Are you suffering from a serious case of negative body image? You’re not alone. Low self-acceptance and poor body image often go hand-in-hand, especially for women.
Our perceptions of ourselves start when we’re quite young. In fact, as early as 15 months of age, children begin to look in the mirror and realize they are staring at themselves.
I remember as a young child, for instance, thinking I had a rather large backside and felt so self-conscious about it that I wore my winter jacket indoors all the time, much to my peers’ and teachers’ befuddlement.
Your Self-Perception Was Influenced By Others
To understand how we have created our self-perceptions as adults, it’s important to learn more about our past and in what ways our perceptions of self were formed early on; by peers, by parents, by magazines, and even through the lens of our communities and society.
It’s important to know that how we imagine the body is a subjective creation that can generate concrete perceptions later in life. Our very “concrete” conclusions of ourselves can start to run our lives in unsupportive ways and lead to disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with our bodies, leading to a negative body image and even low self-acceptance.
We often continue to believe what we imagine to be true irrespective of someone else’s “truth” or imagination. In other words, the adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” becomes a term that is unsubstantiated or unbelievable in the mind of the person who views themselves as unattractive or whose appearance is deemed as unworthy of love and affection and accolades.
So, with all this sobering backdrop, it may seem like it’s nearly impossible to recalibrate and re-wire our faulty thinking into truly accepting ourselves and appreciating our inherent beauty. We simply don’t believe it is possible to approach life from a place of self-love rather than self-loathing, irrespective of our age, our size and our appearance. The good news is that is not true at all!
You Can Switch from a Negative to a Positive Body Image
The five strategies of self-acceptance I list below can serve as a jumping off point to help heal your relationship with your body and it starts by agreeing squarely to be in it completely.
The moment you change your perception, is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body. – Bruce Lipton
1. MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS
When you learn to seek inner stillness, it creates space to allow “in the moment thinking” vs. “what was and what will always be” thinking. When you accept and acknowledge “what is,” your parasympathetic nervous system is activated – creating calm and relaxation. Natural dopamine receptors can be regenerated through ongoing meditation and innate happiness can be felt, reducing self-doubt, negative self-talk, anxiety, and compulsiveness.
2. MINDFUL EATING
Focusing on nourishing your body with healthy foods can help you take your emphasis off weight and dress size. You now shift your focus on how those foods make your body feel alive and energized.
Mindful and slow eating allow you to appreciate what you’re putting into your body, where the food came from, and how to better know when you are full and what your body needs. It helps you create a better relationship with yourself.
When you don’t like your body, you might be tempted to turn to “punishing” exercise and dieting regimes, which simply don’t work in the long term. It’s not uncommon for binges to be the go-to comfort after such grueling body punishing episodes. Mindful eating creates space between you and a binge.
3. POSITIVE MANTRAS
Research shows that devoting time to gratefulness releases more oxytocin and happiness hormones – keys for feeling self-actualized and embodied.
Have you ever found yourself saying mean things about your body to yourself? “Ugh, my thighs look so gross.” “Look at the blubber on my tummy!”
Could you imagine saying those things to someone else? Why is it that so many of us don’t blink twice about saying them to ourselves?
Positive mantras help you create new neural pathways to take shape in your brain and new synapses to flow. Thinking and saying positive mantras to yourself help improves your self-image over time.
Body Positive Mantra Examples:
I chose to eat healthy nourishing foods that make my body feel good
I am grateful for my body because ____
I exercise to make me healthier, not to make me skinnier
I am much more than a number on a scale
My body is powerful because _____
4. JOYFUL EXERCISE
I used to exercise only because I felt I had to in order to make up for the cake I ate last night or to make sure I didn’t gain weight. This set up a negative association with exercise for me so much so that I almost stopped completely.
It wasn’t until I found hot yoga and kettlebell training … which I thoroughly enjoy … that I began to realize that movement is a gift of self-care and self-love. When I move my body in ways that make me feel strong and empowered, I have a better relationship with my body overall.
I have finally realized that exercise is a gift and not a form of self-punishment. So my advice to you is to sample many different ways of moving your body and choose an exercise plan that fits who you are as a person and gives you a sense of embodiment and strength. This, in turn, will support your overall body image.
5. MIRROR WORK
Once a week, stand in front of the mirror with as little clothes on as you feel comfortable. Observe your body for 5 minutes without judgment. Simply notice your reactions, thoughts, and feelings.
Over the course of a few weeks – work up to 20 minutes of just witnessing and observing your physical form and eventually finding something about each body part to affirm and honor.
If you’re uncomfortable with this practice, you could substitute it by doing a weekly body scan where you touch each body part and thank it and respect it for its original, intended use. For instance, after having my three babies, my belly never returned to its flat and stretch-mark free place. Instead of bemoaning this fact, I allow myself to lie down, touch my belly and thank it for the beautiful and healthy children it housed for me. I now feel gratitude rather than fear and loathing.
I hope these strategies were both eye-opening and supportive for you. If you’d like to learn more about me and what I do, please feel free to visit my website at www.jennyedencoaching.com
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Jenny Eden Berk, MSEd, is the founder and owner of Jenny Eden Coaching – a coaching practice devoted to helping men, women and teens create a more healthy and sustainable relationship with food and their body image.
She is an Eating Psychology Coach, a mindful eating instructor and health and wellness blogger. She specializes in kind and gentle weight loss, unique binge eating cessation techniques and mindful eating practices.
She earned her certificate from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in 2015 and her MB-Eat certificate in 2016.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/jennyedencoaching/
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A step-by-step spiritual program to break free from emotional eating