How to Overcome Negative Body Image
What do you think of when you hear the words body image? Do you think about your body? Does it make you think about how people see your body? Do you compare yourself to someone else? These are all common thoughts when thinking about body image. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, body image is a subjective picture of one’s own physical established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others (Source). So, however, you think about your body, it reflects your body image. Many people struggle with having a negative perception of their body image; myself included.
When I was younger I had a big bone structure; I get it from my parents being tall and built. My dad even says when he used to pick me up when I was young I was always heavier than most just based on the way I am built. Having wide hips and a big bottom also run in the family. It can be so hard to find clothes because my hips are wider than my waist ( I am not complaining just giving you a perspective of my body).
I had been a figure skater for 16 years giving my legs some muscle making myself look even bigger. With a bigger built I always compared myself to the thin tiny girls thinking if I wanted to be normal I had to look like them. The funny thing is I was really thin back then but still felt nowhere near good enough. Once I started working out I felt better and started to love my muscular body.
However, recently during this pandemic, I have gained some weight from not being as active and not eating the best. This has such an effect on my mental health. It brought me back to comparing myself to others who were really thin, had me restricting my diet, and just overall disliking my body.
Society makes you feel like you need to fit into this mold of the “normal body size” when in reality only a small portion of people can. Everyone is built differently. When I finally realized how unhappy with myself I was I took a step back and told myself I really need to find ways to fall back in love with my body.
It has taken some work to start loving my body again; I am taking it one at step a time. Here are some things I have done to help make the process a little easier.
Unfollowing People on Instagram
If you take anything away from this post, please let it be this. I did not realize how much an effect Instagram had on my body image until I got rid of the people I was comparing myself too. It was something I wish I had done sooner.
I went through my Instagram following and unfollowed influencers who were not really making my life better as well as women who I compared myself too. This was hard because there were a few people whose content I loved but just found myself comparing my body to theirs too often.
After unfollowing people I took it one step further and started following people whose bodies looked more like mine and people who were spreading positive body image. No words can explain how much better I feel so much better when I go on Instagram and see people who look like me. I don’t compare myself to these unrealistic body types anymore; I also spend way less time on Instagram.
(Have to give a shoutout to my friend Bree for this tip because she was the one who convinced me to do it).
Giving Myself Gratitude
I have had such negative thoughts about my body image that I needed to find ways to change my thought process. To help mend my thoughts about my body, I started to tell myself what I liked about my body, as well as how thankful I am for a body that has helped me achieve many things in my life.
When I look in the mirror in the morning, instead of lifting my shirt up and looking at my stomach, I look at myself and think of what I am thankful for. Of course, some mornings, I still wake up and start criticizing my body, but it is a habit I am trying to break. By consistently saying positive things to myself, I am working on shifting my mindset from negative to positive.
We should constantly be giving gratitude to ourselves and our bodies. Society has messed up body image for women and men so much that we forget to think about all the good things our bodies have done for us.
Mending my Relationship with the Gym
For a while, I was only working out because I wanted to lose weight and be skinny. I would get so mad at myself when I missed a workout. By doing this I would be pushing my body really hard to get results that were unrealistic for my body. This made me start to hate working out.
This is when I knew something was wrong when I started hating working out because the gym was my favourite place. This made me think t back to why I went to the gym in the first place. I would go to the gym because it made me feel good; I loved challenging my body and seeing what I was cable of doing. I needed to get back to going to the gum for me not to for the unattainable goals I was setting.
By mending my relationship with the gym, I can work out the way I want too. I do workouts that make me happy and allow me to try new things. By doing workouts that make me happy I have a new respect for my body. I have challenged my body to do exercises I never thought I was capable of doing. I can almost do a pull up which has been a goal of mine for years. I am so much stronger and happier.
Not Comparing Myself to the Old me
I didn’t just compare myself to other people I was comparing myself to the old me. I was comparing myself to my high school self a whole different person. This was a habit I started when I gained some weight, not healthy at all. It was my boyfriend who made me realize that the girl in the photo is a whole different person. This girl had not achieved the things she has today.
When I would look at an old photo of me instead of saying “ugh I used to be so skinny”, I try to tell myself that this girl in the photo is about to do some amazing things, she is about to meet amazing people. I try to shift my mindset from looking at my body to looking at how far I have come. Try it!! It helps you realize how much you have achieved in your life.
Mended my Relationship with Food
This is still something I am working on daily!! I am the type of person who gets mad at myself for eating something I should not have. That’s not healthy and, I will be the first one to admit that. In fact, it’s so unhealthy I had to do something to change it. So, I started listening to my body and intuitive eating. I did not let food control me, I let my body control what food I wanted.
If I was craving a certain food I allowed myself to have it. By saying no to something I would just want it more. So by allowing myself to have the food I wanted I ended up craving it less. I would also see how food made me feel. If I felt crappy then I would know that if I wanted that food, my stomach will be upset. This has been allowing myself to have fewer cravings for sweets or unhealthy foods because I know how much it upsets my stomach.
By mending my relationship with good I have learned to stop restricting myself from certain things. Carbs were something I used to restrict my body from having, but you know what carbs are freaking amazing and your body needs them for fuel. Now I just listen to what my body wants, I have learned to differentiate cravings from something I want and something I need.
Also, don’t count your calories, it is just adding more stress to your life. Fuel your body with whole healthy foods as well as some cravings here and there and you will be so much happier.
Body image is hard so many people struggle with it. Especially because society is trying to make us all look the same. It’s hard to go into a store and realize you don’t fit into their unrealistic sizing. That can trigger a breakdown I know it has for me many times and that’s totally normal. Just remember you are unique no matter what size you are. You are a person who is so loved and I guarantee no one is thinking anything about your body.
If you want to tone up and look a certain way by all means do it but do it with a positive attitude. Don’t do it because you have to look a certain way, do it because this is a goal you set. You are not alone in your struggles. You are unique in your own way. Take the time to learn to love yourself because you are amazing!