I’m willing to bet that all of you, regardless of whether you’ve had an eating disorder or not, have struggled with negative body image at least once in your life. How did you respond to it? Did you just ignore it, did you have anxiety, did you wallow in its burdening effects?
For me, bad body image contributed to my eating disorder’s development, but it wasn’t the only cause. However, it was the prevailing reason as to why I continued acting on eating disorder symptoms; it exacerbated everything, and was its worst at the height of my eating disorder.
Think about this.
The point at which my body image was at an all-time low was when my weight was its smallest and I was actively partaking in symptoms.
Even when I was doing everything my eating disorder wanted, and my body was extremely thin and emaciated, my body image was still terrible and my body dysmorphia was worse than ever before.
Nothing is ever enough for your eating disorder; it keeps wanting more, more, until you eventually meet your demise. It is never satisfied until you are dead. Therefore, it is futile to pursue the goal of changing your body in order to feel better about yourself; this tactic does not change your underlying issues, like low self-confidence or body dysmorphia. The only way to truly feel better about your body is accepting it for what it is, and all it does for you, without trying to negatively alter or change it.
(I am in no way saying not to exercise or work out- in fact, I love exercising! It allows me to release my stress and makes me feel strong. However, make sure it does not become obsessive, and always question your motives for doing it– if it doesn’t make you feel good and is just fueling the ED, then I’d recommend to stay away from it until your mindset improves)
I found that after I had restored my weight, my body image was so much better- even though I had gained body mass! It seems counter-intuitive and strange, but once you start actually nourishing your body and giving your brain fuel, the positive body image comes much more naturally.
However, a heads-up is that anxiety will have a huge spike when your weight reaches 90% or so of your ideal body weight. This increase is shown in the graph pictured below:
This is when your body image will probably be its absolute worse. However, you must keep pushing through, for once you get past that barrier, the anxiety decreases dramatically.
My recommendation for dealing with negative body image is to first restore weight if need be, or to fuel your body properly; even if your BMI is not underweight, you still need to make sure you are getting the proper amount and type of food you need! Your brain cannot make rational decisions if you don’t do this. I know it is excruciatingly hard for many people, but I believe in you! This is a vital step in the process!
Once you pass this point, begin working on body neutrality. It is extremely hard to go from hate to full-blown acceptance, so take small steps towards body neutrality before you move on to love.
TIPS FOR B A D B O D Y I M A G E DAYS :
- Think of your body in terms of its individual parts, and try to name at least one thing each of those parts do for you that is completely unrelated to its appearance (ex. My arms allow me to hug my friends, my legs help me dance)
- Record the positive aspects; write down at least 3 things you love about your body!
- DON’T COMPARE. Just don’t. Everyone is different, and in all aspects; their bone structure is different, their genetics are different, their personalities are different. We as human beings are all unique in our own ways, and instead of feeling bad about this, we should appreciate its inherent beauty. Every single person on this Earth is stunning in their own way- what’s not to love about that?
- Create small reminders. I love taping little notes all around my work-space and on items I use frequently; they usually have a quote I adore or a calming drawing. It may seem silly, but it really works! I have attached some of my own examples below:
I hope you appreciated this post about body image! I will probably be posting more about this, as it is a rather broad field and I have a lot of thoughts on it. 🙂