Take a second and consider what the last thought you had about your body or body acceptance. What did you think about this incredible machine that has carried you through daily tasks, overwhelming challenges, and incredible victories? This machine that has allowed you to move, gain strength, hug your loved ones, feel the grass beneath your feet, and smell the rain.
What was the last thing you said to this machine? You are not alone if the last thought you had about your body wasn’t very nice, grateful, or complimentary. After all, we live in a society where loving and accepting one’s body is not encouraged.
Of course, this lack of encouragement isn’t overt. The media is filled with advertisements and marketing campaigns telling us to love ourselves, but the caveat is that they also say you need to change. Change your shampoo, change your makeup, change your diet, change your hair, change your clothes, then you will achieve self-love.
So, we buy, and we alter, and we tweak in vicious cycles, and that elusive body acceptance and self-love is still nowhere to be found.
Studies show that negative body image of adolescents becomes significantly more negative after viewing thin media images . 40 to 60% of girls ages 6 to 12 are concerned about their weight or becoming fat , and at least 30 million people in the US struggle with an eating disorder .
As I said, you are not alone. You were raised in a society that created unhelpful and negative beliefs surrounding self-worth, body image, and self-love. Even so, you do not have to remain trapped in that cycle.
Choosing Your Core Beliefs
Core Beliefs are our deeply embedded assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world around us that impact how we behave, how we view ourselves, and how we perceive situations. Some core beliefs that are common in our culture are “I must be perfect,” “I must appear like the societal ideal to be beautiful,” and “I must be considered pretty to be considered worthy.”
These unhelpful Core Beliefs impact the thoughts we have about everything around us and our body acceptance. We end up creating a life built on a foundation that is harmful. Much like a house with a flawed foundation, we have to go to the source of the problem, revamping our foundation to no longer focus on appearance-based self-worth and body dissatisfaction.
Replace those beliefs that make you dislike or mistreat your body with thoughts that help you to mend the relationship and improve body acceptance. Beliefs such as “my body is an amazing machine,” “I am grateful for all of the work my body does to help me live,” or, “I can love my body just as it is,” and “I do not need to change it.”
Talk to Your Body
How can you mend a relationship with a friend that you refuse to speak to? The same is true with learning to love and accept your body. When was the last time you listened to it? Our bodies are incredible machines, and they are constantly communicating to us what they need, what they enjoy, what they don’t like.
A great way to get to know your body is to engage in mindfulness practices such as progressive muscle relaxation or a body scan. Tuning into every small aspect of your body can help you learn to listen and being to speak your body’s language and grow your body acceptance.
Physical activities, such as yoga, also focus on this mind-body connection. It can even be incredibly healing and cathartic to write a letter to your body, letting out all of your current and past feelings and exploring how you would like your relationship to change.
Alter Your Media Intake
Studies indicate that individuals become more negatively affected by media images if they are less-informed consumers. Even so, with social media, the most informed consumers are becoming confused about what is “real” and what is not. Every day, we take in social media posts, advertisements, commercials, sponsored ads, photoshopped images, highlight reels, etc.
Consider those aspects of media you take in on a daily basis and how you can control them, whether this means ending your monthly subscription to a streaming site that advertises thin ideal messages, unfollowing social media accounts that are unrealistic, photoshopped, or make you feel bad about yourself, or filling your feed with body positivity advocates.
You have more control than you think, and you can wield that control to alter your core beliefs, mend the relationship with your body, and create a new life centered around body acceptance and loving your amazing body.
Resources: Morris, A.M., Katzman, D.K. (2003). The impact of media on eating disorders in children and adolescents. Paediatrics Child Health.  Unknown (2018). Body image and eating disorders. National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/body-image-eating-disorders.  Le Grange, D., Swanson, S. A., Crow, S. J., & Merikangas, K. R. (2012). Eating disorder not otherwise specified presentation in the US population. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45:5, 711-718.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published July 27, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on July 27, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC