Loving our bodies is something that many of us struggle with.
According to a recent study, 61% of UK adults feel negatively about their body image.
But the problem has never been our bodies – it’s the way we think about them.
When we see our bodies as something we need to constantly fix or improve, we start to view them as a problem.
When you see yourself through a negative lens - your skin, features and figure become something you dislike and run away from, rather than something you embrace.
But with a little hard work and learning to reframe your negative thoughts, you can change your relationship with your body to a much more positive one.
1) Swap negative for positive
Fixating on body parts you don’t like is an easy habit to fall into, without even realising. Next time you find yourself criticising your body, gently bring your attention to something you do like about it or another part which you like more.
Just being aware of this and gently reminding yourself can make a big difference to helping you break this habit.
You can try and think of your mental dialogue with yourself as if you’re talking to a friend. What would you say to a friend if this was his/ her body? How would you talk to them?
Just changing how you say something can really have an impact on how you feel e.g. Instead of saying ‘you’re so fat, you need to lose weight’ – try saying ‘you can still look good being this size.’
2) Make friends with your reflection
Spending some time really looking at yourself will help you get to know and accept your body, as it is. It might be hard at first, but it’s a great way to get comfortable in your own skin.
Start with a few minutes a day, just noticing (non-judgementally) what you see in front of you – notice what you like and accept what you don’t. You can start fully clothed and build up to being naked.
Remember the aim is to accept any negative thoughts that crop up and focus on the positives you see.
3) Switch social media for reality
Instead of scrolling through the filtered images on your phone/ in the media, open your eyes to the real bodies around you. Take in the different shapes and sizes of the people you pass on the street.
Even better, take a trip to your local swimming pool/ gym and have a (subtle!) look at the real bodies around you. Without criticism or comparison, take in their skin, their shape, their wonderful imperfections.
You’ll soon find that nobody has that 'perfect' body you're striving for!
4) Stop dieting
Judging yourself on how much you’ve eaten or your weight isn’t good for anyone.
Throw out your scales and go with how you feel instead.
Eat healthily because you know it’s good for your body and makes you feel good, not just so you can change your weight.
Exercise to feel empowered, because you enjoy it and for the fresh air on your face, not with a goal weight in mind.
5) Remember perfection isn’t real
It’s important to remind yourself that perfect bodies don’t exist, anywhere. Our bodies are not designed to look beautiful, despite what social media tells us.
Our stomachs were not made to be flat and toned – they were made to digest our food and give us energy to run and to dance.
Our arms were not designed to look defined and firm, they were made for doing, for moving and for wrapping around those we love most.
6) Question your negative thoughts
There’s no magical cure for thoughts about your body that are ingrained, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if there are some things you can’t embrace.
Perhaps there’s a part that you really can’t like, and that’s ok. Instead of fighting it, try questioning it and digging a little deeper.
For example. ‘Why don’t I like my nose? What is it about it that I don’t like? What effect is this really having on my life? Why do I care so much?’
You might find a new way to accept it or another way to reframe it and move past it more easily than you have done in the past.
However you’re feeling about your body, practising self-acceptance and self-love is a great way to improve your relationship with it.
It might be harder some days and be more challenging for some people than for others. But just remember that you only get one body and no matter what you look like or how you feel about it, you do have a choice.
You can spend your life trying to change it or you can accept and embrace it, just as it is.