I wanted to come on here to talk more about body image, eating disorders, the appearance ideal etc. because my passion and purpose in life is to help others going through those same struggles. I just wrapped up another quarter of The Body Project at school and my Wellness Week for my sorority which was targeted around body positivity, so this has been on my mind a lot recently. I wanted to share some tips for body positivity, as well as some reminders.
I want to let y’all know that pretty much everyone deals with body image issues at least once in their life. We are all conditioned from an early age that “skinny” is the ideal and we must do everything we can to achieve it. You are not alone in trying to attain this beauty ideal. I have struggled and I have met countless people who have confided in me that they struggle. I have also met many people who say “Wow, I didn’t know other people felt this way” or “I thought I was alone”. You are 100% not alone.
I also believe that it never fully goes away. I for one, having had a past with an eating disorder, will always have that voice in the back of my mind telling me not to eat that, or that I’m too fat, etc. It is just a matter of not giving it the attention it wants, ignoring it, and continuing on with my day. People who have not directly experienced an eating disorder will also have the struggle of trying to resist the appearance ideal.
I have some tips for all things body image related, to help yourself and those around you:
1. Don’t skip breakfast
You always hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s true. You need that fuel to get your body ready for the day. If you get nauseous in the morning from breakfast, wait a little while after waking up before eating. Start with smaller meals and then work your way up to a normal size when you’re ready. How do you expect yourself to function at all if you have nothing in your body to give you that energy?
2. Unfollow people who you compare yourself to
If you find yourself always coming back to someones page and scrolling through all of their photos of their body, unfollow or even block them if you have to. You can also follow more body positive accounts that don’t necessarily have photos of people’s bodies. If the person you are comparing yourself to is someone you can’t block or unfollow, try muting them. There’s a feature that allows you to continue following them, but mute their content so it doesn’t come up on your feed. Being very conscious about the people you follow and about the content you consume is very important and can help so much. I didn’t think I followed any accounts like this, but when I really sat down and thought about it, there were a handful that I did this with. I ended up blocking those accounts and now I haven’t even checked them once.
3. Try not to comment on someone’s looks
Whether this is in the comments on someone’s photo or an in person interaction, refrain from commenting on someone’s looks. Let’s say you comment on someones weight loss saying how amazing they look now. You do not know how they lost the weight, whether it was in a healthy way or not. If it wasn’t in a healthy way, then you’re encouraging their unhealthy behavior. To someone who is struggling, those comments stick in their mind. I, to this day, still remember comments people would make about my body whenever I was struggling. Even if you think you’re being nice and that it was meant with good intentions, try not to address how someone looks. Keep the focus off people’s bodies and more on experiences, personality, and literally anything else.
4. Reframe your mind
Remind yourself that you are working out to feel better and to be healthy, and for no other reason. Whenever you catch yourself looking in the mirror and criticizing your body, stop those thoughts and pick out something positive about you body. An example could be “My legs are strong and give me the ability to wait in lines at Disneyland” haha. Noticing those negative thoughts, stopping them, and replacing them with something positive is an amazing step towards eventually loving your body.
5. Understand that everyone has a different body type
I’m five feet tall and all of my life I looked around at other short girls and they were so tiny. I’ve never been overweight or anything, but I always felt like there was something wrong with me. I’m short, so shouldn’t that mean that I should be tiny? No, because I am blessed to have curves. I still have a great body and I am HEALTHY for my size. Every one is different and you can’t expect yourself to look like someone else, so stop comparing! You are you, and you are special and beautiful. There’s this quote that was going around that said something along the lines of “Not all flowers look the same, but that doesn’t make any of them less beautiful”. I probably butchered that but you get the point.
6. Remind yourself that so many people facetune their photos
Not everything you see online is real, I think we all know that. We need to remind ourselves when we’re scrolling through social media that even people who go to the same school as us, everyday people, acquaintances, photoshop their photos to look a certain way. This is a reason why comparison is so harmful and useless because we are comparing ourselves to something that isn’t even real. It isn’t even attainable, so why stress over it? I also advise you, if you use facetune, to delete the app and refrain from touching up your photos.
7. Start a conversation
If you’re comfortable enough, reach out to a close friend and ask them if they struggle with body image issues as well. I think it’s really important to start a conversation and to have people around you that you can depend on and know that they understand you. It’s one thing for me to sit here and tell you that everyone struggles, but it’s another thing to actually SEE it. This is why I find the Body Project so amazing and enlightening, because as a facilitator, I see so many girls come in with the same issues. We discuss the appearance ideal and the pressures we feel to look a certain way. It’s a nice conversation to have because it isn’t something we really talk about a lot, even with our friends. I have also seen in the meetings girls relating over very similar experiences. I believe it’s important to find someone you can talk to about it, relate to, and understand that you truly are not alone.
8. Seek out support
This one kind of ties in with the last point of reaching out to people close in your life, but for this point I wanted to elaborate on reaching out even further. You can join a club at school that is centered around body positivity. If there isn’t a club, consider starting one yourself. Seek out body positive accounts on social media or even start your own. Find songs, quotes, literally anything pertaining to loving yourself and share it with your friends or even your followers on social media. Get involved in activities on campus that have to do with self-love. There are many ways to get involved and meet other people with the same goals as you do.
9. Don’t post your numbers online!
I don’t happen to see this too often, but every once in a while I come across people sharing their weight and body stats online and it can be very triggering. I, for one, have not weighed myself since I was like 16 and anorexic. I know that if I were to weigh myself, even to this day, that number will haunt me and follow me forever. Even when I go to the doctors office, I turn around on the scale and respectfully ask if I can not know my weight. My nurses are always kind about it. I do not look at the calories in the foods I am eating, nor do I calculate the calories I am eating in a day. This is another thing I find that if I start doing, I will become obsessed with. Even if you do not personally struggle with these issues, please be mindful of others who may be struggling and come across your stats. I do not like hearing about people’s specific weights because then I will start comparing myself. This is another thing that can be burned into people’s memories if they are struggling with their own weight and stats.
10. Be Kind To Yourself
There are some days I wake up bloated and feeling like shit in my body. When this happens, I try to not give it too much attention and just go on with my day. Some days I just think about how normal and common it is to be bloated. Everyone experiences this, so why even worry about it? Sometimes I catch myself saying “Oh that’s not healthy, I shouldn’t have that” or “That’s too much food”. I have to stop myself and say “Hey, I can eat whatever I want and I’m not going to beat myself up about it”. Life is already hard enough then to be worrying constantly about what you look like at every moment of the day, or stressing over that one bad meal you had. News flash: that one bad meal isn’t going to make you gain more weight. Treat yourself to things you crave and love. Try not to stress out so much over the food you’re putting in your body. It’s all about balance. Give yourself a break, especially while we’re in isolation. I find a lot of people, including myself, are being hard on themselves and their bodies. Understand that right now is not normal. We will get back to normal eventually, but it isn’t fair to beat yourself up. We’re all struggling and dealing with loss in different ways. Take this time to focus on being kinder to your body and giving yourself a break.