Photo of yogini Heather Barmore. Read her piece on loving her body in a bikini here.
Words by Haley Neidich
Whether body image is something you struggle with occasionally or low self-esteem has greatly impacted your life, there are strategies we can use for change. These four tips for improving body image will help shift negative thought patterns and begin the body-positive healing process.
1. Witness Your Thoughts
Sit and think about the last negative thought you had about your appearance. Whoa, that was mean! Pay attention to what your thoughts are saying. You would never say that to a friend, so why should you have to take it? The first step to freeing yourself from negative body image is to take a moment to talk back to that mean voice in your head that tells you you’re not beautiful. Tell the thought, with love, “Don’t speak to me like that.” Talking to yourself in this way doesn’t make you crazy, but it does help you stand up for yourself. Refusing to hear the negative thoughts about your body is the first step in freeing yourself from those limiting beliefs.
2. Shift Your Perceptions About Food
Body image issues often come hand in hand with disordered or unhealthy eating habits. Food is not the enemy you often make it out to be when feeling body-negative. Consider thinking about food as fuel, first and foremost. Rather than calorie counting and shaming, consider how the protein and veggies in that omelet will fuel your morning workout. Taking a moment to pause before each meal to be mindful of the ways in which each ingredient on your plate will nourish you is a great practice for developing a healthy relationship to food. If you’re looking for a way to make positive changes to your diet, check out the healthy and innovative ideas in the Nourish section of Your Zen Life! If you’re eating habits have become dangerous to your health or are impacting your relationships or day-to-day functioning, you may consider seeking professional support.
3. Practice Self Love
What do you love about your body? Make a list of both physical and functional attributes. “I love my blue eyes,” is just as important as “I love how strong I’m becoming in yoga class.” When your thoughts about your body become negative, quickly recognize that and begin to replace them with body-positive thinking. Repeat the things you love about your body daily. Use these statements as affirmations to battle the negative thoughts. Let’s put those nagging suckers back in their place!
4. Stop Talking Trash
Are you in the habit of trash talking your appearance out loud? Are your friends putting down their appearances? Surrounding yourself with pals who talk negatively about themselves can hinder your positive thinking efforts! Let your friends know about the changes you’re making. Send them this article and take a vow together to stop trash talking your bodies! If you have a friend who continues the negative talk, let them know you think they’re beautiful the way they are. Supporting others who struggle with similar issues can further help you on your journey to a happy self-image.
Use these steps every day to improve your body image and overall happiness. Remember, making one small change in your thinking can ignite a positive ripple effect!
Haley Neidich is a licensed psychotherapist, blogger and mindfulness coach helping to spread light and love. Haley has her Masters of Science in Social Work from Columbia University and served on the faculty of the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center. Haley works primarily with young adult women, helping her clients heal with the use of Mindfulness, Meditation, Group Therapy and CBT. She works out of a beautiful, sunny office in downtown New Haven, CT. Follow her affirmations and mindfulness tips on Twitter @HaleyNeidich or visit her website at haleyneidich.com.