How to overcome negative body image and learn to love yourself
The Food Addiction Coach, Dr Bunmi Aboaba, shares her top tips on how we can start accepting ourselves just the way we are.
As summer is here, it’s the time of the year when all we see is friends and family’s holiday photos all over our feeds.
The time when the pressure to look a certain way and get the ‘perfect beach bod’ is more than ever.
Don’t worry you aren’t alone, research shows that 80% of women are affected by negative body issues. It’s so easy to always compare ourselves to others, focus on our flaws and try every fad diet out there in order to shed a few pounds and feel better about ourselves.
But why can’t we just love ourselves for the way we are? It’s easier said than done, right? That’s why we caught up with The Food Addiction Coach, Dr Bunmi Aboaba, to find out how we can learn to love ourselves just the way we are.
Try to understand negative body image
Negative feelings and thoughts towards our body are defined as body dissatisfaction or body image distress. This negative perspective of one’s body image is often a symptom or predictor of an eating disorder. Body image distress usually occurs among those with mental health disorders, including food addiction, depression and anxiety.
There is a range of body-related behaviours indicated with body dissatisfaction that includes body-checking behaviours, such as frequent weighing, pinching of flesh and mirror observation. A negative body image can result in numerous psychological and physiological disorders, these may include, eating disorders, low self-esteem and body dysmorphia.
Challenge your misperceptions
It’s important to note that it may be impossible to become entirely free of body image concerns as the perfect appearance is a concept perpetuated throughout our society. From cognitive-behavioural therapy to fitness training and media literacy or self-esteem, to development and gratitude, there are a variety of successful interventions that can help counteract negative body image to find the ones that work best for you.
Stop that negative inner chatter
Stop engaging in negative self-criticism – but it’s easier said than done? By listening to that voice in your head that shames you and is hurtful and damaging, you are perpetuating a detrimental cycle. Avoid these judgements, counteract them, argue back and change the language.
Compliment yourself each day. Choose an area of your body that you like – there is one, I assure you. It may be your skin, hair, ankles, eyes or shoulders. Compliment yourself and take some time to enjoy that area through touch and visual appreciation. The more you do this, the more that voice will change its tone. Once you get a handle on your inner critic – and simply being aware they are there is a sign of enormous progress – you can start to get to the nitty-gritty of change.
Challenge avoidance and body checking
If you are used to body checking multiple times a day or undergo the opposite – hiding your body from yourself and others – try to make gradual steps to change this. Start wearing clothes indoors you are afraid to wear outside in the house to get used to them and build confidence.
Keep a gratitude journal
This is a wonderfully positive daily exercise. By starting each day with five things you are grateful for, you will quickly discover how your mindset shifts. Maybe you are thankful for having a home, the sunrise, that first cup of coffee in the morning, hugging your child, or taking part in outdoor activities. There are numerous things, however small, we can be grateful for and as you practice this exercise, it will become increasingly challenging to keep to just five.
Buy clothes that fit now
All too often, we buy clothes that do not quite fit but we want them to. We think they will motivate us to reach that ideal weight or size; however, all they do is cause us psychological harm. Embrace your body the way it is today. Buy clothes that you love that compliment you the way you are now. This will increase your self-esteem and self-worth exponentially.
Exercise is known to boost our endorphins and make us feel energised and optimistic. Improving fitness can also improve body image by encouraging individuals to focus more on their overall health and energy levels and less on their appearance. For example, why not focus on getting 10,000 steps in every day?