6 strategies to reclaim your body image this summer

Ekta Mansukhani Ekta Mansukhani Cognitive Behavioural Therapist
It’s your body: how you feel about it is up to you. Take control of your body image this summer with these six tips.

We all have days when we feel self-conscious, self-critical or suffer from low self-esteem. The constant stream of air-brushed Instagram shots and glossy images in the media can get to us all, especially during the summer season.

But how you see yourself is not fixed: your feelings about your body can change according to your mindset, thought processes and environment. You have the power to feel positive about your body.

If unhelpful thoughts about your body image threaten to ruin your holiday, try these simple strategies to change the way you think and behave. It’s possible to hit the beach feeling better than ever.

  1. Veto ‘Fat Talk.’ Note how you talk about yourself — ‘I feel fat in these jeans,’ ‘I’ve put on so much weight,’ or ‘My skin looks awful today’ — identify triggers and pay attention to how the comments make you feel. Challenge yourself to a one-week ban on ‘Fat Talk.’
  2. Don’t avoid your body. Nip an obsession with imagined flaws in the bud by facing up to reality in the mirror. Take in your whole being, rather than focusing on the bits you don’t like. The more you can see your body in a holistic light, the more likely you are to develop a positive body image.
  3. Stop checking. Repeatedly looking for evidence of continued ‘horribleness’ or ‘ugliness’ in the mirror only magnifies your imagined flaws. Write a list of your ‘checking’ behaviours and stop them one by one.
  4. Stop comparing your appearance to that of others. Notice who and what triggers this behaviour and what you say to yourself when it happens. Would you speak to your best friend like that? If not — why is it ok to talk to yourself in this way?
  5. Separate feeling bad from feeling unattractive. If a stressful day at work or a disagreement with a friend leads you to feel distressed — notice if this morphs into negative feelings about your body. Note the thought that triggered the change and address the real issue.
  6. Practice self-acceptance. Call out the harsh critic in your head: there’s no need to engage with it, simply labelling it is enough. Ignoring your inner critic might seem difficult at first — but once you start to notice the ‘flavour’ of their words, you’ll be better at ignoring them without impacting on your mood or behaviour. The aim is to treat the thoughts in your head as leaves in a river that you no longer feel compelled to fish out. You can just watch them pass by.

Regardless of the expectations you place upon yourself, the attitudes of those around you or the images you’re surrounded by, it’s worth remembering healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. While you might not be able to change your basic body type or proportions, you can change how you feel about them, which can drastically improve your enjoyment of life — not to mention your holiday photos.

Last updated Wednesday 8 May 2019

First published on Wednesday 8 May 2019