5 Ways You Can Work Towards A Healthier Body Image
Raise your hand if you've ever felt personally victimized by a full length mirror and the concept of positive body image.
While we could list all the statistics and studies on the body image issues women face, the reality is, you've already read them. (Though if you do want to educate yourself on it, this study by Refinery29 in 2016 is super interesting and the National Eating Disorders Association's website is loaded with facts and figures.) We aren't new to the problem. We just maybe don't know where we go from there to work towards a positive body image.
The good news is, the world is starting to shift. Advertising and entertainment are getting more inclusive of women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and backgrounds. Mainstream media is making positive body image a priority, with many brands like Refinery29 creating game changing campaigns like their The Anti-Diet Project series or Dove's Real Beauty campaign.
The question is, how do we shift our minds when they have spent so many years being sculpted by alternative, damaging ideas about how we should look? While there is no size fits all on that answer, we've found some tried and true methods that can help you walk closer towards self love and acceptance.
1. Take a good long look in the mirror.
When you are feeling down on yourself, the last thing you want to do is look in the mirror and remind yourself of all the emotions wreaking havoc on your mental state. But instead of avoiding something, try changing you approach.
Stand in front of your mirror and really look at yourself. Yourself. Not your thighs or your waist or whatever you are less than pleased with. Just look at yourself as a human being. One unit, not ten thousand flaws or things to that need improvement. Look at yourself as a spirit whose body is their vehicle to having a human experience. And in that moment, try to find gratitude for that vehicle. Every milestone that you have achieved has been powered by it. Every memory that you have in your mental filing cabinet was possible because of it. Every move you have made, be it good or bad, has carved you into who you are and they were able to happen thanks to that vehicle.
Try to fill your heart with gratitude the next time you look in the mirror. Thank your body for what it has done for you and look from a place of thanks rather than a place of want. (We'll get to the place of want in a minute.)
Oprah recalled a few months ago at the Super Soul Sessions about having this experience in front of the mirror and how it led to body acceptance in a way she had never experienced in the past. "I started blessing and thanking my body for carrying me all these years.”
2. Mine your mind.
Have you ever heard of data mining? It's a tech word that is defined as, "the practice of examining large databases in order to generate new information."
Well, mining doesn't just have to take place when dealing with data or coal. You can mine your mind as well. According to the National Science Foundation, we have 35 to 48 thoughts per minute. How many of those do we even notice? So that begs the question, how often are we thinking negative things about our bodies that do not even reach past our subconscious? No matter how you slice it, that's a lot of mental data. Why not use it to gather new information about yourself?
While it would be impossible to practice this 24/7, try taking stock of your self-talk during a few pivotal times of your day. Perhaps it's when you're getting dressed in the morning, or after a tough workout at the gym, or when you are trying on clothes at a store.
At first, just listen to yourself and try to find a deeper understanding of what you are consistently saying to yourself. In time, find the consistencies in what you say, and work to shift those thoughts. Simply making yourself more aware of what you think will be a very transformative practice.
3. Seek out answers.
Fortunately, we live in an abundant world, filled with remarkable thought leaders who are saying what you are waiting to hear. Seek out your soul whisperers. Maybe it's an author whose story connects with your core. It could be a fictional character who goes through an evolution that you hope to experience. Perhaps it's a therapist or coach of some kind. Guidance is as valuable as the connection the seeker finds in what is being said. Shop around and find the voice that speaks to you.
To get you started, here are some of our favorite spiritual teachers who discuss topics that relate to positive body image: Glennon Doyle Melton, Brené Brown, Dr. Dan Baker, Marie Forleo, Cheryl Strayed, Gabrielle Bernstein, and Danielle LaPorte.
4. Take yourself on dates.
Have you ever realized that so often we make plans to hang out with our friends or do something special with a significant other, yet we rarely schedule in time to just reconnect with ourselves? Break that habit.
Go to your favorite coffee shop just to read a good book. Head to your favorite group fitness or meditation class. Spend the night in and take a bubble bath. Buy tickets to that movie you've been dying to see. Take yourself on the dates you want someone else to plan. By showing yourself extra love and dedicating quality time to self discovery and care, the energy you are generating will rub off on your perception of yourself. The more you prioritize your happiness, the more you will find yourself appreciating all that you are.
5. Shut the door to the place of want.
When we say things like, "Wow, I wish I had her legs," or "I want abs like that," or "I would love to have high cheek bones like her," we are saying that we are not full. We need more to fill up our glass. The comparison game is where most body image problems arise because it is looking at what someone else has and deeming it better than what we have ourselves. Take note of when you are comparing yourself to others and mentally picture shutting the door, pushing those feelings of lacking out. Think to yourself, "my house is full."
From there, we can focus on what will truly fill up our glass and make loving choices for ourselves, our mental health, and our physical health. Part of having a positive body image is taking care of yourself in a positive way. When you notice that you feel like your spiritual glass is not filled to the brim, examine why that is and make healthy, loving choices to come to a solution.
Finally, if you notice that a person or activity is revving your comparison engines, perhaps step back and examine why that is. If necessary, maybe take a sabbatical from that person or activity. If that isn't feasible, build in solutions around it to alleviate the feeling as much as you can. For example, if you know you have to see that person who always makes you feel like a lower rate version of yourself, create reminders on your phone to keep your mind in the right place during the encounter. You could also plan some sort of soul enriching activity following the interaction to get you back on track.
Again, there is no one size fits all for solving body image issues, especially because they can be rooted so deeply. Regardless, you can set the intention to create a healthier environment for yourself. Little by little, each choice you make and each investment you make in yourself will guide you towards the life and mental health that you desire.