the body image series: overcoming the mental battle

I think we all know that the hardest part of dealing with body image struggles is the mental aspect. We’re either over-analyzing or criticizing ourselves over what we see in the mirror and then overdoing it at the gym or majorly restricting calories to rush into quickest results we can get – and it’s doing more harm than good. When it comes to trying to overcome our insecurities and the mental aspect of our body image, unfortunately there’s not a “one size fits all” kind of trick, but the following points are changes I’ve had to make in my own mindset to have a healthier outlook on my health + how I perceive my body.

related: body image series pt 1 | making time for the gym | choosing confidence

Stop comparing. I bet y’all knew this was coming, but we all know this is the big-bad when it comes to struggling with how we view and choose to love ourselves, and social media has made it so. dang. easy. The thing is, someone else’s beauty does not define our own. There really is a freedom in being able to think to ourselves, “they’re really pretty, and so am I.”

Stop fad dieting. You’ll hear from most health + wellness professionals that fad dieting is one of the worst things you can do. It usually starts off well, but before too long, the motivation to stick to it usually wears off – a cheat snack turns into a cheat meal, which turns into a cheat weekend, which turns into guilt + negative self talk. This normally is where people give up all together and end up “worse” than they were before; aka, yo-yo dieting. It’s so much easier to simply adopt a clean eating lifestyle, one that fuels your body instead of starving it.

Stop using exercise as punishment. Another thing you’ll hear health + wellness professionals say is this: you cannot outrun a bad diet. It gets so easy for the gym to feel like a have-to or like it can be an eraser for what we consumed during the day. I used to be guilty of this – and, quite honestly, some days I still am. But we have to get out of the habit of seeing exercise as such a negative or that it’s only good for tweaking our bodies. There are so many positives to exercise + to incorporating it into our daily routine when it’s a want instead of a punishment.

Start accepting. I remember I used to be so jealous of girls that could fit in size 2 or size 0 jeans. I was seriously so convinced I could be that thin if I was disciplined enough with calorie counting and exercise. Spoiler alert: I never did, and I never will lol. I look back on how I used to think and can’t help but laugh. The thing is, my body isn’t designed to ever be that small. I have a broad, athletic build – and there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, I’ve come to love the way I’m built; but instead of trying to force my body to be a shape it could never be, I choose now to play to its strengths and fuel it the way it deserves instead of depriving it to be something that it’s not.

Start believing. Maybe a little bit easier said than done, but I realized that if I truly wanted to start tackling this mental battle head on, I needed to change the way I thought. I needed to start being positive about myself, even on the days I didn’t feel positive – because sometimes, you just have to speak things into existence. Sometimes, this is going to have to go beyond simply exterior – you have to remember that, as much as you might care about how you come across on the outside, that the inside is going to effect not only how you see yourself, but how others see you, too. Don’t be afraid to brag on yourself, to yourself.

Start giving yourself grace. It is important to remind yourself that you are a work in progress – not just in terms of body image, but that’s the part I’m going to focus on. It takes time for your body to adjust to any clean eating or exercise routines. Don’t burn yourself out by having an unrealistic timeline for your expectations. Some days you’re going to feel like a bad ass and like everything’s going your way, but other days you’re going to feel like you’ve been wasting your time trying. In those days of doubt, give yourself the grace to admit that your health is a work in progress and a bad day or two does not mean you’ve failed.

I want to emphasize again that this is not a “one size fits all” solution, but I hope some of these mindset shifts helps someone the way it’s helped me. When it comes to how you approach your insecurities about your body or what you’re doing as a way to change it, just remember that it all comes down to how you frame it to yourself.

If you want the Cliff Notes, here they are: remember that someone’s beauty does not define your own. Remember that food is medicine – eat to fuel your body, don’t starve it. Remember that exercise is a lot more fun when it’s a want, not a punishment. Remember to play to your body’s strengths, don’t force it to be something that it’s not. Remember to believe in yourself. Remember that you’re a work in progress and that it’s okay to have a bad day.

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