Body image is the way you perceive your body shape and size. Most people struggling with an eating disorder (and many others who don’t have an eating disorder) suffer from a negative and self-critical body image. While it is difficult to change the way you think about yourself and can take time, it can be done. Use these tips to begin working towards a positive body image.
1. Throw out your scale.
There is little reason for most people to actually use an at-home scale and the numbers it provides you typically cause more harm than good. Many people base their self-worth on the scale and thus it becomes a measure not only of your physical body but also of you as a person. By getting rid of your scale, you allow your physician to keep up with any weight changes for you and let you know if there is a problem.
Feel free to be creative. I’ve heard of people burying their scales and having a mini-funeral, beating them with a sledgehammer and even taking a scale to a shooting range to get rid of it.
2. Cover your mirrors.
For many people with and without eating disorders, the mirror becomes a source of anxiety and self-criticism. If this is true for you, consider covering your mirrors up with paper. You could use basic newspaper or wrapping paper or even put up positive quotes over the mirror. If only one part of the mirror is problematic for you, such as from the shoulders down, then feel free to leave other parts of the mirror open so that you can still have access to it for brushing your hair and washing your face.
3. Donate clothing that no longer fits to charity.
So many people keep clothing that no longer fits, or no longer fits properly in their closets for years. This creates an emotional time bomb in the form of your closet. Go through your closet and donate the items that don't fit (or that you don't feel good in) to charity. If it seems like this might be too difficult to do by yourself, ask a good friend to come over and support you while you do it. You can even go through your closet in stages - pants one day, shirts another - to make it less overwhelming.
Give yourself the gift of a closet that you can walk into and put on any article of clothing and have it fit.
4. Affirm yourself daily.
As a therapist I will often give clients the assignment of writing down at least one affirmation about themselves daily. An affirmation sounds simple but this is one of the hardest assignments for many people. An affirmation is a positive statement about you. I recommend making the majority of affirmations about your values, relationships or personality rather than about your physical body. Examples may be “I am a good friend” or “My body is strong and allows me to experience the world around me.”
5. Move your body.
It feels good, and you feel good about your body when you exercise. However, many people think of exercise as simply going to the gym or running. Moving your body can be those things but it can also be as simple as going for a walk or going dancing. You can also consider a class in something like yoga, ballroom dancing or aerobics. (If you are currently in treatment for an eating disorder, be sure to consult with your therapist or physician about what type and how much exercise is appropriate for you.)
6. Purchase clothing that you like and feel comfortable in.
Similar to number 3, many people purchase clothing that is too small because they don’t want to purchase a larger size. This only results in always feeling uncomfortable because none of your clothes fit properly. Learn what styles and brands fit YOUR body and personality. Shop at those stores.
7. Stop purchasing and/or reading magazines that promote the thin ideal.
Whether you subscribe to them or you just pick them up in a waiting room, magazines can be hugely triggering for body image issues. It is important to remind yourself that the majority of the images you see in such magazines have been heavily retouched – which means that the images you are comparing yourself to are not even real. Stop expecting yourself to look like something that does not exist.
8. Learn a new skill.
If there is something you’ve always wanted to try, do it! You can sign up for a class or check a book out from the library. It may be painting, pottery, or sewing or even a new language. This will allow you to feel good about yourself for reasons other than the way you look.
9. Do something nice for your body.
Take a bubblebath, get a therapeutic massage, or take a nap. You can even treat yourself to your favorite scent of body wash or lotion. Allow yourself to enjoy the tactile sensations of warm water, firm massage, cool sheets, etc. When your body feels good physically, it is easier to love and enjoy it.
10. Use positive self-talk.
Stay alert to the negative messages that you have in your inner dialogue and fight them with positive self-talk. Remind yourself that no one is perfect and everyone is unique. Remember all of the things your body does for you – walking to take you places, allowing you dance, swim and run etc.