How to Improve your Body Image for 2020 and Beyond

Healthy body image

Your body image doesn’t start in the mirror. It starts in the mind. Self-esteem doesn’t start in the mirror. It starts in the mind. Both body image and self-esteem impact our mental health, and all three matter to your overall well-being.

At Skyterra Wellness, we understand it isn’t easy to have a healthy body image. The thoughts of, “I don’t like the way I look” or “I wish I looked like ____” are simple to cultivate. Years of negative body thoughts, an abusive inner critic and chronic dieting can influence where your body image stands today. In fact, you may believe some of the thoughts to be true even though reality begs to differ. 

You deserve a healthy body image

Reading one blog won’t do the trick, but planting positive seeds in your mind could eventually grow and blossom into something beautiful. 

Let’s first begin by exploring what body image entails. Body image is different than one’s self-esteem. In simple language, body image is how you think and feel about your body. Self-esteem is how you think and feel about yourself as an entire being. Your body image is a layer within your self-esteem.

Unfortunately, many people struggle with poor body image. Consider these facts:

  • Roughly 80 percent of women in America report they don’t like how they look
  • More than 30 percent of men are not satisfied with their body
  • More than 50 percent of Americans are actively trying to lose weight
  • Close to 70 percent of “normal” weighted women want to lose weight
  • Dieting is starting in children as young as six years old
  • Depression, social anxiety, eating disorders, disordered eating, excessive exercise and more can all surface from poor body image

Take inventory of your body image

If you don’t know if you have poor body image, then perhaps you can ask yourself if you have a healthy body image. Having healthy and positive body image most likely means you can look at yourself and like what you look like today.

You can look at yourself and truly accept it. You can look in the mirror and your mind doesn’t go to a place of how you can change something. You can look in the mirror and have no desire to physically change your appearance or body towards something it “should” look like. You have the ability to resist societal pressures and expectations.

With this all being said, having a healthy body image doesn’t mean you don’t care about how you look. Most of us probably want to look and feel good. It is truly more about our thoughts and how we feel about our body. If you are constantly allowing the inner critic to take over, then perhaps your body image is not in the most desired place. 

Respecting your body more

It is far too easy to believe our critical thoughts and allow those thoughts to turn into harmful and unsustainable behaviors. Harsh dieting, following fad diets, restrictive eating, extreme exercise, exercise as punishment and more can easily come into play.

Your body image could then influence how you truly perceive yourself as a whole being, which then negatively influences your self-esteem and mental health. Over time, depression, feeling overwhelmed, the inability to cope, feeling inadequate and more turns into reality.

Is this okay? No. Is this healthy? No. Is it difficult to shift? Yes.

How to move from negative to positive body image

Creating positive body image is not easy, but the suggestions below are five ways to shift from less negative to more positive body image. It may not come naturally and that is normal. Take small steps and see what happens:

Step One: Practice more body respect.

When you think of respect, you may think about how you respect other people in your life. This same thought and consideration goes towards your body.

You may not always like what your body is doing or how it is showing up today, but you can respect it. You can choose to provide it with dignity and appreciation. This could look like getting adequate sleep, taking time to eat breakfast, going on a walk, staying hydrated or practicing other forms of self-care.

Step Two: Surround yourself with friends and family who love you for you.

Ideally, we would spend more time around people that truly accept our uniqueness no matter what we look like, no matter what we weigh, and through “sickness” and in “health.” This type of unconditional love is needed in today’s world and we would encourage you to seek out these people in your life.

Instead of trying to please the people that you may never please, use that valuable energy to be around those that are truly supportive. 

Step Three: Gain more awareness of how you talk to your body.

You may not completely be aware of how you talk to yourself and your body. Now is the time to pause and reflect. You could write things out in a journal if that is helpful for you. Start with the morning and work your way through the day.

You may notice that you compare yourself to others, beat yourself up as you get dressed in the morning, fixate over certain body parts and more. As you gain more awareness, ask yourself if these thoughts are providing value. They probably are not productive nor valuable.

Step Four: Reframe negative thoughts into positive thoughts.

Once you notice the negative thoughts roaming around in your head, find time to pause and notice what is being said. After the pause, try your best to reframe the negative thoughts into positive thoughts.

For example, you may find yourself comparing your body to someone in a group fitness class. You may say something like, “I wish I had legs like that.” If you took a moment to reflect and reframe, then you could turn that negative thought into something like, “I am grateful for my legs today because they are strong.”

It may be difficult to come up with positive thoughts, but the more you say them and believe them then your body image can begin to shift towards something loving and kind. 

Step Five: You only have one body, find ways to appreciate it.

Your body is not a punching bag.

Find subtle ways to appreciate your body on a daily basis. This could look different every single day and week. It could look like making yourself a nice dinner.

You could schedule a massage or facial. You could ask a friend to join you on a walk so you can get some needed movement in. Other ideas include attending a yoga class, taking a 10-minute break to be by yourself, soak in a warm bath, or schedule a much needed haircut, etc. 

At Skyterra Wellness, we have numerous classes that support self-care and body appreciation. We aim to meet guests where they are at, no matter what. Click here or call 1-888-282-1657 to book your stay.

— By Lindsay Ford, Registered Dietitian, and Shannon Worley, MSW, LCSW