If you’re anything like me, these negative body-image days roll around every once in a while. There was a time when this would be my ‘every day’, but as I started ‘working on myself, for myself’, as the saying goes, the bad days were interjected by more frequent ‘good’ days. Fast forward to now, with a lot of ‘body image self-coaching’ behind me, and actually the ‘negative’ days are the anomalies, sprinkled sporadically across a largely positive and confident perspective of my own body. But I’ve not got it all figured out – these days do still happen. And when they do, they are normally when you least expect them, and go down something like this:
You have spent weeks, months even, working on how you look at yourself in the mirror. Working on talking and thinking about yourself in a more positive way. You’ve even made your social media a more positive place and unfollowed all those accounts on instagram that make you feel bad about yourself. You’ve been taking more time for self-care and finally feel like you’re happy in your body.
Then, one day, you put on a pair of your favourite jeans. A pair of jeans you’ve worn so many times in the past. But this time, they don’t fit so well and BAM! in an instant you’re right back to tearing yourself down and those months of hard work are a distant memory.
It sounds dramatic, because it feels dramatic. In that moment, that’s all you can focus on. It’s totally irrational, but at the same time it feels very real and very much like total failure because we have been programmed to think that ‘smaller is better’. That gaining weight is ‘bad’. That you’ve ‘let yourself go’.
I’m here to tell you (and myself) that this. is. not. the. case. And more importantly, that a pair of jeans or a t-shirt, or whatever, should not be allowed to hold enough the power over you to ruin your day! Below are the things I do when I am struck by a gut-punch of negative body imagery. They aren’t ‘quick fixes’ – it takes continued efforts throughout the day to keep that nasty voice at bay – but they are a good place to start, and I hope you find them helpful.
1. Take a breath
In the instant that you become aware of what you’re thinking and feeling, tell yourself to stop. Stop and breathe. It’s very easy for us to get caught up in our own emotions and carried away with the current. Taking a few deep breaths gives you time to acknowledge what you’re feeling and react in a more rational way.
2. Get changed
Whatever it is that sparked the reaction, take it off immediately. Take it off and but your sassy pants back on. There is literally no point keeping that item of clothing on if it is going to make you feel less than yourself all damn day. Change into something that makes you feel good on the inside and still look great on the outside.
3. Step back
Literally speaking, step away from whatever mirror you’re using to view yourself. Mirrors aren’t always our friend, and it could be that today just needs to be a day for trusting your instinct, going on how you feel, and not getting bogged down in the visual.
Metaphorically speaking, try to remove yourself from those negative feelings and look at the bigger picture. Not 2 minutes ago you were feeling good, confident and at home in your own body. Try and get back to that. Look at the situation rationally; yes, your body might have changed recently, but that’s okay. If you’ve been going in hard at the gym, or had more social time and meals out, or simply stopped restricting your food and started eating more intuitively, then YES, your body will have responded to all off these things. But that doesn’t make them bad choices – you were living your life, your best life. And maybe these jeans just don’t get to come along for the ride anymore.
4. Be Kind
Be kind to yourself. Despite what we’re conditioned to believe, you have done nothing wrong. Afford yourself a little compassion. Fighting against what we’re conditioned to believe is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in the health and fitness industry is going to take some chutzpah*. Make choices today that fuel your body and your soul. Nourishing foods, fulfilling conversations and fun times.
*Chutzpah noun – unusual and shocking behaviour, involving taking risks but not feeling guilty. (#sass)
5. Move on
We all know the saying: “one ‘good’ meal won’t make you skinny, and one ‘bad’ meal won’t make you fat”. Now, my thoughts on this particular phrase are another blog post entirely but I’m going to steal the general premise. One ‘negative’ body image day should not undo all of the effort that you have put in up until now to get to such a good place. You don’t have to start back at square 1 and re-build that relationship with yourself. It should be strong enough to withstand a few knocks. Acknowledge that today happened, learn from it and move forward with the same positive attitude and respect for your body.
Until next time,