8 Tips for Staying Body Positive
It seems many of us nowadays are inundated with free time amidst this lockdown — and for a lot of us, this means a lot more time surfing our social media channels. Like it or not, we’re living in an image-obsessed society, and a constant bombardment of Instagram ‘fitness motivation’, face-tuned social media influencers, and ‘detox tea’ advertisements can create some unhealthy and unrealistic standards of beauty for us to set ourselves. It’s no surprise that frequent social media users are more likely to suffer from a negative self-image and disordered eating, and a whopping 46% of Brits report that they’re unhappy with their bodies.
It’s fine if you don’t think your body is amazing — no one does — but hating it can drive a lot of negative and self-destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Body dissatisfaction leads to body neglect, creating a vicious cycle of behaviour that can spiral into serious physical and mental health problems such as insomnia, rapid weight gain or loss, depression, and eating disorders.
Being accepting of your own body and celebrating diversity and uniqueness is a powerful ability that can help us to form a more positive outlook not only on ourselves but the world around us — and with the state of things right now, we could all use a little more positivity. Here are 8 tips for feeling good about yourself and staying body positive.
Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to boost your body image and overall self-esteem. You don’t have to emulate Mark Wahlberg to begin feeling the positive mental health effects. In fact, just a single bout can make us feel stronger, thinner, and happier within our bodies.
Now that we’re all spending the majority of our time at home, we have the perfect opportunity to begin developing some home workout regimes — taking away the hassle of finding a gym to join, and the extra hassle of getting ready and actually going there to huff and puff in front of everyone.
If you’re feeling down about your body or the way you look, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get up and move — especially if you feel you have a long and difficult metaphorical hill to climb in your weight loss or fitness journey. Now, this may be tough to read, but if you’re waiting around for the motivation to exercise to strike you, you’re going to be waiting a hell of a long time.
Instead of focusing on body changes or weight loss goals which can take longer to achieve than you might like, start by setting specific, short-term goals. If you went for a walk one-day last week, walk two this week. If you did 15 sit-ups yesterday, try 18 today. Setting and smashing these smaller achievable goals can really help in developing a better body image, even with little to no change in your physical appearance.
Try out some easy, equipment-free home workouts with all this free time to stimulate a more positive internal dialogue so that you can stop chastising yourself every time you reach for the biscuit tin.
2. Step off the Scales
Unless you’re actively tracking your weight for a specific health-related reason, is there really any point stepping onto the scales knowing what you’re about to read can make or break your entire day? Giving so much power to a number is no way to live your life.
Now, you may be thinking that using a scale is the only — or most effective — way to gauge the success of whatever exercise regime or diet plan you’ve been trying out, but if you’re stepping onto those bathroom scales daily, you’ll already know how inconsistent — and often inaccurate — the little devices can be.
There’s no doubt that you haven’t at some point stepped onto a set of scales and been very surprised with what you see. Whether or not that surprise was pleasant, doesn’t it just make much more sense to judge our workouts and diets on how they make us feel, instead of a number we read off machines that have been deemed wholly unreliable? Unless you want to go to the lengths of journalist Martin Robbins and start measuring out your urine, you’re never going to be given a totally accurate measurement anyway.
If you’ve just gone on a run or eaten a salad and you feel proud of yourself and your body, stay with that feeling, instead of letting your bathroom scales boss you around and tell you otherwise!
3. Question Yourself
Those who have a lower opinion of themselves or their bodies are frequently engaged in a negative and often exhausting inner monologues. It can’t be a huge surprise that calling yourself unattractive when you pass a mirror or calling yourself stupid when you misspeak isn’t healthy for the mind. Being overly critical of your body over a long period of time can create deeply-ingrained negative opinions of yourself that become increasingly difficult to break. Rising above this negative self-talk and making a change in the way you think is an integral step in achieving body positivity.
Take some time now to think about your relationship with a close friend, family member or partner. Think about the conversations you have and the way you communicate with that person. If you were required to list 5–10 things you like about that person, you could probably rattle them off fairly quickly, right? Now start thinking about the relationship you have with yourself and your body — would you ever speak to the ones you love in the same way you speak to yourself? Could you list 10 things you like about yourself with as much ease as you could a friend? Most of us are a lot more harsh and unforgiving with ourselves than we’d ever been with someone else. It’s time to start developing more of a positive inner voice — which can be done over time with the use of positive affirmations and interrogative self-talk.
Next time you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and begin telling yourself you need to lose weight — grab that thought right out of the air and trace it back. Begin to question it — why am I telling myself this? Is my health at risk, or am I comparing myself to others? Am I feeling low today? This interrogative self-talk is an effective way to develop a sense of clarity and deeper understanding of yourself, and eventually, you‘ll be able to catch those irrational negative self-statements before you have the chance to fully absorb them, and can begin replacing them with some more positive reframing.
Start now by repeating aloud some body-positive affirmations to yourself in the mirror. It may seem like a cringe-worthy process at first, but it’s literally just you talking to you — are you too cool for yourself now?
4. Be Good to Yourself
If you’re particularly busy or stressed and don’t give yourself a moment to rest, this can take a real toll on the way you feel about yourself. Treating yourself to some well-deserved TLC can give you some much-needed breathing space to let those positive affirmations really sink in. Letting your mind and body know that you are caring for them is a very powerful way to begin the process of loving yourself.
Treat your body with respect. Start eating well-balanced meals, take a bubble bath, or make time for some light meditation. Adopting smart self-care habits will boost your energy levels and productivity, and reduce the toxic self-hatred and negative body image associated with sustained high levels of stress.
Start incorporating some self-care into your life, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your mind and body will begin thanking you for it!
5. …And to Others!
You may well have already heard of the “do good, feel good” phenomenon. Being kind and uplifting those around us activates a reward-centre (the striatum) in the brain and makes us feel better about ourselves.
The “do good feel good” cycle also works in the opposite direction. Ever heard the phrase “hurt people hurt people”? People don’t just say it because it’s catchy! Passing judgement on others and engaging in socially negative behaviours is often a projection of how we’re feeling on the inside. Be cautious about making comments on other people’s appearances — focusing your criticisms (or compliments, for that matter) around someone’s body is placing entirely too much importance on physical appearance, and the more you pass judgement on the way someone looks, the more you will do the same to yourself.
Instead of thinking about the way someone looks or what they are wearing, start acknowledging the humour, compassion, or intelligence of those around you. You’ll soon find that you are able to notice similar traits within yourself, and those negative thoughts about your body will be few and far between — because they no longer have the power to overrule you like they originally did.
6. Become a Critical Viewer
“Comparison is the thief of joy” — Theodore Roosevelt
In this digital age, it has become easier than ever to consume massive amounts of media whenever we feel like it — and even when we don’t. Just a quick scroll through Instagram or Twitter is enough to inundate you with worlds of information, and beaming those washboard abs and Instagram bums into your eyeballs every second can start to have an effect on the way you view your own body.
Start paying closer attention to the media you consume and how it makes you think and feel about yourself. Take notice of what the people you follow are posting — those athletes uploading about their supplements or bulking powders and telling you to incorporate them into your life are being paid to say exactly that. They’re not advising you, they’re selling to you. It’s time to stop comparing yourself to people who base their whole livelihood off of the way they look — they have a lot more time and resources available to them to cultivate their ‘perfect’ body, and a whole team behind them digitally enhancing their muscles or removing their blemishes for us to ogle at them and feel bad about our tummy podge.
In fact, try to stop comparing yourself to other people altogether. Each body is unique and metabolises differently — so trying to be more like your friend with the abs is a sure-fire way to develop a negative body image. Take a look at the more body-positive role models out there (male and female) for a more realistic outlook on beauty ideals and appearance.
Having the ability to take a step back and critically analyse the media we view is an important skill in developing a healthier outlook on our bodies. Remember, the posts you view on your social media channels are just a small snapshot of a moment in time — you are in no way gaining an insight into anyone’s life. Take after the great minds of George Carlin and Socrates and question everything!
Don’t Value your Body over your Being
Don’t beat yourself up too much — it’s ridiculous to expect yourself to love every inch of your body. Maintaining a positive body image should be a continuous dialogue with yourself — not a continuous struggle.
It’s important to remember that there is so much more to you than the way you look. Being kind and compassionate is much more important than being ripped or thick — and these qualities make you more attractive anyway! A little love goes a long way.