Body image is determined by thoughts and feelings rather than facts. These include beliefs about appearances, cultural ideals and internalized feedback that has accumulated over our lifetime. Upbringing and environment, genetic makeup and personality traits such as perfectionism all play a part. Certain neurological processes also affect our perception of body image.
INTROCEPTIVE AWARENESS: Sensitivity to stimuli originating within the body. How aware we are of our internal sensory states, determines perception of our bodies from an outsiders perspective. The outsiders perspective is another key factor that blurs the lines between our reality and the one that others experience.
No one feels great about their bodies all the time but body anxieties shouldn’t be intrusive. Its normal to have “ugly” or “fat” days but if the way you are feeling about your body is affecting your mood, social life or ability to enjoy yourself it may be time to speak to a professional.
So how can we learn to feel good in our own skin?
1. IN THE CHANGE ROOM
Bad lighting, unflattering mirrors and inconsistent sizing in the change room are all factors that really test body image. Many people fall into the trap of defining their worth by numbers. If you’re finding this is a real issue, trying cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to train your brain not to take mental shortcuts that leave you feeling bad about yourself may help.
2. “FAT” DAYS
It is physiologically impossible for your body to change and result in weight gain that you can actually see overnight, and so realistically your weight or clothes on a “fat day” is unlikely to be any different. It is more likely to be accounted for by water retention or mood. Work on improving mental health and emotional awareness. Often there is another underlying problem other than ‘feeling fat’ that needs to be addressed.
This is a time when self-care is really important. Engage in health eating and physical activity when you are strong enough to. For benefits to both mum and bub, adopting a pattern of exercise that includes your child is beneficial.
Focus on function & sensation – concentrate on what your body can do for you
Quit the comparisons – avoid engaging in negatie body talk and discouraging it in the people around you. Identify when you are making body comparisons and remind yourself that its not a positive thing to do.
Re-evalutate your worth – think about what your friends and family think is important and what you value in your life
Build self compassion
Engage in exercise you enjoy
Treat yourself with kindness