Why Having a Positive Body Image Matters

Whatever your size, research shows that a positive body image keeps you mentally and physically healthier

When was the last time you thought about your body? Now, when was the last time you thought about your body image?

In the past few years, there’s been a surge in female models and celebrities championing body diversity and challenging the western ideal of thin perfection. These messages may have passed you by or maybe you’ve thought that they just don’t apply to you — but they do, whatever your size or gender identity. For those of us actively trying to adopt a positive body image, science supports our approach.

We think about your bodies (or bits of them) frequently and mostly these are not happy, pleasurable thoughts. Women have negative body thoughts on average 36 times a day. That’s a lot of head space taken away from our everyday goals and relationships. And a lot of time spent criticising ourselves. There is a sad irony here too, 85% of women feel that they should love their bodies and felt bad about not doing so.

However, our inner nurturer can get lost if we hear our self-critical voice letting loose so frequently. The constant criticism erodes our sense of self-worth — something that’s vital to our mental well-being. There’s also a growing amount of research showing that internalising negative views about our body causes stress which can lead to poorer health.

Body image is a serious health issue. So if bad body thoughts affect our mental and physical health — how can we break out of the cycle? It all starts with self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Self-awareness

Try to notice when you have bad body thoughts. When are you having them? What’s the trigger? Comparing ourselves to others can be a major trigger.

In the moment, stop and say to yourself, “my body is just a body. It’s my vessel for experiencing life.”

The aim is to soften the unkind thought in the moment. Then move your thoughts on to focus on something else more pleasant or engaging. It’s really not that someone else is thinner or prettier that causes us pain, it is the meaning we attach to it. Someone is thinner and prettier so they have…more friends/a hot partner/a great job/whatever we want and don’t have.

Making comparisons with others is something we’re wired to do because we’re social animals. That’s why we need to train ourselves out of making bad ones.

Self-acceptance

With practice, if we avoid making deliberate comparisons and soften our bad body thoughts, our inner critic will quieten down. Alongside this we need to give power to our inner nurturer by celebrating what our body allows us to do, how it feels and moves. We also need to actively challenge the western cultural ideal and seek out stories and images of diversity. They are out there.

Fostering a positive body image is worth your time and effort. Your mind and body will thank you.

Read more and sign up for your FREE guide to ‘Why We Emotionally Eat & What to Do About It’ at www.LeavingDietWorld.com


Originally published at www.leavingdietworld.com on February 28, 2017.