3 psychologist’s secrets to boost your body image

If you were more comfortable in your skin, life would be better, right?

Maybe you would:

  • Just go the party (without all the stress beforehand).
  • Be happy to be in photos (instead of ducking and running).
  • Stop dreading clothes shopping (and even have some fun with it!).

There’s probably a million benefits of a healthy dose of body positivity…so what’s stopping you from taking it?

For many of us, the challenge lies not in if we want to improve our body image, but how we do it.

From an early age we are given countless messages to judge our bodies, to compare them, to value their looks above all else.  But we’re never really taught to love them.  So when I interviewed body-image thought-leader Taryn Brumfitt recently I asked her how we can invite body positivity into our lives.  You can watch the full video here, and I’d highly recommend you do*, but some interesting subtleties of body positivity emerged from the conversation that I felt I had to share with you so they didn’t get missed.  Here are 3 nuances of body positivity that will help you on your journey to possessing an authentically positive body-image.

1. Be yourself.

I know you’ve heard that you should be yourself a trillion times before, but during our conversation it dawned on me that self-expression is intimately intertwined with body positivity.  Not only does society give us immeasurable messages not to love our bodies unless they are perfect, it also tells us not to love them unless we dress them a certain way, move them a certain way, feed them a certain way**, and generally just behave in them in all of the ways that are expected of us.  Part of body positivity is saying “no, thanks!” to other people’s rules and listening to that inner part of you that knows yourself better than anyone else.  If you are in a situation where self-expression feels outside your comfort zone, apply this simple strategy (it works really well).  Ask:

What would Taryn do? 

And take the leap headfirst into your own beautiful uniqueness.
Taryn Brumfitt & Glenn Mackintosh tiger pose

2.  Nurture your WHOLE self.

Ironically, an important element of body-positivity is acknowledging that you are SO MUCH MORE than just your body.  Rather than lazer-focusing on your physical self, zoom out and try to take care of all parts of you.  You already know how to do this (see Point 1) but as some suggestions, maybe you could nurture your:

  • Mind by reading a good book.
  • Emotions by taking a brief moment to yourself.
  • Relationships by making dinner plans with an old friend.
  • Spirit by hiking in the mountains.
  • Inner kid by doing something FUN (anything)!
  • Future by taking a course of study.

Nurturing your whole self keeps your body image from getting too big for its boots and places your body squarely in the role of the important vehicle for achieving all of your dreams…not the dream itself.

Let’s take a moment to write down one kind thing you can do for your non-physical self today.  Now, your mind may tell you that you don’t have time, enough money, or the motivation for this right now, but overcoming such mental barriers is, in itself, an important step towards improving your relationship with your body, so why not try it and see what happens?  I’ve asked more people than I can remember to give this simple activity a go, but I can’t ever remember anyone regretting it!

Bathroom scales with writing: news flash, this number does not determine your beauty or worth you are more

3.  Judge less, love more.

Another paradox of body-positivity is that our judgment of others is virtually inseparable from our judgment of ourselves.  So if we want to be less inwardly judgmental (which of course we do!) then a great place to start is to become mindful of our judgments of those around us.  If you want to try this, practice catching the judgments you have of other people (e.g., “she’s going about it all the wrong way.”, “why can’t he ever follow through with things?!”, “she should NOT be wearing that at her size!”).  Whenever you catch yourself (and try not to judge yourself too harshly for judging!) use one of the following mantras***:

  • “I don’t know that person but I bet they are doing the best they can.”
  • “Oops, I briefly forgot everyone’s not like me!” (said jokingly)
  • “They have a reason for (judgment)… I wonder what it could be?”

And feel your judgments dissipate into the ether.  The hidden magic in this is that when you start to adopt a judgment-free attitude toward others, you will naturally notice your own judgments lift…

Dietitian Shane Jeffrey high fiving Glenn Mackintosh at Dietitian Connection conference 2018

The bottom line.

Like anything important, improving your relationship with your body takes time, but the good news is that you really can do it.  Whether I’m doing body-image work with clients face-to-face or online in our Love Your Body Healthy Online Program I see everyday people just like you feel the relief of finally letting go of their judgments, and enjoy dedicating that mental space to caring for themselves in a way that is right for them!  This is really common in my work with clients and if you want a taste of these benefits for yourself (and why wouldn’t you?), just take one of the ideas and have a play with it over the next few weeks…I guarantee you’ll feel a little more comfortable in your skin, and then you’ll have already taken a dose of that body positivity that will make your life just that little bit better!

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*It’s jam-packed with positive body-image “how-tos”!

**Or a dozen on-trend (often conflicting) certain ways.

***Use whichever you like, see Point 1 (Okay, I’m just being a smart-ass now!)