Bad body image days, they happen to all of us.
This time of year can bring on all the feels. Which, in my experience, can significantly amplify how we feel in, and about, our bodies.
So, as we move through this stressful season of the year, it's important to be reminded of and armed with ways to cope with those tough moments, or days.
So, let's get into it (click here for a printable pdf version).
10 Ways to Cope with Bad Body Image Days
Take a deep breath and acknowledge exactly what your mind is telling you.
Getting to know the narrative in your mind is so important. As you hear your inner shit-talker screaming at you, consider how it makes your feel. Is this a message you would communicate to someone you care about? Is this a way you would want your best friend to feel?
Remember, your mind was designed to act from a place of fear. Your inner critic's function is to protect you. It's a built-in sense of security, but you don't have to believe everything it says.
Remember that fat, frumpy, gross blah, etc are not actual feelings.
For a long time my go-to-feeling was frumpy. When I would say it out loud my husband would ask 'WTF are you even talking about?' He was confused because I wasn't ACTUALLY expressing a feeling. And he was left just as clueless as I was on how to help me feel better.
It's amazing how we can label anxiety, anger, vulnerability, stress or sadness as fat. Or frumpy. Or gross.
If we don't allow ourselves to dig under the surface a bit to acknowledge what needs to be soothed, we'll stay stuck. Acknowledge the feeling and consider how you can tend to it.
Ask yourself 'what else is here?'
This connects to the last point. Allow yourself to dig a bit deeper. Is there a part of you that needs to be cared for? Are you longing for connection or support? Consider how you can shift toward what your true needs are in the here and now.
Limit body checking behaviors as much as you can.
The confirmation bias is real. If you're looking for a new lump or bump, you'll find it. If you're looking for bags under your eyes, there they'll be. If you're twisting and turning to see your skin and fat hanging over your pants, guess what? Yup, you'll be able to spot it.
Body checking in stressful moments won't help. They'll just pull you deeper into a state of despair.
Instead, walk away from the mirror.
If that's too tough, set a timer for 30 or 60 seconds. Give yourself permission to check for that period of time. Next, give yourself the same amount of time to consider a part (or parts) of your body, or a way your body functions, that you can feel gratitude for.
Repeat a grounding statement, affirmation or mantra, that will shift you toward what you truly value and a more neutral state of mind.
If I asked you what you value about your BFF, sister or mother, would you tell me that their flat stomach, cellulite free ass (FYI that isn't a thing) or their shapely arms is what brings joy to your relationship?
Didn't think so.
Come up with a phrase that reconnects you to your inherent worthiness and value as a person.
Some of my favorites?
All bodies are good bodies. My body is worthy of respect. My body is not a problem.
Reconnect to your body with soothing touch, or by soothing your senses.
It can feel almost automatic to disconnect from our bodies when we're struggling with them and in them. Try resting your hands on your chest and feeling the beat of your heart. Stroking your arm, or giving yourself a hug. Connect to your sense of sight with an image that brings you joy. Smell your favorite candle, snuggle the softest blanket you can find.
When we allow ourselves to reconnect to what is, in the here and now, we are reminded that we can, in fact, find neutrality and even a sense of peace, in our current bodies.
Ask yourself, 'if my body weren't the problem, what else could be the source of this distress?'
Compassionately and curiously addressing the actual issue or feeling at hand is the way out. Always.
Remind yourself that striving for body change (restriction, dieting, disordered eating behaviors) might sound like a good idea now, but it's ineffective and more harmful in the long-run.
Shame is not an effective motivator for change and is a set up for ongoing weight cycling and yo-yo dieting.
Remember, body loathing and shame induced behavior change make it even harder to care for ourselves.
Acknowledge that you are suffering and offer yourself respect, kindness and compassion.
You're always one moment away from treating yourself with respect, kindness and compassion. Noticing the the distress and shame that your thoughts are causing and coming back to the here and now is an act of mindfulness.
Countering those thoughts with respect, kindness and compassion is the antidote to that shame.
Consider how you want to feel. No, not about your body. But in your life.
Remember that bad body image days aren't typically actually about your body. They're symbolic of what's going on internally.
The more you can focus on being in your life and creating a life that feeds you emotionally, relationally and spiritually, the more you can settle into your body as the vehicle that experiences that life.
Remember, having a positive body image doesn't have to mean loving or even liking the body you're in. It can mean existing in your world while learning to be in your current body. Try not to put pressure on yourself to be anywhere but where you are.
I hope that this helps with those hard days. When all else fails, come back to respect. Because you're always so deserving of that.