Top 10 Strategies to Promote Healthy Body Image
Whether we want to admit it or not, we all worry about rocking our summer bodies. Alongside that desire comes internal self-talk, and if we aren’t intentional about it, this can be more debilitating than helpful. As a clinician, I have worked with individuals suffering from eating disorders for over 15 years. In my experience, here are my top ten recommendations for promoting a healthy body image this summer!
1. Instead of focusing on the flaws that you see in your body, focus on what your body has helped you to accomplish in life. There is no such thing as a perfect body. However, every body has contributed to completing important tasks. Let me give you some examples. Are you a mother? Then your body has completed an unbelievable feat. Have you competed as an athlete? Then your body has displayed your talents.
2. Think about how your body contributes to an enhanced quality of life. This is one of the most impactful examples I have used in therapy with my clients. Imagine the absence of vital independent functions like mobility. If you need a boost in appreciation of your body, take away a function for a day. Put one of your arms in a sling, try using a wheelchair or trying functioning with a blindfold or earplugs. I promise this will remind you to grant the appreciation that your body deserves.
3. Focus your attention on the parts of your body image that you like most. This can include not only your body itself, but your hair, your eyes and your smile! Reflect on compliments that you have received from your friends and family. If someone takes time out of their day to point out your strengths, chances are that you should be acknowledging them as well.
4. Establish a healthy eating pattern that provides a consistent sense of organization and healthy control. One of the most common reasons for a body image preoccupation is uncontrolled eating, which is often followed by bloating and discomfort. It is during these times of chaos that we often lash out negatively against ourselves! Avoid becoming a hot mess by staying focused and organized!
5. Let your body type guide your clothing choices instead of trying to mold your body image to a clothing size. How many of us have bought something for when we get skinnier or become more muscular? Most of us are probably guilty of this. Furthermore, get rid of clothes that are associated with an unhealthy weight or body size to promote maintenance of improved health. It is important that we embrace where we are throughout our health journey and celebrate success along the way.
6. Engage in daily exercise. This will not only improve overall health, but it will also make you feel stronger physically and psychologically. Recognition of your body’s strength will help redirect any potential negative body image towards positive perspectives.
7. Choose a target weight range instead of a single target number. It is normal for the body to fluctuate 3-5 lbs daily (or more!) and giving your body grace during times of fluctuation is essential to avoid negative body image cycles.
8. Be confident in your identity outside of your appearance. Everyone has unique skills, strengths and life contributions that make them who they are. Stop comparing yourself to others! Appearance is only one small piece of who you are. Practice daily positive self-talk. This could come in the form of journaling, messages written on your bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker or alerts on your phone. You might be surprised how impactful these positive messages to yourself can be!
9. Choose to be a critical viewer of social media. Pay attention to messages and images that negatively affect the way you feel about your appearance. We all know that marketing messages can be aimed at vulnerabilities and images are often photoshopped. Choose to engage in only those dynamics that promote positive self-talk and improvements in body image.
10. Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. Toxic body image is contagious! If you are constantly in the presence of people who nitpick their own body image, weight and appearance, behavioral contagion is likely to take over! Eliminate that potential by choosing your environments very carefully.