As an eating disorder and body image expert, one of the first things I work on with my clients is developing an understanding that body image is more than how you look and feel about your body; it’s about your relationship with yourself.
Your relationship with yourself is based on many things including your upbringing, any traumas you may have experienced, and how you regulate and work with your emotions.
So often clients will come to me wanting ways to quickly get rid of the distress that comes with a “body image attack,” or that moment of extreme panic and worry when it feels like your body has gained several pounds overnight or in the blink of an eye.
I know it is downright miserable to struggle with your body image and it’s normal to want a quick fix. However, lasting change comes from understanding how to better work with your emotions so they don’t negatively affect your body image in the first place.
For those who struggle with body image, the body so often becomes the focal point of their world: It’s the thing they think about day and night, obsess over, and compare relentlessly.
This means that one of the best things you can do for your body image is to take it off the pedestal and devote your time and energy to meaningful pursuits that improve your relationship with yourself.
Here are 3 ways you can put this into practice this summer…
#1 Get a Hobby
Engaging in hobbies and learning new skills is not only an excellent way to defuse (or step back) from the relentless chatter in your mind about body image, but it’s also a great way to help decrease anxiety.
Whether it’s volunteering, learning to garden, crafting, spending time in nature, or exploring a new book genre, find something that feels enjoyable to engage in.
Spending time in nature is also a powerful way to heal and feel more connected to yourself and something bigger than you. In nature you also see that there is beauty everywhere, regardless of shapes and sizes. This helps provide perspective and reminds you to tune into what’s really important.
When you get your mind off of your body by learning new things and keeping busy, you realize that it’s possible to have a full and rich life despite the noise in your mind about how your body looks.
#2 Focus on Connections
People who struggle with their body image also often struggle with low self-esteem. This can lead to isolating behaviors and being disconnected from others, which only worsens your mental health (and thus your body image).
This summer, make a list of the 3 relationships that you would most like to cultivate or improve.
How can you find time to nurture these relationships? What shared activities could you all engage in? How can you be proactive to stay connected?
The more connected you are to your social support network, the better you’ll feel, and the better you feel, the more it helps to support positive body image over time.
You’ll also recognize that the people in your life who really care about you don’t care because of what your body looks like; they’re in your life because of who you are. (And, a little tough love, the person who is preoccupied with their body at all times is not that much fun to be around…)
#3 Heal Your Nervous System Through Engaging Your Senses
Learning to heal your nervous system is critical for mood regulation, body image, self-esteem, and your ability to continue working towards your goals in life.
One very gentle way to soothe your nervous system is to make a practice of deliberately engaging your senses.
This not only helps ground you and ease anxiety and stress, but it will also help you get in touch with your body in a way that is focused on how you feel, rather than how you look.
Take a ten-minute mindful walk each day and practice using as many senses as you can. Notice the rich green of the trees, the light breeze or the warmth of the sun, and the smell of freshly cut grass.
Wear fabrics that feel good and let yourself notice the texture against your skin.
Eat mindfully, noticing the textures, temperature, and flavor profiles.
Make a “sensory kit” to keep at your desk or nightside table. Grab your favorite essential oil, a bag of herbal tea, a silky hand-lotion, and some putty or another fidget. You can easily take a 5 minute break during the day or before you go to bed to mindfully indulge your senses and calm your nervous system with these tools.
If you are looking for more support with an eating disorder or body image issues, I am currently accepting new clients. Give us a call at (720) 675-7123 to schedule your free consultation today and take the first step towards healing your body image for good!