How To Improve Body Image Without Losing Weight

Body image is the way we think about ourselves and the way we believe others think about us. Poor body image has been linked to poorer quality of life, psychological distress and risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders (Mental Health Foundation, 2019).

You’ve probably seen the wave of hashtags such as #bodypositivity #bodylove all over Instagram right now. What started as a movement for fat, black women has been commodified and picked up by influencers, advertisers and brands, diluting the message. This can also make the idea of loving or accepting your body even more unattainable and unrealistic.

Shifting the focus towards body neutrality and respecting your body can be more tangible than expecting to wake up one day loving everything about yourself. Can you start respecting your body, appreciating what it does for you and spend less time worrying about it? To get you started here are a few things to try to help improve body image.

  • Being mindful of the language we use around our own body and other people’s bodies. Saying ‘I feel so fat today’ or ‘she shouldn’t be wearing that’ may seem harmless in the short term but are fatphobic behaviours which can be impactful on body image in the long run.

  • Have a social media cleanse. Mute or unfollow people who use fatphobic language, make you feel uncomfortable about yourself or, as Marie Kondo would say, don’t bring you joy. Try to diversify your feed with people of colour, disabled people and non-binary people.

  • Find movement you enjoy, uncoupling it from weight loss. Physical activity has been linked to improved body image, regardless of size.

  • Seek help and support from friends and family members or charities such as Mind and Beat.

  • Practice self-care by taking care of your body both physically and mentally. Practice basic hygiene activities, book in regular medical and dental appointments, take part in hobbies you enjoy, practice yoga or meditation.

  • Stop body checking and comparing yourself to others. Body diversity exists so we aren’t all going to look the same, even if we eat and move in exactly the same way as someone else. Try to catch yourself when comparison occurs and shut it down.

  • Don’t support brands or content who don’t use a diverse range of people to advertise their products. Call them out by sending an email or a tweet or get behind campaigns or petitions calling out the issue. Organisations such as the Be Real Campaign are a great place to start.

  • Check people when they use stigmatising and negative language about themselves or others. Have a conversation with them about why this sort of language isn’t useful for your body image or theirs.

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