I want to challenge you for a second to think about your body. What thoughts immediately come to mind? Do you tend to focus on the parts of yourself that you like or that you dislike?
More often than not, the immediate reactions, attitudes, and thoughts about our own bodies tend to be negative. It takes more energy at times to reflect back on a compliment given about our looks rather than the part of ourselves we stared at in the mirror. We are our own worst critics.
The conversation around body image starts to increase significantly around spring and summer season. This is often due to the “expectation” or “comparison” of bodies in various summer clothing and more often, swimsuits. When asked about the summer season, individuals tend to point out their disappointment with their bodies and the fear around others seeing them on the beach or at the pool.
I often ask if people feel this sense of distress being seen by people they know versus being seen by strangers. However, when it comes to severity of body image negativity, the circumstance and individuals involved tend to not make a difference.
Top Places That Cause Distress:
– Community Pool
– Shopping Mall (trying on clothes)
Body Image and Recovery
Some of the normal aspects of healthy living include a well-balanced diet, exercise and sense of support. However, these factors can be difficult when in eating disorder recovery. The recovery process teaches us to eat mindfully, allowing for consumption of various foods in. Exercise in particular may not be a positive coping strategy as the compulsive thoughts may arise quicker. Therefore, if you are asked for ways to improve your body image while in recovery, what would your response be?
To start, body image is a spectrum that is continuously adjusted and processed. We all should strive to understand our bodies, the challenges and successes we have gone through, and the parts of ourselves we often forget to appreciate. We should also understand the biological changes that bodies go through as we age. One activity that allows us to think critically about our body image involves listing what our body does for us. Another activity is to cleanse our social media. This can be easier said than done due to algorithms adjusting what we see. However, if you notice that certain pages or individuals cause negative thoughts to increase for you, be mindful of ways to limit such emotions. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Finally, eating disorder recovery and body image requires the choice to remain positive and to go against urges or negative behaviors. Utilizing your supportive network whether that includes family, friends or professionals can be helpful when thoughts or emotions become overwhelming. There are also numerous resources through agencies such as National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), Eating Recovery Center (ERC), and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that can explore body image further. Below are some resources that I often provide:
Books About Body Image:
- Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield
- The Body Image Workbook by Thomas F. Cash
- More Than A Body by Kexie and Kindsey Kite
- Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
- Life without Ed by Jenni Schaefer
- Healing Your Hungry Heart by Joanna Poppink
- Just Eat It by Laura Thomas
- What’s Wrong With Fat? by Abigail Saguy
Empowering Songs About Body Image:
- “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
- “’Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara
- “Pretty Hurts” by Beyonce
- “Good Place” by Demi Lovato
- “I am” by JoJo
Positive Social Media:
- Good Humans Only (instagram)
- The Self Care Kit (instagram)
- Body Image With Bri (body image coach)
Written by Maya Jefferson, LCSW
Maya is a therapist who is passionate about the working in the mental health feild. She has a special interested in disordered eating, body image and working with women of color who are seeking mental health treatment. She approaches therapy with a down-to-earth feel that is both compassionate and actionable. In her free time you can find her playing guitar, singing and reading.
If you’re interested in setting up an appointment with Maya, Contact her today.
Disclaimer: This is in no way a replacement for a therapeutic relationship or mental health services. This is for educational purposes only and should be in used only in conjunction in working with a licensed mental health professional. Reading this blog or responding to it does not constitute a provider-patient relationship. If you are looking for a local mental health professional feel free to use the contact tab to request an appointment or search Therapy Den for local therapists in your area. If this is a mental health emergency and you need immediate assistance please call 911 or your county’s crisis line to speak to a mental health professional.