How to Increase Body Positivity
Updated: Feb 11
Do you hold a negative body image? Here are some ways to find out:
Are you spending lots of time attending to your weight and shape? For example, are you:
-Thinking about it lots and being hard on yourself because you are wishing you were thinner/more toned etc
-Talking about it lots?
-Looking in the mirror lots?
-Looking at individuals on social media who have your ideal body size and shape
-Weighing yourself lots?
-Spending time (and money!) finding ways to improve your weight and shape?
-Seeking reassurance from others?
If so, reflect upon the costs of doing so on your feelings, your day-to-day activities and on your bank balance! Perhaps it is time to change how you view your body and your relationship with it to develop a more positive body image. Here are some tips to developing a more positive body image:
Re-evaluate your life!
Most people base their sense of self-worth on various areas of their lives e.g. work, relationships, hobbies, school, achievements. However, some people can base much of their self-worth on their weight and shape and other interests gradually wane. There can be various costs to this. This leads people to believe that they are only of worth if they are thin/toned and leads to lots of pressure being placed on oneself to control body weight and shape. If this area of life is problematic then this causes immense dissatisfaction. If this is the case for you, re-evaluate what you base your self-worth upon. Try broadening other areas of your life that are valuable to you and commit more time and energy to these other areas
Time in the mirror: Notice how long you spend looking at yourself in the mirror. If you spend prolonged periods of time looking at yourself in the mirror this serves to only keep you more focussed on your body. Try to reduce this. Conversely, if you avoid looking at yourself in the mirror as much as possible try to gradually confront this fear.
Mind tricks: Be aware of the tricks our minds play on us. For example, if we are worried about being “fat”, we’re more likely to find areas of our bodies that are “fat” and we’re dissatisfied with. It’s similar to when we, say, buy a red car. We suddenly find that the roads are full of red cars. It is not that there are suddenly a lot more red cars on the road but simply we’re more aware of red cars in our minds and, therefore, notice red cars more.
Another phenomena that is known to exist is that when we focus in on the aspects of our bodies we dislike and we have negative thoughts about our size and shape, research shows this can actually distort what we see when we look at ourselves, we can appear bigger in our minds.
Mirror Use Exercise: To combat the above, try this exercise where you look at yourself in a full length mirror. Broaden your focus, look at your whole body rather than just focussing on the areas you do not like. Then move from the top of your head and down to your feet whilst describing your body and its functions. If negative judgments enter your mind, just acknowledge this and move your attention back to simply describing your body and its functions. Attend to your favourite areas of your body if you have a favourite area, or perhaps attend to areas of your body you are not as dissatisfied with. This exercise, if repeated, can lead to a gradual decline in distress levels.
If you are checking your body lots by, for example, weighing yourself, measuring yourself, seeing if your smaller clothes fit and comparing your body to others, begin by monitoring how often you do this and how long for. Then ask yourself, is this helpful? How is this making me feel? Keep the following in mind:
1) Bodies don’t change within a short space of time so there is no need to check ourselves frequently and it is not accurate to say to ourselves “I’ve got bigger” within a short time period between checking
2) Our memories of our body shape and size is unreliable, therefore, if we check ourselves again an hour or so later our memories for our body shape and size and how we felt is unreliable
3) All people have fat on their bodies, even some of the thinnest people we see on social media. When we all sit down it is entirely normal for our thighs to appear larger and to not have a flat tummy, don’t be fooled by the images you see on social media!
4) Reduce your social media use or have a cull of certain people you follow who could be having a negative effect on you and how you feel about your own body. Keep in mind that the celebs that we see do not have normal lives like us! Be aware that striving for their weight and size comes at high costs. It takes up a lot of time, energy (and often money!). The efforts needed to reach their body size and shape takes time away from other valued areas. The under-eating which is often involved leads to negative physical and emotional consequences, such as, tiredness, irritability and poor concentration- to name just a few. It is common knowledge that what we see on social media is not an accurate reflection of how people actually look. Also, be aware that celebs often have personal trainers and dieticians to help them along the way. Ask yourself, the amount of time and energy you’re putting into your body weight and shape, is it worth it?
We can have a tendency to say negative things to ourselves. With the negative things you say to yourself and how often you say these things to yourself, how helpful is this? Some people may think it is important to be self-critical as it pushes them harder to work towards their ideal body shape. Is this really true? Do you find the way you speak to yourself really encouraging and makes you enthusiastic about working on your body shape? Often, the frequency of our self-critical thoughts and how extreme they are only has the opposite effect. It has a significant detrimental impact upon how we feel.
To tackle this, monitor how you talk to yourself about your appearance particularly during times you feel particularly low, anxious, frustration and guilty. What thoughts are running through your mind? Then ask yourself:
· How helpful are these thoughts?
· What are the costs in me thinking this way?
· Am I being overly critical? Can I be more self-compassionate?
· What is the evidence for my negative thoughts?
· What is the evidence against my negative thoughts?
· What’s another way of looking at this situation?
· Would I say these things to a friend?
· If I told a friend I was thinking this way, what would they say to me?
· Am I placing too much pressure upon myself?
· Am I thinking in all or nothing ways? i.e. I either have to eat really healthily or I’m a failure
· Am I thinking the worst case scenario?
· Am I focussing in on the negatives and filtering out the positives?
· Am I labelling myself unfairly e.g. I’m fat, I’m lazy, I’m disgusting?
Hopefully by becoming more aware of your negative self-talk and questioning it with the above questions, this will help you to develop more balanced and realistic thoughts. This will, in turn, improve how you feel and lead to more helpful behaviours.
We spend far too long in life trying to control things that are not fully within our control, our weight and shape being one of them. We certainly have a degree of control over this, it is fine to take this control where we have it to manage one’s shape and weight if this is done in a healthy (and non-extreme!) way. However, notice how much you’re struggling with the aspects of your weight and shape that are not within your control, perhaps by wishing for your natural body shape to be different and going to extreme efforts to try to lose weight. This can make us feel highly distressed and unsatisfied in life. Reflect upon the pros and cons of continuing with this struggle versus the pros and cons of accepting the aspects that are not within your control. Think about what life would look like if you worried less about your appearance. Try acknowledging the positive aspects of your body. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of how your body looks, try to become more aware of what a great job your body does for you, we can often take this for granted.
If you would like support to improve your body image please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or kindly complete the webform. I offer therapy in-person in St Albans/Hertfordshire and online.