12 Sep Why positive body image is important – and 3 ways to start improving yours today
(updated 16th June 2020)
What does Body Image mean to you?
Body image can mean very different things to different people – it can encompass how you feel, what your body can do, what others perceive of it …a whole lot of things.
I recently spent the weekend with some awesome fellow clinicians at a workshop run by Marci Evans RD and Fiona Sutherland RD learning about and discussing all aspects of Body Image. It was a brilliant opportunity to meet some incredible, inspiring women and to get down and dirty into the research.
Why is it important?
How we feel about our bodies can affect our lives in many ways. Plus nowadays we spend so much of our lives online; from around age 9 we’re now constantly exposed to other people’s best-selves online. They’re usually selling us an image, a product, a lifestyle – and painting it as achievable. Most of these images will be of thin women, typically white, able-bodied, filtered and airbrushed – marginalised bodies barely get a look in.
It’s not just online either; a study carried out by The University of Liverpool published in the Journal of Eating Disorders in May 2017 showed that:
“The average female mannequin body size was representative of a very underweight woman and 100% of female mannequins represented an underweight body size.”
They concluded that “The body size of mannequins used to advertise female fashion is unrealistic and would be considered medically unhealthy in humans.”
Basically, most of the mannequins in those stores would probably be too underweight to menstruate – but wee see them and think – “..wow, those jeans must be supposed to look like that on most people. They don’t look like that one me.”
We learn from others what is ‘desirable’ and then we learn to compare ourselves and judge others. We judge our legs, our eyebrows, our vaginas – EVERYTHING. Novel plastic surgery options are now on the rise in line with demand for life-changing surgeries.
That’s a LOT of time time spent judging and comparing ourselves.
What if we got that time back? What could we do with it?
Our body image warps how we see the world, other people, their lives and even others’ morality. What if we could follow our passions, find more fulfilment in our lives, help others? There’s a whole lot you could do with that time and headspace. I know this isn’t an exact science.. but bear with me: even if you just spent half an hour less per day worrying about your body image, that’s almost 4 hours back per week. That’s over 7 days a year. A WHOLE WEEK. What could you do with those hours?
How we feel about our body image doesn’t just take up the big thinking space either, how we look affects the simple day-to-day things – whether we go into that coffee shop, whether we try paddle-boarding or go out for those drinks with friends. Our whole lives could look different.
It matters, it really does.
There’s no quick fix
There isn’t a magic pill that you can take and wake up with amazing body image forever. There will always be days when you wake up and feel like shit; learning to accept this and be kind to yourself this can be one big step along the way to healing your body image.
It’s not all self-care, baths and scented candles and not giving a fuck about what other people think. It can be about body acceptance, just being neutral. You don’t have to LOVE yourself all of the time, but feeling comfortable, wanting to care for and respect your body – those things can only be positive.
Ultimately, it’s an onoging journey and unfortunately after years of learning these thought-patterns and behaviours it might take a while to start feeling any different – but there are a fair few things you can try along the way.
3 things you could try today:
- Detox your social media. The one detox that I’m totally down with and single handedly the one thing that has helped most of my clients (and friends… and me!). If you’re following someone who makes you feel bad about the way you look, eat or live your life – unfollow them. Then why not follow some people who make you feel good about yourself – or at least not bad about yourself. Surround yourself with images of people with real, un-airbrushed bodies – you know, like the 95% of people who exist outside of the pages of glossy magazines.
- Clothes – find things that you feel good wearing. Not those clothes that you’ll fit into ‘one day’ that make you feel bad when you open your drawers. As Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch point out in their book Intuitive Eating (affiliate link – click here for more information), that goes right down to your undies – that uncomfortable, too-tight bra or your ‘wash-day’ knickers. You don’t need to hold on to those. I appreciate that many people don’t have the money to go and spend on new togs – so why no sort through what you’ve got and see what makes you feel good, or at least comfortable. Next time you come to buy new clothes, ignore the size labels, spend some time finding ones that fit right and make you feel good – don’t wait until you fit in the dress, just buy the one that fits and go have some fun in it.
- Language matters – be kind to yourself and others. The next time you find yourself talking smack to yourself, check it. The old adage – would you talk to your BFF like that? rings true. So does how you talk about other people. We’re taught that we should look a certain way from a young age – wobbly bits and ‘horrible muffin tops’ are posted everywhere. Belly fat should be banned. You know what – bellies are just bellies, those jeans just don’t fit right and we all have a wobble; fat cushions our organs and butts and bones and helps us to survive. We need to stick up for each other – stop that language in its tracks when you hear it, you’ll be amazed what a positive effect it can have on yourself and for others.
Let’s find the best in ourselves and each other where we can - imagine if the next generation could grown up feeling good about what they can do rather than bad about how they look.
image source: World Obesity Federation
Fed up of dieting? Want to learn more about Intuitive Eating and more ways that you can begin to work on your body acceptance? Come join us at our Health and Body Image Workshop – Brighton, Tuesday 9th October.
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