Body image. Do I hear a collective sigh? Groan of frustration? Chorus of “I don’t wanna think about it?” And yet, we live in San Diego, where it feels like it is bikini season 90% of the year. And where wearing tiny shorts and a bikini top inside the store or a restaurant isn’t considered completely inappropriate. You don’t need to have an eating disorder or low self-esteem in San Diego to have issues with accepting your beautiful body as it is!
When I consider body image, a barrage of pictures of models and famous people in the media come to mind (“breaking the internet,” anyone?). I think that the feeling that comes up for many people is a sense of inadequacy. You might think, “I don’t look as good as person X, celebrity Y, or friend Z, so something must be wrong with me.” It’s like you feel broken. This feeling of brokenness can be so pervasive that it can get in the way of your functioning and keep you from participating in life.
For some of you, negative body image may be so severe that you cover yourselves up and wear baggy clothes because you feel so uncomfortable. It may keep you from wearing shorts, short-sleeved shirts, and bathing suits. It can be especially challenging when you live in San Diego. I completely understand the fear and discomfort. Negative thoughts about your body can be overwhelming. It’s challenging to know how to handle it.
From my experience working with clients, I’ve found common strategies that can get you started on the path to body acceptance. I’ve therefore outlined three steps toward improving your body image:
FIRST: So how can you improve your body image and get to the point of body acceptance? Well, I think the first step is to change what you SEE. What are you exposing yourself to? Are you following social media accounts of people with certain body types that are constantly talking about “challenges” to improve their bodies? Are you following celebrities who focus more on what their bodies look like instead of celebrating their hearts and souls? Are you looking at a lot of pictures of bodies on the internet that could be triggering because they are over-focusing on body image?
I suggest that you change your focus. Instead, follow people who are inspiring your mind and encouraging your heart. If you would like to see examples of larger bodies in the media, follow larger-bodied models such as Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser. Follow larger-bodied comedians and actors such as Melissa McCarthy, Retta, and Aidy Bryant. If you are recovering from disordered eating, check out other people who are in recovery, such as Demi Lovato and Kesha. You can even follow eating disorder centers such as Center for Discovery and Center for Change, as well as organizations such as IAEDP (International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals), Project HEAL, and Recovery Warriors.
SECOND: The second step toward body acceptance is change how you THINK. I often tell my clients that our body image has little to do with what our outside looks like and more about what we think and how we feel on the inside. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes writing out positive statements about your body and sticking them on your mirrors, your refrigerators, and even the dashboard of your car. When negative thoughts come up about your body, distract yourself by playing a game on your phone, calling/texting friends or family, and listening to music. Ground yourself in the moment by focusing on your senses. What do you see, touch, hear, smell, and taste? Count all the blue things you see in the room. Doing these things help change your thought patterns—over time, you can train your brain to think differently.
THIRD: The third step toward body acceptance is to change your FOCUS. When I go to the beach, I see people of all ages, races, and religions wearing all types of clothes, from bikinis to full body suits. The commonality for these diverse peoples is that they are all having a wonderful time. Instead of looking at their bodies, look at their faces. They are laughing focused on connecting with their friends and families (and dogs, at some beaches—yay!). They are feeling the wind in their hair and tasting the salt of the ocean on their lips. They are focused on the EXPERIENCE and on their RELATIONSHIPS instead of their bodies.
I know that negative body image plagues many of us in San Diego. Taking these small steps can start you down the path to loving every inch of your body and feeling really present in it. It is possible. I’ve seen it and experienced it myself. :)
If you are struggling to find eating disorder treatment in San Diego, give me a call for your free 15-minute phone consultation at (858) 699-3754, and I will help you get where you need to be!