on adopting healthy and sustainable lifestyle habits is a much more worthwhile use of your time than tracking your weight. A number on the scales cannot quantify your worth, so please don’t let it dictate the way you feel about yourself, or whether or not you are worthy of eating that day.
- Embrace your individuality.
We are all born in bodies of different shapes and sizes. Rather than modifying ourselves to fit social standards, I think we could all benefit from investing time into embracing who we actually are. Becoming familiar with your body shape, and learning what is normal, healthy and attainable for you is a liberating thing. I now find so much comfort in understanding that my straight up and down body type will never allow me to fit the body standards set by those with more curvy figures. This has helped me to reduce the stress that comes with comparing myself to body standards that in reality have nothing to do with me.