3 Ways to Boost Body Image
Collectively we place FAR too much importance on our physical appearance.
Thanks to diet culture this is extremely evident in today’s society whether we see it on magazine covers, photos people post of themselves on social media, the pressure women place on ourselves when trying on clothes…
What happened to the days when we used to preach that beauty comes from within? (as I sit here humming Christina Aguilera’s “I am Beautiful”).
According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), body image is defined as “how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses: what you believe about your own appearance, how you feel about your body, including height, shape and weight, and how you sense and control your body as you move [or] how you physically experience or feel in your body.” 
Body dissatisfaction is one of the major sources of suffering among women of all ages and refers to negative thoughts and feelings regarding one’s body weight and shape. The research shows that body dissatisfaction is correlated with increased risk of poor self-esteem, depression and eating disorders .
Appallingly, we see children as young as six years old (gasp!) begin to internalise messages from parents, play mates or other external factors . Notably, body image concerns and eating disorders can affect us ALL. That is, all genders, ages, cultures and ethnicities can be at risk of this. It. does. not. discriminate.
This blog post is going to highlight the current evidence on body image and provide a few top tips on how you can begin to nurture a positive body image.
Notably, an overwhelming amount of the literature looking at body image places emphasis on body image as a ‘pathology’ or disease driven by negative body image rather than emphasising positive body image.
As many of you know, at EHL, we like to focus on the positive and what we can do MORE of or ADD in to improve our quality of life.
Researchers historically assumed that negative body image was the direct opposite of positive body image, however talented researcher Tylka (2011) refutes this and argues the need to focus on positive body image as distinct and irrespective of negative body image.
Positive body image refers to:
- having favourable opinions of body regardless of actual appearance
- acceptance of body regardless of weight, shape imperfections, body respect
- tending to body needs, protection of the body by rejecting unrealistic media images 
- Capacity to be able to reject and not internalise unrealistic standards presented by diet culture and the thin ideal 
The wonderful thing? Nurturing a positive body image is a practice, which means it can be developed.
So let’s dive right into our top tips on how to do just that!
ONE. Practice self-compassion
Something we love to preach around here.
Self-compassion is defined as treating yourself the way you would treat your own best friend or loved one and it is comprised of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness .
Studies have shown that individuals who practice self-compassion have greater optimism, sense of gratitude and life satisfaction . Leader in the field – Dr. Kristin Neff says that by offering a non-judgemental understanding of one’s own suffering or discomfort and seeing it as part of the greater human experience can be an effective way to find acceptance and appreciation.
A study conducted in adolescent females found that those who were more self-compassionate were less preoccupied by their body, had less concerns about their weight and greater appreciation for their bodies .
- Challenge your inner critic and notice what language you use to talk to yourself on a daily basis. What does it sound like? Consider if you would talk to someone else in that same way? How would you talk to a loved one? Can you consider using kinder words for yourself?
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your FREE self-compassion audio.
TWO. Engage in mindful self-care
Take a moment to think back to the time when you first met your best friend and what it took for you to begin to build trust with him/her.
The odds are, it comes down to small acts of kindness.
Trust is something that we learn. It’s earned. So in this same way, when we seek to foster a positive body image we are looking to re-build the relationship we have with oneself. That is, with small acts of kindness.
The research shows that individuals who take care of themselves are MORE likely to have increased positive feelings towards themselves.
The incredible Cook-Cottone (2016) says “[s]elf-care is defined as the daily process of being aware of and attending to one’s basic physiological and emotional needs including the shaping of one’s daily routine, relationships, and environment as needed to promote self-care. Mindful self-care addresses self-care and adds the component of mindful awareness.” 
She breaks mindful self-care down into internal AND external factors because it’s not all about bubble baths and massages (although I wouldn’t complain!), but instead she highlights:
- Internal factors: using constructive coping mechanisms when you feel uncomfortable feelings or emotions, self-compassion, mindfulness, spirituality.
- External factors: making decisions about what content you consume, who you spend time with, healthy eating and exercise.
- MAKE time for yourself instead of FINDING time. Put yourself in your diary because you matter just as much as others you care for.
- Next time you go for a walk, try doing so mindfully by tuning into all your senses. Notice what sounds you hear in your surroundings, what it feels like as your feet press against the ground, what aromas fill the air… we call this dynamic meditation.
- Try a five minute guided meditation if you haven’t done so already! Apps such as @calm or @headspace are quite popular to get you started.
- Nurture a good night sleep.
- Call a great friend you haven’t spoken to in a while who supports you and loves you unconditionally – just catch up, no agenda needed.
- Move your body in a way that feels good! Pilates, yoga, dance, boxing – whatever it is, do it!
- Clean up your social media feed. Unfollow accounts that make you feel inadequate or inferior, and follow accounts that RAISE YOUR VIBRATIONS!
Note: these are suggestions but what works for one person may not work for another – it’s all about trial and error and finding what works for YOU!
THREE. Appreciate body functionality
Studies show if we focus on body appreciation and WHAT our bodies do for us every single day this can improve body image . Consider how it allows you to get from point A to point B, to taste and enjoy food, to listen to music and dance, to be productive, to be hugged and feel affection… Praise your body for what is can DO rather than what it looks like.
Rather than aiming for body LOVE, which may seem perhaps too far away… consider body acceptance first.
- Engage in self-accepting body talk. Try to build in positive affirmations on what you would like to believe until you say it so much it becomes your reality.
- Try what you think resonates with you and consider what feels useful to you. Not all may apply but trial them and see. Get curious!
The body positive movement is making big waves to disrupt diet culture and its aim is to promote body diversity, acceptance and improve body image for ALL ages, genders, races, ethnicities, abilities and sizes. EHL is proud to support this movement to recognise all bodies are good bodies. We continue our mission to empower you to heal your relationship with food and your body. You. Are. Worth. It.
Let us know what tips you try by tagging us @embodyhealthlondon_ We would love to hear from you!
- Stapleton, P., Crighton, G. J., Carter, B., & Pidgeon, A. (2017). Self-esteem and body image in females: The mediating role of self-compassion and appearance contingent self-worth. The Humanistic Psychologist, 45(3), 238–257. https://doi.org/10.1037/hum0000059
- Avalos, L. C., Tylka, T. L., & Wood-Barcalow, N. (2005). The Body Appreciation Scale: Development and psychometric evaluation. Body Image, 2, 285–297. http://dx. doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2005.06.002
- Webb, Wood-Barcalow & Tyler, (2015). Assessing positive body image: Contemporary approaches and future directions, Body Image, 14:130-145.
- Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15298860309027
- Wasylkiw, L., MacKinnon, A. L., & MacLellan, A. M. (2012). Exploring the link between self-compassion and body image in university women. Body Image, 9, 236–245. http:// dx.doi.org/10.5860/CHOICE.33-4223
- Cook-Cottone, C. P. & Guyker, W. (2016). The Mindful Self-Care Scale: Mindful self-care as a tool to promote physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being.
- Cash, T. F., & Smolak, L. (2012). Body image: a handbook of science, practice, and prevention. Pages 59-60. New York; London: The Guilford Press.