HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF DURING A BAD BODY IMAGE DAY:
1. Recognize that fat isn’t a feeling.
There are always underlying emotions that we attach to feeling fat. When the “I feel fat” thoughts start up, try to identify what you’re feeling underneath the body dissatisfaction. Are you feeling lonely? Anxious? Invisible? Scared? Ashamed? Inadequate? Whatever the feelings are recognize that they are separate from your body.
2. Treat yourself as you would a friend.
Because it’s difficult to be kind to ourselves in the moment when the body hating thoughts take over, try responding to your thoughts as if you were supporting a friend. What would you say to someone you loved who was battling your same struggle with body image?
You wouldn’t tell them to not eat for the day in order to compensate for what they ate the previous night. You wouldn’t tell them to punish themselves for their body size through over-exercise, self-harm, or abusive eating habits. You wouldn’t tell them they were worthless or unloveable because of their weight. So why do you tell yourself these things? Break the cycle and start treating yourself like a friend—you deserve that kindness and love from everyone, especially yourself.
3. Recognize that you are so much more than the size of your body.
You are your strengths and talents and insight. You are the things you’re passionate about and the people you love. You are your favorite songs and books and films. You are your hopes and dreams. You are your laughter and your smile. You are unique and wonderful, and you have so much more to offer than the way you look.
Your appearance may feel important, but it’s such a small part of who you are — and not even an important one. It doesn’t define you or discount your worth, because your value as a human being isn’t contingent upon how much you weigh. Your worth is inherent. You exist and therefore, you matter. No number on the scale can ever take that away.
4. Shift your focus from the external to the internal.
Make a list of all the people you look up to and are inspired by—not because of their weight or appearance, but because of who they are, how they treat others, and how they spend their time. Write out all the qualities they have that make you appreciate and value them.
Use the list as a reminder that it’s the internal things—our dreams and our passions, our character and our attitude, our morals and our values—that truly define who we are and draw people to us; not how we look or how much we weigh. You are not an exception.
Try making your own list of things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with appearance or body size. If you have a difficult time creating one, ask some friends and family you trust to help you.
5. Think about what you want to be remembered for after you die.
I don’t want people to remember me for what I looked like, what size clothing I wore, or what I weighed. I want to be remembered for the person I was and what I contributed to the world. I want to be remembered as someone who positively affected peoples’ lives. I want to be remembered as loving friend, partner, and family member. I want to be remembered for my passion and my creativity and my strength. I want to be remembered as someone who helped people and made a difference. What do you want your legacy to be? Chances are, it doesn’t have to do with weight.
6. Instead of focusing on the size of your body, start focusing on what your body allows you to do.
The human body is such an incredible force. When we get caught up in the number on the scale and the size of our clothes however, we forget just how lucky we are to have a vehicle to engage in life with. So stop fixating on your appearance, and start acknowledging and appreciating your body for all that it allows you to do.
Make a list of all the things your body helps you to accomplish. If you would like to get more specific, make a list of all the body parts you struggle to accept and beneath each, list all of the ways those individual parts allow you to participate in life. Because regardless of their size, our bodies do so much for us. They deserve our gratitude, not our judgement.
7. Challenge your negative thoughts.
You may not be able to change the way you feel about your body today, tomorrow, or a month from now, but you can begin the process by challenging the negative thoughts you have in the moment. Write out a dialogue between your negative voice and a self-loving and accepting one. If you have a hard time coming up with positive counters for the negative thoughts, pretend that you’re talking back to the self-deprecating voice of a friend or loved one.
Even if you don’t believe the things you say to counter the negative thoughts, it’s still so important to challenge them, because each time you do, you’re taking away some of their power and reclaiming your own. And the more you challenge those thoughts, the less you will believe them. The more you argue back, the easier fighting the voice will become. So even if it feels silly and useless in the moment, keep arguing back. Don’t allow your negative body thoughts to go unchallenged.
8. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
There is a lot of built up energy and emotion underlying the way we feel about our bodies. Holding in how we feel or engaging in behaviors to numb out may make us feel better in the moment, but in the long run, it doesn’t remedy the pain we feel or bring us any closer to peace and self-acceptance. All it does is perpetuate how awful we feel and keep us stuck.
In order to release that pain, we have to allow ourselves to feel our feelings. Whether that means throwing a tantrum on the floor, journaling about how you feel, venting to a friend on the phone, punching a pillow, screaming in your car, or crying in bed, you need to allow yourself to feel. Let go of the judgement you have about what you “should” or “shouldn’t” be feeling, and give yourself permission to feel whatever it is that you feel. These emotions underlying your body image are important and in order to heal, you have to feel them.
9. Do self care.
When you’re struggling with body image, distract yourself with healthy coping mechanisms. Take a bubble bath, get a massage, ask for a back scratch, cuddle with a pet, make plans with a supportive friend, color in a coloring book, watch your favorite movie, get a manicure, listen to calming music, do deep breathing—whatever it is, make sure it’s something self-soothing that helps you get out of your head.
10. Be kind with yourself.
You may not be able to control the way you feel about your body, but you can control what you do in response to how you feel.
Instead of beating yourself up, you can choose to treat yourself with compassion. Instead of engaging in unhealthy and abusive behaviors, you can choose to do self-care. Instead of treating your body as an enemy, you can choose to treat it as a friend. Instead of isolating yourself, you can choose to reach out for support and surround yourself with positive people who make you feel loved and accepted. Instead of agreeing with the negative thoughts, you can choose to challenge them.
***You have more power than you think—don’t let the way you feel about your body keep you from living.
Coping with bad body image days may not be easy, but it is possible.
Don’t give up.
You aren’t alone.
Things can and will get better.
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