by Carol Fredrek
In previous posts I have written about body image struggles, body image in midlife, how you measure your body image, and how to move on from negative body image. This article is a follow up to the last post. It was based on an interview with a woman that struggles with her body image.
I have listed 7 strategies that can help you improve your body image. My clients have told me that when they use these strategies consistently they are effective and empowering.
Getting support from even one other person will make it much easier to change the negative self talk that contributes to how you feel about your body. Share your struggles with body image. You can be accountable to them as you take steps in your journey to positive body image.
These strategies may be new behavior for you. It may be more of a challenge initially to put them into practice. Once you overcome this challenge and experience change in how you feel about your body the next steps will be much easier.
You may have been on several different diets in the past, weigh yourself every day or don’t weigh yourself at all. You may compare your body to other women as a way of measuring how good you are. You may binge, not eat, over exercise or find some other way to get rid of the food you have just eaten.
You might find yourself isolating and not going out because you feel ashamed of your size or shape. You don’t like how you look.
You CAN change the feelings you have about your body!
Strategies to Improve Your Body Image
Support comes in many different forms. A good friend that you confide in, a support group or a counselor. You can have them help you challenge your distorted thinking. You may feel a sense of not being alone. You would be surprised how many women struggle with their own body image.
Who do you feel most safe with? Who do you trust? Maybe there is no one in particular so you may decide to look for a support group or a counselor to support you through this change.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an approach that challenges your thinking. When you think negatively you feel negative emotions. For example you might be thinking that “My clothes are too tight. I must be getting fat. I don’t like my body at all. I want to lose weight”. Now you feel distressed, anxious, and angry.
The strategy with CBT is to keep a log that includes the Activating Event (A), the Belief (B), Consequence (C), and Disputing (D) the belief.
(A) The trigger that precedes the distressing emotional response such as seeing another woman that has a different physique than you.
(B) What you were thinking in response to the event such as ‘I don’t look like that. She is much thinner than I am. I knew I was fat. I hate myself.’ This is often the most difficult to identify. In CBT they talk about cognitive distortions such as All-or-Nothing Thinking, Over Generalizing or Catastrophizing.
(C) The feelings you had in response to the event such as anger, self-hate, depressed, anxious
(D) You challenge the belief or series of automatic thoughts. I find it helpful to ask yourself ‘what evidence to I have to support these beliefs?’ and then identify a more realistic set of beliefs.
3. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Tapping
You might be familiar with ‘tapping’. Perhaps you read about it, saw it on You Tube or a counselor or friend taught you how to use it. There are 3 levels of EFT. There is a bronze level which is for self-management and can be used for example when you feel anxious or overwhelmed.
It is wise to get some guidance from someone who has been trained in using EFT Tapping to be sure that you are using it effectively and see positive outcomes.
Meditation comes in many forms. In a sitting meditation you keep your eyes closed and focus on your breathing, using a mantra, or focusing on a candle. It is best to do some reading in this area or go to a meditation class.
Mindfulness is a term you might have heard of before. In a mindfulness state you are in the present moment. We often live in the past or in the future. Focusing on the present is being aware of how you move your body, how you take each step or every mouthful of food you eat.
It can be hard to stay in the present and just be in your body without doing anything else. Meditation is an approach that can move you into your body. A meditation can be 5 minutes or it can be 15 minutes. If you haven’t meditated before start out slow.
When I started meditating years ago I thought I had to be still for at least 30 minutes with no thoughts at all going through my mind. As I learned more about meditation I learned that moving from the thought to your breath is the meditation itself. This helped me tremendously.
There are many types of yoga but it is important that you find the right type of yoga for you. You may want to learn about different yoga studios in your area. What is their philosophy to yoga? What types of classes do they offer?
Most yoga studios have drop in classes so take advantage of those. Restorative yoga might be a place to start or yoga therapy. Many yoga studios have workshops on different topics. A yoga teacher once said to me ‘There is not one yoga body. You need to embrace your own body.’. I have always remembered this.
This mantra was empowering for me!
Creating a time-line might be quite beneficial to track where your body image comes from. The time line should consist of familial influences, socio-cultural, physical changes, and any trauma you might have experienced.
You might create your timeline according to age since it can be easier to remember memories by age. I tend to remember things by the home I lived in or where I lived. Identify what was going on in your life at that time.
For example, when I was 12 years old my mother would tell me that when we got a box of chocolates we should eat them all at once and then we won’t be tempted. The message I got was that I had no control and my body was not ‘good enough’. My body was beginning to change. I was going through puberty and I didn’t like the changes. I didn’t like the way my body looked anymore. And of course, there was a lot of peer influence as well. The girls that were thin or girls with large breasts had the boys all over them.
7. Knowledge is Power
- Read books and articles about body image
- Read Blogs specific to body image
- Interact with any forums on body image that feel safe
Try once of these strategies to start. Choose one that will be the easiest for you to use. See if it fits and if not that is okay. Try the next one. Play with these strategies to find what works best for you. Some will work some of the time and not others. That’s okay.
Allow yourself the freedom to embrace your body!
If you struggle with your body image and what to understand the root of this and feel good about your body call me for a FREE 15 minute phone consultation or BOOK a 60 minute counseling session. I would love to help you!