In this day and age, a majority of men and women are exceedingly concerned with how they look: how big their legs are, how thin their arms aren’t, how messy or unruly their hair is on any given day. And it’s often difficult to focus on anything positive. So, what can we all do to improve our body image and feel satisfied—or dare I say happy—in our own skin?
Darlene Corbett, a licensed therapist and success coach, and Lauren Muhlheim, a psychologist and eating disorder specialist, are here to share their take on the matter. Here are their 8 tips for improving your body image:
1) Change the narrative.
Corbett says you should get down to the nitty gritty by identifying which part of your body you’re unhappy with and then work on changing your view. “Focus on that part of your body which you believe is negative and begin to change the narrative,” she says. “Think about how it assists you in living your life. For example, I once heard a woman talk about her thick calves. She came to terms by recognizing their strength and the power they allotted her around certain sports and activities.”
2) Clean up your social media feed.
Muhlheim says it will also help to clean up your social media feed and unfollow any accounts that hurt your body image. “We are all deluged with images and messages emphasizing thinness, muscularity, or the attainment of a perfect body. To balance these images and messages, it is important to search for accounts and bloggers who support body acceptance and health at every size,” she says. “Work to accept and appreciate the diversity in different bodies. Stop following social media accounts that make you feel bad.”
3) Stand tall.
Standing tall will also combat your negative body image, as slouching only exacerbates it. “Because of poor body image, many people slouch over. I once expressed annoyance with curves in my thigh area. As a rebuttal to my complaint, a lovely fitness instructor reminded me that the most important thing is posture. I came to agree with her opinion. Standing tall with shoulders back and head high, not only conveys a position of confidence and strength outwardly, but also makes you feel more empowered inwardly,” Corbett explains.
4) Buy clothes that fit.
It will also help to buy and wear clothes that fit, as wearing too-small or unflattering clothes can make us feel worse about ourselves. “If you have recently changed size and have clothes in your closet that don’t fit or have been putting off buying clothes until you achieve the body of your dreams, this will make you feel worse,” Muhlheim explains. “Instead, put away the clothes that don’t fit and buy at least a few basic items that fit you now and that make you feel good. This usually leads people to feel more confident and reduces distress when getting dressed in the morning.”
5) Flaunt your favorite qualities.
Corbett advises you to “dress in a way which accentuates the area which you feel most proud about. For example, if you have a small waist and love your small waist, wear clothes that define it,” she says. “Many people wear clothes because they like the style. If you watch award shows, you can see this. One dress does not fit all—dress yourself in clothes which enhance your looks rather than take away from them. Whether we like it or not, we are what we wear.”
6) Stop body checking.
Another of Muhlheim’s tips is to stop the incessant monitoring of your body and weight. “Body checking is the repeated checking of one’s shape and weight and can take a variety of forms from repeatedly weighing oneself, measuring oneself (with a tape measure or by touch), or obsessive checking in the mirror. It also includes constantly comparing one’s body to others. Work to stop these behaviors in their tracks. They only make body image worse,” she says.
7) Say no to negative body talk.
An important step is also challenging the negative self-talk you employ. “Engaging in what is sometimes called ‘fat talk,’ negative and judgmental comments or conversations that are focused on weight and appearance is bad for body image in both the speaker and the listener,” Muhlheim explains. “Avoid making negative comments about your own or anybody’s body. It will help everyone, including yourself, feel better.”
8) Keep a body appreciation journal.
And finally, write down positive affirmations about yourself. “When the tape in our heads involved constant self-deprecating thoughts, it makes us feel worse. We have to shift the focus,” Muhlheim explains. “One way of doing this is to write down something daily that is positive about your body. You can incorporate the function of your body as well as appearance and include things like, ‘Today my hair looks good,’ ‘My hands allowed me to do the laundry,’ ‘My arms allowed me to comfort my niece.’ Expect this to be challenging at first. It will get easier with time.”