Guest Blog from Nutritious Thoughts
Body image is defined by The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) in the following terms:
Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses:
- What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
- How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
- How you sense and control your body as you move. How you physically experience or feel in your body.
The intention of this post is to explore the emotional intensity surrounding negative body image moments in all stages of recovery and to better understand and practice the concept of body image flexibility.
“Oh no, I can’t button these jeans.”
“Last season these fit me…”
“Has my body really changed that much?”
As I flung myself down onto my bed, feeling exasperated and eyes welling up with tears, I began to feel the intense sting of fear. Fear of “not fitting”. Fear of how my appearance is perceived by others. Fear that I still very much care about any of this. Fear that I will always care about this.
As I cocooned myself in blankets, I began to ruminate about the time when those jeans did fit and in doing so, I experienced a monumental shift in thinking that made me realize those endless hours of therapy weren’t for naught. Since the jeans last fit, I recognized positive changes that expanded across every realm of my life.
I’ve experienced less fatigue, pain, and illness since the jeans fit.
I’ve regained mental clarity, focus, and short-term memory since the jeans fit.
I’ve enjoyed being with friends and I’ve laughed a whole lot since the jeans fit.
It was in this moment of reflecting on positive change that I realized that yes, my entire being – my soul, my life – is in fact
than any pair of pants ever could be.
As human beings with human bodies, we generally experience periods of physical, mental, and emotional discomfort throughout our lives that may impact our body image. The concept of body image flexibility honors this discomfort and refers to the ability to fully and openly experience negative thoughts and feelings about body image while still being able to recognize self worth, hold space for self compassion, and maintain value-consistent behaviors (Sandoz, Wilson, & Merwin, 2012).
What does this mean?
Having body image flexibility means that while you may be displeased with your appearance at a given time, you are still able to care for yourself appropriately (eat consistently and enough, be gentle with your body, maintain hygiene, interact socially, etc.).
How do I practice having more body image flexibility?
- “Yes, and…” mentality – As negative body image thoughts enter consciousness, meet them with acceptance. This is how you feel right now in this moment. That is okay. Then, follow this up by stating one positive attribute about yourself. This is all about resilience.
- Negative body image thought: “My thighs are huge.”
- Internal acceptance dialogue: “Yes, I feel that my thighs are huge in this moment. I am uncomfortable.”
- Positive attribute: “My thighs allow me to stand/walk for each of my 8-hour shifts at work.”
- Get rid of items that promote negative body image or self-judgement – scales, clothing that no longer fits, etc.
- Consider exploring body image work on a deeper level with a licensed therapist.
- Self-care, self-care, self-care, self-care.
- Eat. Move gently and intuitively. Sleep. Play.
For more information and resources related to body image:
Original Blog Source: May 1, 2018