Body image refers to the way you see your body and the thoughts and feelings that occur as a result of what you ‘see’. Body image can be positive or negative, and may not always be a correct representation of what you really look like.
Body image relates to:
- What you believe about your appearance
- How you sense and control movement of your body
- How you feel about your body’s appearance (e.g. height, weight and shape)
- Your attitude towards your body.
Positive body image means being comfortable in your own skin (even if you don’t have the body you desire). It also means that you accept, appreciate and respect your body, even if it doesn’t meet the standards promoted by social media, your friends or family.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels positive about their body and these people may suffer from negative body image.
What is negative body image?
Negative body image occurs when someone feels that their looks don’t measure up to a particular standard, or that their body isn’t good enough. People with negative body image often have a distorted or unrealistic view of themselves. Some people may see part of their body in a distorted, unreal way. For example, someone who is a healthy weight, may be convinced they’re overweight, or that their stomach or butt is larger than it really is.
People with a negative body image also believe that their body is unattractive, and that they are not worthy because their body doesn’t look a certain way. They often suffer from low self-worth, compare themselves with others, and lack confidence.
Signs you have negative body image
Not believing your body is good enough is one sign that you have negative body image. However, there are many other signs, which include:
- Talking negatively about your body (e.g. “I’m so fat”, “I’m disgusting”, “I’m ugly”, etc.)
- Wishing your body looked like someone else’s
- Frequently comparing yourself to others and find yourself lacking
- Feeling ashamed and embarrassed about your body
- Thinking you look too ‘big’ or overweight
- Feeling like you’re not attractive enough
- Feeling that you’re not muscular enough
- Believing your value as a person is determined by your looks
- Thinking that you need to lose weight to feel worthy and valuable
- Constantly trying to change your body shape or weight
- Worrying about what other people think of you
- Jumping from one diet to another, in order to change the appearance of your body
- Believing that the way you look is more important than how healthy you are
- Lack of confidence
- Doing anything to try to hide (e.g. avoiding photos, not being seen on social media, saying ‘no’ to social events)
- Feeling depressed or anxious about your body
- Hating clothes shopping
- Weighing yourself often
- Putting things off until you ‘lose weight’
- Not being able to accept compliments, or thinking people are lying when they give you one
- Not liking what you see in the mirror.
How negative body image impacts your weight?
As we know, dieting doesn’t work and only leads to a compromised metabolism, continual fluctuations in weight, and long-term weight gain. It also perpetuates the diet mindset, which causes people to feel that they need to be in control of their food and perfect with their eating. These beliefs cause large amounts of stress, and as we’ve examined in our blog How stress and weight gain are linked, stress is a large contributor of weight gain.
In addition, the habits that are associated with negative body image are ones that will prevent you from doing what you need to do to lose weight, and instead will contribute to weight gain.
Someone with negative body image worry about what other people will think of them. Worrying about what others think means they’re likely to engage in people-pleasing behaviours in order to get people to like them. Putting other people’s needs before their own, often means that they will put their weight loss goals and the tasks they need to achieve this (e.g. getting a good night’s sleep and weekly meal prep) towards the bottom of the list.
Here’s another example:
Someone with negative body image is likely to do too much exercise in an attempt to change their body appearance. This then leads to injury which prevents this person from doing any exercise at all. Not being able to train causes them to feel stressed and anxious, so in order to compensate for their lack of activity, they start restricting food. However, this restriction of food leads to emotional eating and drinking, which then causes more weight gain, leading this person to feel even more negative about themselves.
And here’s a third example:
Someone with negative body image only focuses on changing their body shape in order to feel better about themselves. This means that they will fail to work on the habits that have led them to their unhappy place, and they will never learn the skills and new habits they need to, in order to lose weight and keep it off. Instead of focusing on the journey, they will set themselves a timeline to lose weight, which will cause them to sabotage their efforts, and give up when they fail to lose weight by the designated date.
As you can see, a negative body image has an impact on many areas of your life. But ultimately, it will prevent you from losing weight and keeping it off.
How to cover come it
Limit social media
Research has shown that engaging in social media and focusing on ‘attractive’ images greatly increases negative body image. Even people who feel confident in themselves felt more negatively about their own body after comparing it with someone else’s. So set yourself boundaries around when you use it, how long you use it, and what you look at. Stop following accounts that cause you to feel bad about yourself. To understand the impact social media has on your weight, read our blog The impact of social media on your body shape.
Stop comparing yourself with others
Comparing yourself with other people greatly increases the dissatisfaction that you feel about your own body. But what you may not realise is that you’re actually comparing your (sometimes distorted) reality with someone else’s highlight reel. Instead, set some weight loss goals and focus on what you want to achieve, and then get to work. Be sure to read our blog How to stop comparing yourself to others, to find out how to break this habit.
Celebrate your wins
Make sure you take time out to acknowledge and celebrate your wins, even if they seem small. Celebrating your success and progress will help you feel more positive, and will help you begin to focus on other important aspects of the weight loss journey, instead of only focusing on changing the appearance of your body.
It can be difficult to get off the diet rollercoaster but dropping the diet mindset and learning to feel comfortable and relaxed around food is necessary. Of course, focus on healthy eating, but don’t deny yourself your favourite foods, or eating out at your favourite restaurant every now and then. There’s no need to be perfect with your eating. To truly understand this, be sure to read our blog What are good foods for weight loss and what are bad foods?
Treat yourself and your body kindly
Stop talking badly about yourself and your body, because what you say to yourself, you believe and eventually become. If you constantly tell yourself you’re fat, you will continue to gain weight. Ask yourself if you would talk to your child or best friend the way you talk to yourself, and if not start talking to yourself with love. Be kind with yourself and acknowledge that you are enough as you are. Treat your body with respect by feeding it nutritious and tasty food, and allowing yourself time to rest and sleep.
Focus on the enjoyment of moving your body
Of course, the right exercise is necessary for you to change your body shape and lose weight, but you might be surprised at just how little you actually need. To understand this further, read our blog The truth the fitness industry won’t tell you about exercise. Instead of seeing exercise as a way to ‘burn calories’ and change your appearance, look at it as a way to improve your mobility, flexibility and strength. Enjoy the feeling of being able to move your body and acknowledge what it can do. Enjoy the pride you feel as you increase your strength. When you can truly see how amazing your body is to be able to perform such movement, you’ll begin to improve your body image.
Surround yourself with the right support network
Surrounding yourself with people who are constantly dieting, talking negatively about their body, or obsessed with how they look can contribute to negative body image. Instead, surround yourself with the right kind of people — people who accept you for who you are, who understand that a person’s value is not based purely on what their body looks like, and who will support you in your weight loss journey, regardless of what stage you’re at. At Imani Tribe Transformations we have cultivated a culture where no one judges anyone for what they look like, or where they’re at in their journey. We all support each other no matter what, and understand that appearance is not the most important thing in life.
Build your self-worth
While the above steps are helpful, the most important thing is to improve your self-worth. Self-worth is about accepting yourself for who you are, and where you’re at and realising that you already worthy of love and self acceptance no matter what you look like — even if you’re overweight and you don’t have the body you’d like. When you feel worthy, other people’s Instagram accounts won’t impact you, you’ll stop comparing yourself with other people, and you’ll treat yourself kindly, because you’ll know that you’re just as worthy as anyone else. Increasing your self-worth means that you’ll change your negative body image into a positive one.
Let us help you
Overcoming negative body image can be difficult, especially if it’s something you’ve struggled with most of your life. But that’s where we can help.
We understand how negative body image affects your weight, mental health and happiness. Through our Diet Antidote Transformation System (DATS™️) — the Not-diet diet for people who are sick of diets and want more than a good body — we can help you shed the negative beliefs and feelings you have about your body, and help you become more confident and self-assured, regardless of your weight.
Through our program we will give you specific, personalised action steps and provide you with the right amount of structure and accountability, to help you work on your body image so you can learn to feel comfortable in your own skin.
DATSTM will give you the knowledge, systems, tools and skills to help you deal with any situation, so you’ll never feel like your self-worth is dependent upon what you look like. We can help you develop a positive body image, so you can lose weight more easily than you have ever imagined.
Our online and face-to-face Diet Antidote Transformation System is for those people who are ready to change. However, if you’re not ready to commit to our DATS program, get a head start with our entry-level myPersonalised eCoaching program, our state-of-the-art 6-week program designed to help you bridge the gap between diets, exercise and long-term results. Customised for you to reach your personal goals, build healthy habits around mindset, discipline, nutrition and exercise that stick, and transform your life. You get 12-months’ worth of content compressed into 6 weeks, complete with worksheets, personalised action steps and resources. You also have lifetime access so you can learn at your own pace, and revisit any lessons you need to.