I’m delving into the dreaded body image discussion because I spend a lot of time thinking about it for myself and for my clients. Body image is such a painful thing for most women and men because we have such unrealistic and unforgiving expectations about what our bodies “should” look like. We focus on the size and shape of our bodies instead of celebrating the fact that they create life, give us pleasure and allow us to walk this Earth.
In my experience, negative body image thoughts throw us in to dark moods even when we’re thin or have the perfect body. These thoughts turn into deep-rooted toxic beliefs that we’re not good enough because of how we look. This practice of negative body image has thrown us into binges, held us back from fully living life and helped to build walls around our hearts. They’ve made us sad, unloved and undeserving…all because of the way we look on the outside.
As I’ve lived through the transformation from my Binge-Eating Disorder, I realize that I want more from my life than the isolation and bad moods that negative body image thoughts provide. I want to live vibrantly and, in order to do that, I know I need to heal my negative body image. Don’t you want that for yourself? Of course you do!
It’s easier said than done though, right? So, how do we heal body image and find that vibrant life? Here’s a groundbreaking thought…what if I told you that negative body image isn’t really about how your body looks? What if I told you that your body serves as a scapegoat for a deeper dissatisfaction with your inner Self?
As with everything I preach, it’s a practice, not a perfect so here are a few things you can practice to attain a loving relationship with your body:
Embodiment. To embody means to become a body or part of a body according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Most of us go through the motions in life without giving thought as to HOW we accomplish them. How do we take in oxygen? Through the breath that we take for granted. For those of us who are chronic dieters or binge-eaters, we don’t eat according to our bodies’ needs, we deprive based on the new diet craze and then binge because of that deprivation. Not once do we check in with the body to see if what and how much we’re eating truly nourishes us. What about the person who hurts their knees during the first training session for a marathon but keeps at it despite the pain? What about the person who denies themselves pleasure from sex because of religious dogma? These are all examples of disembodiment. In order to truly heal our body image, we need to live, feel and observe the nuances, desires and sensations in the body. If we’re not in tune with these things, we have no frame of reference to transform negative body image because there is no way we can appreciate and know the body AS IT IS NOW. Embodiment can be achieved through simple joys like dancing, eating nourishing food and experiencing pleasure.
Self-Discovery. We often hate on our bodies when we are unhappy with our true Self. What do you want to improve about yourself that isn’t body related? Be brutally honest (but kind) because this provides a starting point on what to explore in your life that may not be working. A negative body image isn’t transformed when you attain the perfect body but when your journey of self-discovery leads to peace and joy.
Avoid Feeling Avoidance. Focusing on negative body image thoughts distracts you from feeling painful emotions. No human can escape feeling uncomfortable emotions without undesirable consequences. If your negative body image thoughts are particularly loud, ask what feelings you are trying to avoid. Feel your feelings…this is embodiment!
Remember. Remember what those negative body image thoughts have gotten you. Did those thoughts serve a positive purpose in your life? Did they get you closer to living a fulfilled life or experiencing your deepest desire? Or were they a distraction from what was REALLY bothering you?
Acceptance. Sometimes, when you aren’t at the weight you desire or have just binged, you have to decide that you are OK just as you are now. In the words of Marc David, “Love What Is.” Ask yourself if these negative thoughts still hold true for you or are you bored with thinking the same things which only lead to misery? I love this quote from Gabby Sidibe:
“One day I had to sit down with myself and decide that I loved myself no matter what my body looked like and what other people thought about my body…I got tired of feeling bad all the time.” ~Gabby Sidibe
Simplicity. Sometimes healing body image is as easy as looking in the mirror, smiling and saying “I love you” to the beautiful person looking back at you.
“My main beauty tip is don’t say that negative thing when you look in the mirror. It just isn’t healthy…That lack of beating up on ourselves — that’s my new mantra. Happiness is the best makeup; a smile is better than any lipstick you’ll put on.” ~Drew Barrymore
Ultimately, healing negative body image isn’t about achieving the ideal body but is about looking inward to achieve a nourished and peaceful mind, heart and soul.