Chronic body dissatisfaction is an epidemic. Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself from a long time ago and lamented how you would love to look like that again? Then, when you think back to how you felt about your body at the time you realize you didn’t like your body then either? I have seen people lose 50, 75 and 100 pounds and still dislike their body. If weight loss doesn’t do it, how do you recover from chronic body dissatisfaction?
Consider these 9 steps to recovery:
1. Who’s dissatisfied with your body? A first step in recovering is to figure out the source of your body dissatisfaction. Are you dissatisfied with your body or is someone else dissatisfied with your body? Perhaps your mother has ideas on how you should look, your best friend, or your spouse? Knowing the difference will reveal whether this is a body dissatisfaction issue or a relationship issue. When your bad feelings are coming from another person, don’t inherit those feelings from them, deal with the relationship problem that is at the root. If the source is you, see the next steps.
2. Avoid the cues! Media images heavily influence our internal beauty standards and the bar is ever rising. Exposing yourself to these unrealistic images will intensify your sense of body dissatisfaction. By all means avoid: fashion magazines, Hollywood magazine shows (e.g., Access Hollywood), celebrity award shows, television and movies that emphasize unrealistic beauty ideals, and celebrity/Hollywood culture in general. Often we find ourselves drawn to this media out of curiosity and fascination, but this habit is more destructive than you realize. Ban these activities. Now.
3. Focus on function not form. We focus so much on what our bodies look like that we forget what they can do! I love how blogger Andrea Mathes celebrates her “imperfect” body by having pictures taken while doing what she does best with her body. What can your body do? Shift your focus to your abilities by keeping a journal of them. You might track things like how fast you can walk a mile, how many pounds you can curl, how many laps you can swim, etc. Then work on improving those skills over time. This will generate body confidence which counteracts dissatisfaction.
4. Play your strengths. Related to above, once you identify your physical wheelhouse, find opportunities to show it off. Are you strong? Hit the weights at the gym. Good dancer? Take a class to show off your moves. Used to be a slugger on the field? Hit the batting cages with friends. This is a huge body confidence builder!
5. Primp! Another way to play your strengths is to find clothing that emphasizes the features you like best. Make an appointment with a personal shopper (available at most department stores…and free!) to get professional assistance on dressing for your body type. Don’t worry about the personal shopper thinking certain clothes don’t fit or look bad, finding the right clothes for one’s body and style is what personal shoppers do!
6. Let the fantasy go. Everyone wants something someone else has. Skinny people aren’t happier because they are skinny. They have their own laments which may be related to their bodies or other aspects of life. Regardless of what you yearn for, accept that you are who you are and that a constant striving for something different may be interfering with your ability to feel truly fulfilled in life.
7. TLC. Sometimes we neglect aspects of our lives we dislike. For example, the person who hates their job slogs through the day, putting in the least effort necessary until it’s time to go home. Is this your approach to your body? Even if you hate the way your body looks, take the best care of it as possible. Give it the exercise, sleep, and good nutrition it deserves. When body dissatisfaction leads to body neglect, a vicious cycle is created that leads to poor physical and mental health.
8. Loving Your Body Is Not Complacency. On the other hand, some people feel like they have to dislike their body or else they will lose motivation to exercise and eat healthy. This belief, even though it might keep you motivated to make healthy choices, locks you into a cycle of dissatisfaction. You can love your body and still treat it as a work in progress. These things can co-exist.
9. Don’t Let Feelings Be Your Boss. Feeling unhappy about your body might just happen from time to time. Changing how you feel is hard. What is not OK is to let those feelings prevent you from doing the things you enjoy. Make a deal with yourself that you will allow yourself to have these feelings but by no means will you allow these feelings be the reason you avoid anything—-dancing, going to the gym, sex, going to a party, etc. By living in spite of feelings, you force feelings to stay feelings and not become your boss.
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