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7 Ideas for Overcoming a Negative Body Image and Accepting Your Appearance

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Your body image is your own perception of the way your body looks.

Unfortunately, many people have a negative body image. This can lead to a variety of avoidable problems. If you suffer from a negative body image, there are steps you can take in hopes of overcoming it.

Here are some ideas for ditching the negative body image, learning to accept your own appearance, and replacing unhealthy behaviours with healthier ones:

Stop with the diets

If your weight is the cause of your negative body image, you’ve probably tried and failed at dieting. Here’s an important tip: Dieting rarely works for anybody – so don’t bother with it.

The vast majority of people who torture themselves with diets end up regaining all the lost weight and sometimes even gaining even more weight than they originally started with. Therefore, dieting is basically an exercise in futility. You can safely stop wasting your energy on it and move onto things that will be more productive.

Sleep well every night

If you’re like most people, you’ve been taught to believe that there are only two factors affecting your weight: how much you exercise and how much you eat. This perception is flawed because it leaves out several other important factors that can also affect your weight. One of them is sleep.

Proper sleep cycles are critically important for correct functioning of your hormones; in particular, for the hormones that govern your appetite. If you don’t get enough sleep, or you get too much sleep, it can negatively affect these hormones, making you feel hungry when you shouldn’t be. If you get just the right amount of sleep (8–9 hours), this typically becomes much less of a problem; but, that’s assuming you aren’t consuming chemicals that also interfere with your hormones. 

Eliminate high fructose corn syrup from your diet

There are certain chemicals that can mess up your metabolism and sabotage any weight loss efforts you might be making. These chemicals cannot always entirely be avoided, but you can make efforts to greatly reduce your exposure to them.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – which is a sweetener – is one of the most ubiquitous of these. It’s found in juices and other sweetened beverages, candy, desserts and a surprising range of other edible products. Avoiding it will likely help you make quicker progress towards looking better, and also feeling better, than dieting ever did.

You might experience a brief sense of panic when you realise that HFCS is in many of your favourite foods. Don’t worry; there are HFCS-free substitutes for most foods that are every bit as delicious. The easiest way to find them is to look for the organic version of whatever HFCS-laden food or drink you’re abandoning. Organic ice creams, candy bars and juices are all satisfying when you get a craving for sweets, but they won’t contain any HFCS that will interfere with your hormones.

Once you’ve successfully eliminated high fructose corn syrup from your diet, you might wish to consider studying up on the other chemicals that can sabotage your weight, your hormones and your body image. People refer to these chemicals as ‘obesogens’. You can find a list of common obesogens here, along with suggestions for avoiding them.

Be kind to yourself and others

Have you been making the mistake of getting angry at yourself over your own perceived lack of willpower? By now, hopefully you’re realising that lack of willpower hasn’t been the primary problem you’ve been facing. A more compelling problem is that you’ve been working with wrong assumptions regarding the things that are most likely to wreak havoc on your weight. Now that you have a more complete understanding of the situation, you can safely stop beating yourself up. Instead, be kind to yourself.

Be kind to others too. You can choose to advocate for others rather than being mean to them or judging them.

Take a break from the media

Turn off the TV and ignore Instagram for as long as it takes you to stop obsessing over celebrities and how they look. It’s simply unrealistic for non-celebrities to compare themselves against actors, actresses, models and rock stars. This is because many celebrities have the resources to employ teams of people to work with them on every detail of how they look; they have personal chefs, personal trainers, stylists and so on.

Remember that the editors at websites and magazines Photoshop the pictures of celebrities before publishing the photos online or in print. Even with their teams of trainers and stylists, these people don’t honestly look as amazing as those pictures do in real life.

Never lose sight of the fact that there is no such thing as perfection. Striving for a flawless appearance is futile.

Nourish yourself mindfully

 If your body isn’t getting the nutrition it needs for optimum functioning, you will not look or feel your best. The chances are good that you’ll feel hungry, tired and stressed out. If you also feel depressed, that might be a sign that you are deficient in various nutrients such as magnesium, omega-3 fats, iodine or zinc. So be sure to nourish yourself well with nutrient-rich foods.

Have realistic ideas about cosmetic procedures

It would be lovely if your fairy godmother would appear, raise her magic wand and transform your shape into whatever ideal you have in mind. But, sorry, that’s not going to happen.

Somehow, there are people who mistakenly believe cosmetic procedures can do for them what that fairy godmother couldn’t achieve. That’s not likely to happen, either. Cosmetic procedures can empower some exciting changes in a person’s appearance, but there are limits to what they can accomplish.

Let’s take coolsculpting as an example. Coolsculpting is a popular procedure that can help people to remove body fat effortlessly. After having a successful Coolsculpting procedure, a person will appear sleeker and subtly thinner. But this procedure isn’t a magic-wand solution for weight loss; it helps to rid you of unwanted centimetres, not kilograms. To be a qualified candidate for coolsculpting, you must have already lost most of the weight you wish to lose.

And if you suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, you’re most likely not going to be considered a good candidate for the procedure; therefore you’ll probably have to work through any intensely negative body-image issues you may have before you’ll be allowed to undergo a body contouring procedure like Coolsculpting. The same holds true for liposuction and other similar procedures.

Takeaway

Implementing some or all of these ideas can put you on the path towards achieving a much more positive body image. These suggestions can also help you to work towards self-acceptance, which can result in increased levels of contentment – even if you haven’t yet achieved your fitness or weight loss goals. 

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Image credit: Freepik


Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.

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