Body image. These two small words sum up so much of the struggle around eating and weight. Because we don’t feel good about our bodies, we treat them in ways that perpetuate the struggle. We diet…and binge. We overexercise…and injure ourselves. We do both…and burn out. So that self-care isn’t on the docket anymore.
It’s odd that starting to feel better about ourselves can have such an impact in helping us start to feel better in our bodies. The mind-body connection is indeed a powerful thing.
How to Improve Your Body Image
Improving body image is about starting to talk nicely to ourselves. It’s about giving up the negative thoughts and actions that interfere with taking care of ourselves and perpetuate the idea that we are what we weigh.
Focus on one step at a time, taking only one a day. In just a week, you can find yourself in a better place.
Try these seven steps to improve your body image
Step #1: Raise your awareness. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself about your body. Do you even know when you are criticizing it? Once you notice, figure out just what you are saying. Are your feelings of self-worth based on your body size? Is that a fair judgment?
Step #2: Practice looking at yourself in an objective way, non-judgmentally. Once you become more aware of the ways you talk to yourself about your body, practice thinking differently to plant seeds that can grow into a new body image. Take small steps if large ones seem unrealistic. For example, try just being neutral about your body, not negative or positive. When you stand before a mirror, refrain from making any judgment about your body. You’ll lay the groundwork for moving further when you’re ready.
Step #3: Aim for healthy self-talk. Come up with a list of affirmations that sound and feel authentic to you: “I am more than my reflection.” “I appreciate my body for what it does for me.” Give up fat talk: “I’m so fat.” “Does this make me look fat?”
Step #4: Practice self-compassion. Focus on your self-worth rather than your self-image. Acknowledge what you do well rather than spending time thinking about how you lookl or images that don’t fit you.
Step #5: Practice random acts of kindness — directed towards you. Step out of your usual and do something spontaneous that pleases you. Instead of walking on past the salon at the mall, stop for a massage, pedicure, manicure. Spend an afternoon reading that delicious novel you’ve been hearing about. Enjoy the day with your girlfriend doing things you both love; leave the kids at home with the hub. Spend five minutes at an art gallery to find one piece of art that sings to you. Sit in a chair with your child and tell secrets about wishes or dreams.
Step #6: Surround yourself with images and art that represent women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Toss those magazines that feature air-brushed women who don’t really look like they appear on the magazine. Seek out books that feature heroines who look different than what’s usually pictured. Try Pearlsong Press, which specializes in Rubenesque romances. Sculptor Joyce Ann Mudd offers beautiful depictions of women of size.
Step #7: Feed and move your body in pleasurable ways. Then make it a habit — keep doing it!
A version of this article originally appeared on SpryLiving.com.