How to Overcome Negative Body Image

Labels are attached to every person including toddlers. These labels define the sense of self and body image and have started to put individuals into categories or boxes. We begin to use those categories or boxes to define the people around us and ourselves. This box is cruel, restricting and self-defeating. Children as young as three are worried about their weight and strive to be thinner. A classic example of this would be the show ‘This is Us.’ The mother constantly monitors the food that her child eats and restricts breakfast to only half a fruit because her child is chubbier than other children her age. Her friends also tell her that they do not want to go for a swim with her because she embarrasses them in her swimsuit. As she grows older, she becomes overweight since she cannot control her cravings and joins a class where she tries to motivate herself to lose weight. She has a negative image of her body and there is nothing she can do to get that image out of her head. 

If these labels are considered positive, we will remain within that idea regardless of what may happen. When these labels are perceived as negative, we will begin to feel less good about ourselves since there is a person who meets all the criteria and is labeled as ideal. It is a painful process to overcome negative body image and you may believe that this process does not affect you. Most people picture teens going through puberty and reaching the awkward stage of clumsiness, acne and growth spurts when they think of negative body image. 

Some experts have stated that close to 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and will do anything to change the way they look. But, it is important to remember that negative body image affects everybody regardless of gender or age. It is often difficult to gauge or identify a statistic to measure negative body image in men since it is a silent epidemic. Most people suffer from eating disorders since they want to reach the ideal weight or ideal body shape, which is downright impossible to reach and is unrealistic. Over 50% of girls and 30% of boys try to lose weight using dangerous methods. 

We must remember that every person is unique. It is extremely easy for someone to tell you to love yourself, but it is hard when you focus on the labels that society and media have made. Most people are either too tall, too short, too fat or too skinny. But, who are they being compared to? The goal should not be to have a great appearance. Instead, the goal should be to maintain total body health. You need to treat the only body you have with respect. Only then can you change how others perceive you and how you feel about yourself. Take the movie ‘I Feel Pretty’ as an example. The protagonist does her best to lose weight. However, things take a turn for the better for her when she falls off her bicycle one day during exercise. She changes the way she thinks about herself and becomes more confident about herself and her body. Her attitude towards life attracts her to the things she always wanted. Here are some basic tips to help you overcome negative body image. It may be difficult when you begin, but make sure to keep at it. You will only become more confident and happier. 

Stop being mean to yourself

You need to stop being mean to yourself and to the people around you. When you begin to judge the people around you, you often use the same thoughts that you use to judge yourself. When you taunt people for being overweight or ugly, your perception of your appearance will be unhealthy. There will be people who look different when compared to you. But, if you begin to group these people into a different column, you can never view yourself objectively. 

Forget about the Diets

People who often diet have a risk of developing different types of eating disorders. They may begin to binge eat on different types of food that the diet labels as junk which has a domino effect on their body. Most people binge on a diet because they cannot control their cravings. They do not believe in the idea of eating in moderation. These people may also have developmental issues like anxiety, irritability and depression and physical health issues like metabolic syndrome and digestive problems.

If you do not believe this, think of a time when you were on a diet or were trying to avoid eating food that you believed was junk. Was there never a day when you walked into the supermarket and bought yourself at last 2 packets of that food? Can you honestly say that you did not eat junk when you told yourself you would not? 

If you want to look and feel good, eat right, exercise regularly and sleep well. You can control your weight and also feel good about your body. 

Forget about body image

Most people spend all their time looking in the mirror and obsessing about how they look on the outside. Instead, you should focus on your hobbies, education and socialise with your friends. You must keep your mind engaged to notice other people who have similar interests as yours. It is admirable to work towards getting healthy and fit, but that goal should never consume you.

Accept your body

You may have inherited your mother’s large hips or your father’s broad shoulders and height. Your genetics are unique and it is important to accept your body and love it before you try to identify ways to work with it to bring it to a particular size and shape. You cannot aim to have the same weight and size as a person who is either taller than you or shorter than you. That is an unrealistic expectation to set for yourself since that will lead to failure. You may have a larger build or broader shoulders than a person who is the same height as you. You do not need to diet to fit anybody else’s expectations. You must remember that it is your body and your health. You are the only person who can decide what is right for you. 

Your body does not lie – listen to it

When you do not get enough nutrition, your body will tell you. You may be under undue stress, may sleep less, be anxious, feel sluggish or even lack focus. When your body begins to feel sluggish, it will crave sugar and caffeine. When you make poor nutritional choices, the problem only becomes worse. 

Solve your problems

People are always susceptible to eating disorders. When you are sad, angry or anxious, you want to reach for comfort food. For example, if a student fails an Actuary exam, he or she may want to indulge in comfort food to feel better. If they do not feel better immediately, they may begin to consume more of the same comfort food. These foods are known to make you feel better and are definitely not healthy. You have to remember to get to the root of the problem and not bottle up all your emotions. Always remember – there is no harm in asking for help. 

Stop idolising celebrities

You must remember that most celebrities are hired or paid for how they look. There is an entire team of people who make sure the celebrity exercises, eats right and takes care of his or her skin and hair regularly. If the celebrity becomes pregnant, she has a team of people who will help her drop her weight fast and reach her “ideal” camera weight. There are many celebrities who have mentioned that they suffered for many years with multiple eating disorders, drug addictions and emotional problems because they are under undue stress to maintain their public image. 

You must remember that your standards for getting fit should only encompass your life and know how an actress has lost her weight. As mentioned earlier, most advertisements and commercials photoshop images of models to make them look better. If it is impossible for them to be perfect, why should you strive to be perfect?

Always set healthy and realistic goals

If you are out of shape or overweight, want to take up cycling or swimming, want to build lean muscle mass or simply want to feel great about wearing that little dress you bought, you should know that it will take time. Experts have said that weight loss is healthy only when you drop one pound every week. That may not seem like much to you now, but it will amount to more than 52 pounds a year. It is best to lose weight in the right way to ensure that you can keep it off for a long time. 

Celebrate your beauty

Respect yourself, love yourself and appreciate all the things about you that are wonderful. This will make you more confident and increase your self-esteem making you more attractive to yourself and to others. You do not have to worry about how thin your waist is or about your clothing size. You do not need to have six-pack abs either. You have to only appreciate the qualities that make you unique and special. Only then can you see how incredible you are. You have to be your biggest fan!

Ask for help if needed

You must surround yourself with people who can lift you up and contribute to your happiness. Always ensure that you have people in your life that you can fall back upon when you need to. Regardless of whether it is to stick to an eating plan or to a workout, it is alright to ask someone to help you. There are many people who are willing to listen to you and help you. 

If you want to overcome negative body image, you have to forget about the “ideal” or “attractive” body image that is defined by society. Always do what it right for you, your body and your life. You must accept yourself and love yourself unconditionally.

The Gratitude List

The Quantum Evolve

 NLP Consultancy, specialising in Smoking and Substance Abuse and  advocates of general Mental Health & Wellbeing.