Don’t Let Your Mind Bully Your Body

By Emily B., Lifestyle Consultant, Livea Centers

Body image refers to the perceptions, thoughts, and reactions we have to our body size and appearance 3. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can affect the way we feel about ourselves along with our mental health and wellbeing. In today’s world, we are bombarded by societies standards and unrealistic expectations. This can make it difficult for many people to avoid having a negative body image. Having body image concerns is quite common and it is not a mental health problem itself, but it can be a risk factor for mental health problems. Research has found that higher body dissatisfaction is associated with poorer quality of life, psychological distress, and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviors 1. The good news is that we can improve our body image by changing the way we think.

First, start with awareness. Become aware of what your triggers are that make you feel bad about your appearance. Is it social media, relationships with friends and family, pressure to look a certain way or comments other people make? What will you tell yourself in these situations and how do these thoughts affect your behavior? For example, do you decline invitations to social situations or wear clothes that may not fit you correctly to cover up? Understanding these triggers and feelings can help you take action to change the way you think about these situations. Talk about your triggers during your weekly one-on-one visits at Livea. Your consultants are there to guide you through these types of hurdles as well!

Second, take action by combining your awareness of personal triggers with a plan. Stop, look, and listen to your negative thoughts and behaviors so you can intervene with positivity and acceptance. This could be added to your weekly journaling so you and your consultants can follow up with each other weekly! Body satisfaction and appreciation has been linked to better overall wellbeing and fewer unhealthy dieting behaviors1. Listed below are tips to try to help restore your body image:

  • Eat and move in a way that makes your brain and your body happy rather than a way to control your body shape. This way you are framing your brain to appreciate everything your body does for you.
  • On social media unfollow people who promote one body type over another or cause you to feel negatively about your appearance. Instead, find people to follow who inspire you and make you feel encouraged. The Livea Community Connections page is a safe space with encouraging messages and advice from people going through the program. Livea members join here: Livea Community Connections on Facebook
  • Practice self-care and remind yourself that you are worthy. Look in the mirror and focus on 3 things you like most about your appearance. If a negative thought comes to mind, replace it with a positive one. “Negative vs. Positive” on pages 86-87 of your Livea Guide have some wonderful tips and an activity to reflect on your body image. Learn more on self-care by watching our webinars: Self-Care Shifting the Way We Think & Thriving through Stressful Times
  • Notice how you think and speak about your own or other people’s appearance. If you notice that you are using negative statements regularly, stop yourself and change to more positive language. You can be a role model to everyone around you! For further reading, check out these blogs on our website under resources: Overcoming the Winter Blues & A Valentine for Your Brain
  • If body image is a significant cause of stress talk to a trusted friend or family member or health professional. Especially if you’re feeling any pressure to make drastic decisions. Like we stated before, your consultants are there for you every step of the way – yes, even topics like this! There are also additional places you can find resources that can help with your overall mental health:
    1. https://mn.gov/dhs/people-we-serve/adults/health-care/mental-health/
    2. https://www.mhanational.org/live-b4stage4
    3. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
    4. https://www.nami.org/Home

Lastly, accept who you are and what you are made of. You do not have to be flawless to accept the body you have. The key is to call a truce with the adversarial relationship you have with your body and work on appreciating the wondrous ways it does show up for you every day 1. Believe that your individualities make you unique which is a beautiful thing. Embrace all your so-called imperfections rather than tame them!

References

  1. “Body Image Report – Executive Summary.” Mental Health Foundation, 6 Aug. 2020, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/body-image-report/exec-summary.
  2. Cohen, Mary Anne. “Guest Blog: Healing a Negative Body Image by Mary Anne Cohen, LCSW.” Guest Blog: Healing a Negative Body, Karen R. Koenig, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.karenrkoenig.com/blog/guest-blog-healing-a-negative-body-image-by-mary-anne-cohen-lcsw.
  3. Livea Guide