How often have you told yourself something along the lines of, “I will feel better about myself when I lose 5 more pounds,” or perhaps “when I fit into my old jeans,” or maybe it’s “when I tone my arms…”? If these “when” statements sound familiar to you, keep reading. Just as we experience and are influenced by diet culture, there is indeed a culture of negative body image. As you can presume, the two go hand in hand.
How many times have you lost weight but still felt dissatisfied with your body? More than likely, you will continue to feel this way until you make a change from within. The process starts with learning to love and appreciate your body the way it is—here and now, as it is in this very moment. This may sound like a daunting or perhaps even impossible task. But rest assured, while this isn’t an overnight fix, there are some concrete ideas you can put into place right away to help you on this journey.
Here are 4 ways you can feel more comfortable in your own skin.
Make a list of things your body allows you to do. You are more than just a number on the scale. Your body protects you and shows up for you daily. It’s unique, too. What are you able to do with your body that others may not be able to? What strengths do you have (mentally and physically)? Maybe you’re able to do five push ups now, whereas a few months ago, you weren’t able to do any.
Take out a piece of paper, or open the notes app on your phone and make a list of what your body allows you to do. Some examples include, my body allows me to walk my dog each morning, it allows me to run around with my kids, or it allows me to lay on the ground and watch the stars. I have hands that help me be creative. I have eyes to see beauty in the world. There are so many things to appreciate.
To take this a step further, as a daily journal prompt, you can write down three things that your body allows you to do each day. This will allow you to reflect and honor all that you are capable of. “Your body is an instrument, not an ornament,” state Drs Lindsay and Lexi Kite, identical twins and co-directors of the nonprofit organization Beauty Redefined.
Choose outfits that make you feel comfortable and confident. Perhaps the example of “when I fit into my old jeans” from above resonated with you. In reality, those jeans were from a different time in your life where your body and mind were navigating different activities, experiences, and learnings. Just as life evolves and changes around us as we live, our bodies do the same, taking us through each season of our lives.
Instead of avoiding doing something you really want to do or waiting until you fit into “x” item of clothing, go out and get some outfits that you feel comfortable and confident in. Do jeans not bring you joy? No problem, join the lounge pants for life crew. It’s all about wearing what works best for you. Remember, the clothes are meant to fit your body. Not the other way around.
Exercise for your well-being. If you’re exercising for the sole purpose of burning calories or losing weight, you’re missing out. When you exercise, the goal in mind should be your health and your overall well-being. Exercise for energy, to improve your mood, improve your sleep, or even help reduce your risk of disease.
Exercise should also bring you joy. Yes, joy. Why make yourself suffer through a spin class if that isn’t something you enjoy? Maybe you really like walking or even dancing. As you start to find movement you enjoy, you will realize how nourishing it is, which will hopefully allow you to have a better relationship with your body.
Additionally, there is confidence that comes with moving your body in a way that feels good. Shifting the focus away from shrinking your body to instead gaining strength, endurance and stamina can be very empowering, not to mention more sustainable. When it comes to health, there is no one-size-fits-all.
Eliminate the negativity. This might be the most difficult, but its application can also have the most impact. Your mind absorbs what it sees, especially if you are consuming that information consistently. When you click on an ad that claims you can get abs in 10 days, the algorithm of your feed is going to begin showing you more ads like this.
The unfortunate reality is that most of these ads or posts you see on social media or even billboards are not showing you the process or the whole truth and instead are showing you what they want you to see. How would it feel to click unfollow or unsubscribe on things like this and instead click follow on accounts that don’t encourage strict dieting or unrealistic programs and instead promote body positivity?
There is no shortage of amazing authors, speakers, and influencers who use their voices on social media and other outlets to share these body positive messages. Find and follow them and see how that may impact your thoughts.
Negativity can present itself in other ways like who you surround yourself with, feeding into negative self talk, and comparing yourself to others. Whether it be practicing more self-love and body positivity, or coming to a place of body neutrality, there are many ways you can work towards feeling comfortable in your own skin. If you’re feeling ready to act on this, take it one step at a time.
Which of the four tips above resonate with you most? Dive deeper into it by evaluating where you are currently and where you would ideally like to be. This could look like journaling, or perhaps confiding in a loved one who may even join you on your journey! If you continue to struggle in this area, consider working with a mental health professional who specializes in body image for additional support.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.