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How Poor Body Image Holds Us Back

Quick: what’s your usual first thought when you look in the mirror?

How about when you need to shop for a new outfit for that special event or (brace yourself) a new bathing suit for that trip to the beach?

If you find your gut reaction to be anxiety, self-ridicule or embarrassment rather than excitement for your day, event or vacation, there’s a chance that a poor body image is holding you back from weight loss success (not to mention from fully enjoying your life!).

The way we look and feel about ourselves plays a central part in our healthy way of life journey.

What Constitutes Negative Body Image?

In my work with clients, I’ve often found that those who have a poor body image show a few common tendencies as they work toward their health and fitness goals.

  • A relentless, laser focus on the end result of their journeys (Is there ever really an end?) - and with this focus a struggle to find true joy and excitement in the present experience.
  • Absence of self-forgiveness for being human, with an often unrealistic expectation of behavioral perfection. The slightest slip-up translates into negative self-talk that can last for days.
  • Not valuing rewards for positive behavior changes or having resistance to even recognizing them for that matter. For example, instead of verbalizing a success in increased vegetable intake for the week, one might say, “I mean, I should have been eating salads a long time ago, or I wouldn’t have gotten into this state in the first place.” It’s amazing how often I ask clients to name one nutrition success they had the previous week, and I am met with “Well, I’ll tell you what I did wrong!”
  • Resistance to celebrating milestones along the journey. Upon reaching the 10-pound weight loss mark, the first reaction might be a sarcastic “Only 50 more to go!”
  • Inability to accept compliments. Typically, compliments are immediately refuted or dismissed.

Do you relate to any of the above behaviors? If so, I’d like to invite you to shift your self-perception and potentially change the trajectory of your healthy way of life journey.

How to Take Back Your Body Confidence

Realize that you deserve to experience your optimal level of health – to be free of cravings, to enjoy stable energy, to sleep well, to not be achy and stiff, to have a healthy body composition, and to have lab work that indicates a propensity for longevity and vitality.

You’re working toward these possibilities, and you’ll enjoy all of them over time as a result of those efforts. The healthy behaviors and new habits are what get us where we want to go, but we’re worthy before we even begin the work.

It’s important to believe that the person you are right now (as opposed to the image you have of yourself at your goal weight) deserves each and every healthy choice you can make today.

If long-lasting weight loss is a side effect of improving physical health, how can we begin to shift our inner self-talk to encourage (and celebrate) making choices for ourselves that we deserve? I would like to offer four action steps toward improved self-acceptance, deeper confidence and a healthier mindset.

Keep a gratitude journal.

Each day write down three things that you are grateful for, and include something that you are able to do that you otherwise may be taking for granted.

Do something intentionally special for your outward appearance.

Take a jacket to be professionally tailored. Get a facial. Have your nails done. If you’re struggling with feeling frumpy, un-frump yourself and walk a little taller today.

Track how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go.

Instead of focusing on how many pounds you have to go, focus on the decrease in body fat you've seen since your purposeful journey started. Even better, track positive changes in your internal chemistry and blood work. Instead of watching someone at a different fitness level perform exercises that seem impossible right now, track your progress from a starting benchmark workout. Take pride in your improved plank time or extra push-up repetition.

Gracefully accept the next compliment you receive.

Before you offer your instinctual rebuttal to a friend’s positive remark about how nice a sweater looks on you or how pretty your smile is, pause, reflect and say “thank you.” Resist the urge to dismiss it. Instead, internalize the positivity and genuinely appreciate it.  

Without a positive mindset and some self-love, our nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle changes may seem like nothing more than an arduous means to an end.

While specific goals are important, genuinely enjoying the ride is critical for long-term success. No journey is without its challenges, but having an attitude of gratitude and self-respect can gracefully carry you through the difficulties and help you celebrate every stage of your success.

You are unique and deserving of a healthier tomorrow – a journey that begins with self-worth today.

Thanks for reading. Are you interested in personal support in your weight loss journey? Talk with one of our weight loss coaches today. 

In health, Samantha Bielawski, Registered Dietitian

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader





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