Improving your body image, the healthy way
People tend to focus on “problem areas” when they look into the mirror, filling their minds with negative self-talk as they critically appraise their appearance. If you start to internalise these bad thoughts, you can fall into a vicious cycle of never feeling like you look good enough, dieting, and even disordered eating, say experts. There’s a way to put an end to the shame spiral – just check out advice from our health experts on how to improve your body image without dieting.
When most people want to improve how they feel about their bodies, they often focus on moving more – not taking time out to relax and meditate. But according to a 2015 study published in the journal Mindfulness, finding your inner peace may help chase away feelings of body dissatisfaction. In the study, women who participated in guided self-compassion meditation for about 20 minutes daily for three weeks reported an increased appreciation for their bodies. How? “Meditation requires you to practise being present in the moment, which has a cleansing effect on the subconscious mind, clearing out the body-shaming, self-hating garbage that gets stuck there,” explains Ashlee Davis, a certified fitness trainer and yoga instructor, who helps her clients develop a positive relationship with food and their bodies.
Take action: You can listen to audio files of the exact meditations used in the study at selfcompassion.org. But really, most forms of meditation can be effective, says Davis. Check out local meditation classes or download a meditation app, and commit to a daily practice.
Ditch negative self-talk
“My thighs are so big.” “I wish my arms looked like hers.” “I wish my stomach was flatter.” Living in a day and age where we’re surrounded by images of perfectly Photoshopped people, it’s not uncommon to have thoughts like these. Research, including a 2016 study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, shows that negative self-talk can have a detrimental impact on your confidence and mood, says Lindsay Henderson, a psychologist.
Take action: “Start paying attention to how you communicate with yourself, and track both the positive and negative examples of it throughout each day. Noticing and observing this self-talk is the first step toward changing it,” says Henderson. Next, start challenging these messages. “Write down things you like about yourself, and keep those positive messages on hand so you can fight back next time negative self-talk rears its ugly head. The seemingly insignificant act of challenging your own internal thoughts has a remarkable impact on one’s emotions.”