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Suggestions to Improve Body Image

Make “positive body image” lists and review them often.

List the things that your body lets you do. List the people you admire; consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments. List ten positive things about yourself, without mentioning you appearance. List statements that feel true and positive about your body. Repeat these affirmations to yourself while looking in the mirror; write them in your journal; tape them to your mirror.

Lovingly care for your body.

Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good about your body. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax, get a massage. Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don’t exercise to “fight” you body but to enjoy its strength and the feeling of being alive.

Practice the one inch exercise.

Discover one inch of your body you feel good about. For a week, pay attention to that one inch – caress it, smooth lotions on it, play compliments to it. The following week, expand your positive attention to the adjacent inch. Slowly you can reclaim your body.

Practice visualization/journaling exercises.

How would you move, eat, dress, and touch yourself if you had a more positive body image? Challenge yourself to live this way over the course of a specified time period. Imagine you have no issues about food, body image, eating, or weight. You are like a child at peace in your body, yet you are the same age as you are now. You like your body just as it is. Imagine yourself waking up, and getting ready for work or school or play. Take yourself through an entire day – a day in your life without worrying about what you will eat or how much you weigh. Reflect on how this day would be different than your actual life. How did you feel about yourself? How did you feel when this day was over? What would you gain by living this way? If faced with another such day, would you face it eagerly or with dread? Pick a day to “act as if” you had no issues with food, eating, body image, or weight. See what it feels like to be healthy. See what it feels like to be free. Write about this experience; share it with a friend.

Become a critical viewer of the media.

Talk back to the television when you hear a comment or see an image that promotes an unhealthy body image. Rip out advertisements or articles in your magazines that make you feel bad about your body shape or size. Write a letter to an advertiser you think is sending positive, inspiring messages that recognize and celebrate the natural diversity of human body shapes and sizes. Make a list of companies who consistently send negative body image messages and make a conscious effort to avoid buying their products. Write them a letter explaining why you are using your buying power to protest their messages.

Be a model of healthy self-esteem and body image.

Recognize that others pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body. Talk about yourself and others with respect and admiration. Compliment your friends on things other than their appearances. Choose to challenge the false belief that thinness and weight loss are great, while body fat and weight gain are horrible or indicate laziness, worthlessness, or immorality.

Seek out additional resources.

Read a book about developing a positive body image. Talk to a counselor if your body image concerns feel overwhelming.

Recommended Reading

Cash, T. (1997). The Body Image Workbook: An 8-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Kano, S. (1989). Making Peace with Food: Freeing Yourself from the Diet/Weight Obsession. New York: Harper & Row.

Manheim, C. (2000). Wake Up, I’m Fat! New York: Broadway.

Newman, L. (1991). SomeBody to Love. Chicago: Third Side Press.

Pipher, M. (1995). Hunger Pains: The Modern Woman’s Tragic Quest for Thinness. New York: Balantine Books.