I’ve been planning to write this post for a while, and just this weekend I was hit with some hard body image days. Perfect, I thought. How can I write about improving body image, when I am not walking the walk? But that’s why I am writing here, because I don’t have it all together. I still have bad body image days, but I have come a long way and learned tools on how to not get stuck in negative body image. Because I know that so many women struggle, I want to share these tools and lessons with you.
There is no quick answer for body image struggles. Early on in recovery, I was told that body image was the last thing to go. It takes time to retrain your mind and beliefs, and find new coping mechanisms. At the beginning of my body image journey, I had a lot of support from therapists, doctors, and family – support is so important! You need people to remind you that you are beautiful, and that you are doing the right thing, because your brain will tell you otherwise.
First, I needed to unconditionally accept that whatever size I’m at is where my body is supposed to be. I didn’t believe this mindset at the beginning, but it’s something I’m learning to do, especially as my body has changed with age. When you take away the numbers and weight, you can focus on what’s right for you and your health. Our bodies have a natural set point that ranges from 10-20 pounds, and will do everything it can to hold onto that set point. Your set point is the weight you can happily maintain without much effort. I controlled my food and exercise for many years, which left me feeling stressed and isolated.
For me, learning to accept my set point means being able to enjoy life, have fun, eat good food, be present with people, and have the mental energy to do big things! So even to this day when I have the urge to change my body, I remember that what matters most to me is living life to the fullest (not being the smallest size). I need energy to do that!
So how did I get to this point? Time. Time and a determination to not live in bondage to my body. If you are feeling bound to your weight or maintaining a certain image, I truly believe you can find freedom as well! Here are my top tips to get you started:
1) DITCH THE SCALE It’s so easy to get stuck on numbers. Seeing a couple pounds up can ruin a perfectly good day. Remember, our weight naturally fluctuates 10-20 pounds. I have no idea what I weigh, and I want to keep it that way. I base health on how I feel, not on the numbers.
2) STOP BODY CHECKING The more I stare at my body and pick it apart, the worse I feel about it. I used to stand in front of the mirror all the time, analyzing it and picking it apart, and it never made me feel better about my body. When we stare at an aspect of our bodies, we tend to magnify it and take it out of the whole picture.
Bringing awareness to how often you body check makes a difference. Pick a day to track body checking. Every time you check yourself out in the mirror of feel a part of your body, put a tick mark on a post-it. I did this exercise a couple days and intentionally tried to reduce it.
3) FIND CLOTHES THAT FIT Are you holding onto that pair of pants that kind of fit, but don’t make you feel great or that dress that your hoping to fit into again one day? Word of advice – just get rid of them. When clothes don’t fit, they make me feel uncomfortable in my body, which leads to negative body image. Let go of the clothes that don’t make you feel great (either sell or donate) and invest in some clothes that feel good.
4) DO A MEDIA DETOX The messages we surround ourselves with are what we believe. When I started my recovery journey, I unfollowed blogs and stopped reading books and magazines that made me feel worse about myself. Unfollow accounts that make you feel negative about yourself, and let go of health and diet magazines.
5) FILL YOUR MIND WITH GOOD As you cut out negative messages, fill your mind and space with messages that encourage your body image journey. There are many great books, blogs, Instagram accounts, and podcasts that have helped me immensely!
You don’t need to do everything all at once. Pick one of two to try, and let me know how it’s going for you! Again, it’s a process, so give yourself grace and patience along the way.
I have practiced all of these tools over the last nine years, and they have made such a difference. I’m at a place now, where what matters most to me is feeling healthy and living life freely. Learning to listen to my body has helped me set that mindset and be more gentle with my body. When I focus on giving my body what it needs as opposed to trying to control my size, I don’t have time to worry about my weight.
So even today, as I struggle to appreciate my body and give it grace, I’m choosing to listen to my body and trust it knows where it needs to be.