Everyone struggles with body image.
The idea that we need to be smaller and thinner and have no blemishes or rolls or anything that makes us human is pushed by the diet industry to sell products and programs promising quick results. I wrote a bit more about this here – https://www.goliathgym.com.au/who-is-fitness-for/
So how do we push back against this?
I’m not going to talk about body love or how you should just love yourself because, if you’ve spent most of your life repeating the messages that there’s something wrong with your body and you won’t be happy until you lose “just a few more kilos”, loving your body can seem so out of reach.
So instead, I want to talk about body neutrality and acceptance.
Your body is worthy of love and respect, no matter what. You might not love all the parts but that doesn’t mean your body isn’t worthy. It’s your body and it’s the only one you have. Hating it hasn’t gotten you anywhere so you’ve got nothing to lose by trying to accept it, as is.
Body neutrality is where we want to aim for – where we don’t really think about our body at all. It’s just a meat sack carrying us around and completing all the incredible feats of keeping us alive. But it’s not something we need to spend a lot of time thinking about.
To start being more neutral about your body:
1. reframe the negative thoughts you have when you look at yourself or think about your body. Take out the judgement and just call it what it is. Body. Legs. Belly. Cellulite. These are things we all have and there’s no morality attached to any of it. It just is.
2. Start saying positive things about other people. If you see someone and your first instinct is to judge what they’re wearing or what size they are, catch yourself and say something positive about them (either to them or in your head). Once you start doing this towards other people, the negative self-talk will also start to subside.
3. Recognise that it’s a journey. You won’t feel great every day. But instead of tearing your body apart if you have a bad body image day, recognise how you feel and where it’s coming from, and remember that fat isn’t a feeling.
4. Unfollow people (online and in real life) that make you feel bad about yourself.
Online – models and influencers post very curated images that are highly edited. They don’t look like that in real life. There are even apps that people can use to edit their body in videos before they’re uploaded to social media (so those “real” IG stories people post are not always as they seem). If you’re following someone (or many someones) who makes you feel bad about yourself, or stirs up negative feelings, unfollow them.
IRL – if you hang out with people who spend all their time bitching about their bodies or talking about the new diet they’re on, don’t be afraid to take a break from them. Or tell them that you don’t want to engage in those conversations anymore. Once you’re not constantly having these conversations, it will be easier to reframe the messages you tell yourself.
5. Diversify your feed. Follow people whose bodies don’t fit the stereotype. Follow people who are in larger bodies or are people of colour. Seeing a variety of different bodies will show you that we all come in different shapes and sizes, and we’re all worthy.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change your body – build muscle, get stronger, or drop body fat. But we need to look at where those ideas are coming from and if that goal is your own. We also need to consider if this can be done in a healthy way that prioritises your physical and mental health.