Because National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is in February, I thought I’d change things up a bit and talk about body image. When I’m not blogging, I’m an eating disorder therapist, so the topics of body positivity and health at every size are ones I’m very passionate about. It’s very hard to get to a place of body acceptance in a society where we are constantly receiving messages about our bodies. Indeed, today’s diet industry is worth over $60 billion dollars!
Here are 5 things I’ve discovered to help improve body image.
- Stop buying clothes that don’t fit.
I remember shopping with a relative when I was about 13 years old. We saw a dress I liked, but the only size they had left was too small on me. My relative told me she’d buy it for me if I promised to lose weight. Well, of course I promised. I had every intention of losing weight. At age 13, the amount of hatred and shame I felt about my body was so intense and basically all I thought about.
But guess what? I couldn’t and didn’t lose weight (for a variety of reasons) and that dress sat in my closet for years, reminding me that I was weak, a failure, and absolutely disgusting. Of course, I really wasn’t all of those things, but that’s exactly how I felt.
Maybe you don’t feel as intensely bad about your body as I did growing up, and that’s great. However, buying clothes “for when you lose weight” is rarely a good idea. I know the feeling of being at a sample sale and finding something beautiful at a great price that would “look great on me if I were just 5 pounds less.” Know that if your weight changes in the future, you’ll find something you love at that point. You deserve to wear beautiful clothes now. You don’t need to wait to hit a certain size or number to start dressing in a way that makes you feel good. Buy clothes that fit you now.
- Throw out or donate clothes that don’t fit.
This piece of advice resembles the one above. The idea is that we don’t need to have an entire wardrobe of clothes that make us feel badly about ourselves because they don’t fit. Having those clothes sitting there would make anyone feel terrible! Try selling the nicer pieces to a local second-hand store or donate them if money isn’t a concern.
Your closet should be filled with clothes that make you feel awesome as you are right now. You don’t need to put anything on hold because your body isn’t where you want it to be. I know so many women who wear clothes they don’t like or feel good in because they tell themselves that they’ll start taking better care of their appearance when they lose weight. Let’s stop doing that! Let’s stop putting our lives on hold because of a number on the scale.
- Surround yourself with positive friends and pay attention to whom you follow on social media.
If your friends are the kind of people who are constantly putting you down, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the people you surround yourself with. It’s inevitable that their actions will impact you, even if you think otherwise. You’re human, after all! And similarly, take a look at the people you follow on social media.
I recently realized that it was unhealthy for me to be following a whole bunch of women on social media who constantly talk about their diets. I also realized that following brands that show zero body diversity and consistently post only one body type (size 0-2) wasn’t great for me.
I decided that it was completely unnecessary for my mind and soul to be exposed to that daily, so I unfollowed some of those people and, instead, started to follow a whole bunch of inspiring body-positive bloggers and accounts. Life is too short to surround yourself with negativity. And now, I find that scrolling through Instagram is actually often enjoyable, uplifting and inspiring for me. Surround yourself with people who uplift you; the impact it will have on you is a lot stronger than you might think.
- Exercise and eat balanced meals to feel good, not to lose weight.
It’s all about the intentions behind your actions. Body positivity doesn’t mean throwing health out the window and eating 40 donuts a day (but if that does happen, try to get the help you need, learn from that experience, and try to do something more effective the next day without spiraling down a path of self-hatred). Body positivity is about accepting where you are right now while taking care of your body as best you can in a balanced way. Exercise and eat as whole and healthy as possible – because it makes you feel strong and gives you the energy you need to live your life to its fullest. Your intention and motivation behind what you do make all the difference. Being kind and gentle with yourself is so important. We are all at different places on our journey and that’s okay.
- Create value for something other than your size or weight.
Some of us get stuck in this idea that the size of our bodies is basically all that matters. Most of us know intellectually that it doesn’t make sense, but continue to believe our lives will magically be so much better if we just lost weight. And that’s why I challenge you to create value outside of your body, such as valuing generosity or friendship. It’s also great to have hobbies and things you’re passionate about.
For me, my blog is a passion. It’s often hard and challenging, but in a good way. My best friend loves to cook and that’s her passion. My mother enjoys swimming and makes time to do that every week. There are so many things out there to involve yourself in, whether it’s photography, a sport, art, a book club, etc.
Remember, when you feel good about yourself, you will look great!