By: Alison Ross, LMFT, CEDS
Want to improve your body image without focusing on weight? Check out this guide to help you feel better about your body (and yourself) without losing an ounce.
Many people spend a lot of time and effort trying to lose weight, operating under the belief that if they change their bodies it will improve their body image. However, this commitment often proves futile as sustainable weight loss is a challenging feat, and initial success is nearly always followed by the return of lost weight. Plus, your body image is less about your actual physical appearance and more about how you were conditioned to think about and perceive your body. Therefore, improving body image is less about changing your body and more about uplifting your mindset and fostering a better relationship with your body. If you're tired of being obsessed with weight and want to improve your body image in a more relaxed and effective way, check out this list of simple practices that can improve your body image without focusing on weight.
Practice Self-Kindness at the Mirror
So many of us come to the mirror and use our reflection as a punching bag. Every time we do, we further strengthen the scared part of us that wasn't taught to respect ourselves. But what if we saw the mirror as an opportunity to change our self-perception and grow self-respect? Each day, take a moment to appreciate something about yourself. As you face the mirror, say it to yourself or even write it on a sticky note that you post to your mirror. The point is to practice using your time at the mirror to build yourself up and cultivate a positive self-image. If you'd like support to practice self-kindness at the mirror, check out our online class, Reduce Self-Critical Thinking for Eating Disorder Recovery. In this class, you will learn how to have positive dialogue with yourself at the mirror, one that can improve your body image.
Re-Home Old Clothes That No Longer Fit
We often hold onto clothes from the past that no longer fit us, hoping to be able to wear them again someday. But here's the downside: it can intensify the longing to be how you were at a different time, instead of appreciating and respecting how you are in the present moment. Consider re-homing those old clothes that no longer fit, allowing someone else to enjoy and use them. Maybe you would like to buy some new clothes that suit your body? Let go of the old and embrace the now, where self-respect and self-love truly thrive.
Don't Try to Fit the Trend, Find Clothes that Fit You
When it comes to shopping for clothes, forget about trying to fit yourself into something trendy. Instead, focus on finding clothes that actually fit your body and flatter your unique shape. It's all about feeling great and confident in what you wear, rather than chasing fleeting trends that may not suit you. Prioritize your comfort and style, and embrace your individuality!
Boost Your Mood: Get More Sunlight
Stepping outside and soaking in natural sunlight does wonders for your mood and self-perception. Exposure to sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, a hormone associated with boosting mood and helping you feel calm and focused. Furthermore, sunlight provides our bodies with vitamin D, which not only contributes to our physical health but also plays a role in emotional health. Increased vitamin D levels have been linked to improved moods and reduced rates of depression. Lastly, the warmth and brightness of sunlight can simply make you feel better about yourself. If you don't live in a climate where you can easily get sunlight, consider buying yourself an LED sunlamp. An LED sunlamp is a device that emits light that mimics natural sunlight. It can provide similar benefits to natural sunlight, such as boosting mood and increasing vitamin D levels. By using an LED sun lamp, you can still enjoy the positive effects of sunlight even if you can't easily access it outdoors. Even a short time spent in the sun (or in front of a sunlamp) can help you feel more energized and positive. So, get out there and go for a sunny walk, visit a park, or simply sit in a sunbeam — your body and mind will thank you.
Cultivate an Uplifting Social Media Feed
Create a social media feed that uplifts you by filling it with body-positive, empowering content. Unfollow anything that triggers body anxiety or shame, or triggers too much self-comparison. Instead, follow content that aligns with your values and interests beyond appearance. For example, if you love art, follow your favorite artists who share their knowledge and techniques generously online. Remember, the content you choose to expose yourself to can greatly impact how you feel about your body. So choose wisely and curate feeds that promote body positivity and empowerment.
Thank Your Body Daily
I know this may sound cliché, as people say it often. But practicing gratitude for your body is truly a transformative act. In a world where we tend to be overly critical of our bodies, practicing gratitude can truly transform your mindset. Each day, make it a habit to thank your body for one of the many amazing things it does for you. Think about the way your body moves, allowing you to dance, run, or simply walk. Practice gratitude for being able to embrace a loved one, listen to a song, or witness your dog's tail wagging with excitement upon your return. Reflect on the way your lungs fill with air, giving you the ability to breathe and live. There are countless things to be grateful for when it comes to your body. So, take a moment today and every day to thank your body for one of these incredible gifts it provides.
Shift from a Weight-Focused Life to Meaningful Living with Like-Minded Others
Make a conscious shift away from a weight-preoccupied life to enjoying life and creating meaningful relationships based on shared interests. It's essential to create connections with people who value you for who you are, rather than what you look like. One way to do this is by engaging in activities you enjoy where the primary focus is the shared interest, not physical appearance. Join a book club, or a hiking group, take pottery classes, or pursue any subject that interests you. This way, you can meet like-minded individuals who share your passions and hobbies. Reach out to people you genuinely enjoy spending time with; invite them out for coffee or a casual meet-up. Remember, building these meaningful connections takes time. Start small, perhaps by joining one group or reaching out to one person, and gradually expand your social circle. Spending more time doing what you love with like-minded others helps cultivate a positive self-image and reduces preoccupation with appearance, weight, and dieting.
Consider Starting Therapy
Many people discover that therapy can really make a difference in how they feel about their bodies. It's a space where they can dig into the reasons behind their body image issues and work on healing from any negative conditioning that might have disconnected them from that innate sense of oneness most children have with their bodies in the earliest years of life -- and that you probably once felt. Therapy provides a safe and supportive environment for this journey of self-exploration and healing. So, if you're struggling with body image, therapy could be a great option to consider!
Thanks for reading. Please share your experiences with the practices listed above. Your journey towards improving your body image is unique, and your voice can inspire others who are walking a similar path. Also, if you've discovered ways to enhance body positivity and self-acceptance without focusing on weight, please share your insights below. Sharing your experiences and strategies not only promotes a wider discussion about body image but also contributes to a supportive community where everyone learns from one another. Remember, every step you take towards self-acceptance matters, and your story can make a significant difference to someone else's journey.