It can be tricky to take on body image tips when you don’t feel confident in yourself, but it just takes time.
Do you often find yourself frowning at your cellulite in the mirror, wishing you were a few inches taller or frantically trying to disguise the lines around your eyes? You’re certainly not alone, but our obsession with achieving the ‘perfect’ body is stopping us from recognising the beauty of the skin we’re in – wrinkles and all. So, just how can we stop grimacing at our reflections and start smiling at them? Claire Munnings asked the experts for their body image tips…
There is no ‘perfect’ body
“How closely our body matches the ‘perfect’ ideal is a preoccupation for a lot of people because we have been taught that this is an important measure of our success,” says chartered health psychologist Dr Sophie Edwards, who believes understanding where our obsession with our body comes from is the first step to addressing it. “We are shown images of the idealised form every day and it is slim, white, young and without disability. Having the perfect body is the ultimate achievement in our diet-obsessed culture and we accept this without question because it is all we know.”
Dr Sophie is an advocate of Health at Every Size (HAES), which is a weight-inclusive approach to healthcare and aims to encourage people to improve their wellbeing without focusing on weight loss – looking at aspects such as exercise, stress management, mental health, spirituality and intuitive eating instead. While she mostly helps people with eating disorders, she says that problems with our body image go far beyond the idea of size, and include issues such as race, age and disability too.
“Society promotes ideal body standards even in subtle ways,” she says. “For example, when we call a disabled person ‘brave’ for just living their life, what exactly are we saying? That to even exist in the world with a different body takes courage? It is a subtle but insidious reminder that unless we have a ‘perfect’ form, we should feel some inherent shame about our existence. Everyone has the right to be average, no matter their race, size or how their body functions, and still be worthy of respect, love and acceptance.”
Body confidence influencer Alex Light agrees. She has first-hand experience of the impact a negative body image can have on our wellbeing, and wants to change the way we look at ourselves.
“I became a body confidence influencer after a long battle with an eating disorder,” she explains (find her on Instagram @alexlight_ldn). “I realised that Instagram was full of people sharing a very curated side of their lives, and I wanted to cut through and be a source of comfort to women who might be going through something similar to me. I share my unedited pictures – often showing parts of myself that are generally considered ‘flaws’, like my cellulite and fat rolls – in the hope that I am deconditioning women to believe that the only standard of beauty is the one we typically see in the media.”
Embrace your body
“Even small lifestyle changes can help you switch your mindset and start loving your body more – body image tips 101. And the results can be outstanding. “Having a good body image is key to mental health,” Alex says. “A negative body image can affect your self-esteem, self acceptance and your general attitude towards food and exercise, so it’s important that we work towards feeling as happy as we can in our bodies.”
“Improving your body image can literally change your life – I am not exaggerating,” adds Dr Sophie. “How many hours a week do you spend dieting, or planning to diet? How much money do you spend on products to make you look thinner, younger or healthier? What could you achieve with this time and money? What partnerships could you form with other women if you weren’t in competition with each other? I have seen so many people flourish after healing their relationship with their body and go on to do amazing things.”
To help you on your way, our experts have the below tips…
Curate your social media feed
If social media is making you feel bad about yourself, change the accounts you follow. “Fill your feed with people of all different sizes, shapes, colours and genders,” Alex advises. “The more diverse your feed is, the more you will be able to open your eyes to different kinds of beauty and start to appreciate your own uniqueness.” Dr Sophie agrees. “Purge your social media of anyone who makes you feel bad about your body. A lot of people promoting diets literally make their money from people’s insecurities so do not have your best interest at heart.”
Stop the comparison game
We’re all guilty of lusting over the full hair, glowing skin or toned abs of others, but try to appreciate their beauty without comparing it to your own. “Comparing yourself to someone else is futile and unfair,” says Alex. “You have different genes, different DNA and different lifestyles – you’re never going to look exactly like someone else and that’s a good thing. Our uniqueness should be celebrated, not changed.”
Challenge your negative thinking
Our inner critic can be particularly loud when it comes to our looks, but working to silence these negative thoughts can help you change your attitude. “Whenever you catch yourself thinking something cruel about yourself, stop and remind yourself that you don’t deserve the negative narrative,” says Alex. Dr Sophie also suggests making a list of all your positive attributes that are unrelated to your body, even though body image tips are helpful, to look at when you’re having a bad day and to demonstrate that you’re so much more than just your physical form.
Talk to an expert
“Some body image issues are the result of more than diet culture – they can have their roots in trauma that need to be addressed by a professional,” says Dr Sophie. If you feel this is relevant for you, seek expert advice on body image tips today.
Forget everything you’ve learnt about beauty from advertising campaigns and social media. Alex explains how these distort the truth…
Overweight women aren’t as beautiful as slim women
We are only taught that slim women are more beautiful so that companies can make money from us trying to ‘fix’ ourselves. It’s not true – there is beauty in all shapes and sizes, and there are far more qualities to measure beauty than weight, such as kindness and confidence.
I’d be much happier if I lost weight
Losing weight is not the key to happiness. Diet culture may have us believe that it is, but unfortunately, even if we do achieve a slimmer form, we are often still left with low self-esteem and panic about weight gain. Body images tips, such as practising self-acceptance and making sure our bodies are satisfied is far more likely to lead to happiness.
Now that I’ve had children, no one will love my body
No matter what your body looks like, you are still a person worthy of love. And having a baby is a miraculous thing that your body has done – it should be admired for that, not chastised.