Body News, Health & Fitness, Wellbeing

How To Nurture A Positive Body Image

Avoiding negative thoughts about the way you look may not always be easy, but learning to love yourself—inside and out—is a beautiful thing. This article by Canyon Ranch will help you take that all-important first step.

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Cultivating a positive body image can be challenging. We are often our own worst critics. When you look in the mirror, you may zero in on one area of your body that you wish was smaller, smoother or just plain different. But chances are you’re the only one being so hard on yourself. The people who love you aren’t looking at your thighs or your crow’s feet—they only see the person who always makes them laugh, the one who cooks magnificent meals and lights up the room with a smile.

Recognizing and celebrating the inner beauty that others see shining through rather than focusing on “fixing” your perceived flaws is an important step toward cultivating a positive body image. Removing the phrase, If only I looked like… from your vocabulary is another. “We all spend huge amounts of time comparing ourselves to others,” says Ann Pardo, M.A., L.P.C., B.C.C., director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. But in the end, these comparisons often do little more than lead us further down a path of negative thinking, of striving for some unachievable body ideal. So, the next time you notice yourself engaging in self-criticism, consider using these suggestions to shift gears and change course.

1. Focus on You
With the daily barrage of “perfect” bodies we see in magazines and on television, comparisons are all but inevitable. But research shows doing just that can lead to a negative body image. Whenever you catch yourself playing the comparison game, consciously decide to stop. Let your logical brain take over: Remember that no one is perfect—the images you see in magazines have likely been airbrushed and retouched. And don’t forget that everyone is unique; try not to use others as a reference point for who you should or can be.

Try this: Stay away from the mirror if you're not feeling so good about yourself today.

Try this: Stay away from the mirror if you’re not feeling so good about yourself today.

2. Step Away from the Mirror
Constantly checking (and obsessing about) your appearance and perceived physical flaws also reinforces a negative body image. If you find yourself often sneaking a peek at your reflection, consider setting limits. Allow yourself to look in the mirror as you get ready to go out, but only once or twice. If you give yourself fewer opportunities to critique your appearance, you may find that you think less about your looks and spend more time thinking about other things.

3. Look at the Positive!
Self-esteem improves when you begin looking at yourself as the sum of all your parts, not just your looks. This “whole person” approach means not focusing on what you lack, but on everything you have to offer and that you do right. Every few days, jot down a different set of five positive attributes: personal strengths, abilities, achievements, things you admire about yourself and like about your looks, things you did or do well, and so on.

4. Exercise, Eat Well and Pursue Your Passions
Taking care of your health and allowing opportunities for personal fulfillment sends the message—both to others and to yourself—that you are worthy and valued, which helps increase self-esteem. Be sure, however, to think of workouts and your diet as a way to stay healthy, not a means to the perfect body. “Our culture is extremely misinformed about weight and body image,” Pardo says. “Very few people understand that mental and physical fitness are what really matter.”

5. Tweak Your Self-Talk
Listen carefully to what you tell yourself. My skin is horrible. I am uglyHow did I get so fat? Some people are so used to putting themselves down they don’t even realize they do it. But it’s never too late to change the dialogue. Try this: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a close friend. Also remember that feelings aren’t facts; just because you may feel unattractive one day doesn’t mean you are. This isn’t easy, especially if you’ve been engaging in negative behaviors for years, but once you learn to recognize the negative self-talk, the next step is to alter it. Make an effort to put a positive spin on whatever you otherwise would have criticized.

6. Dwell on Solutions, not Slip-ups
Focusing too much on mistakes can deal your self-esteem a major blow, Pardo says. If you fall off the diet wagon, for example, don’t label yourself a failure and give up. Instead, consider that the diet you chose may not have been right for you. Explore what went wrong, but in the context of how you can change or do better next time. A mistake or failure is an isolated incident, not indicative of who you are.

Bottom line: “Living in joy and contentment is a much better goal than correctly following some diet based on vanity rather than on self-improvement for the greater good,” Pardo says. Be kind to yourself, and set your sights on happiness, not perfection.

Make Happiness your goal today!

Make Happiness your goal today!

This article was contributed by Canyon Ranch. Canyon Ranch is a pioneer in the field of health and wellness will be bringing its integrative and customized wellness programmes to Treasure Bay Bintan, a resort destination on Bintan island.

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The One Thing Missing From The Body Image Conversation – Denise Li

We all want to start loving our bodies as they are, but it’s okay if we don’t love it RIGHT THIS MOMENT, argues Denise. 

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The websites I check back regularly on are not short on articles that discuss body image in great detail. These emcompass everything from slideshows showcasing Jennifer Lawrence’s best quotes on the topic, to the celebrating of using real-women in advertising campaigns, right down to rather aggressive campaigns calling for pre-Photoshopped images of Lena Dunham for the recent cover of Vogue.

Whether or not you agree with how the message is conveyed – I’m not so fond of Jezebel’s militant tactics – the message is clear: Women around the world want their societies to stop valuing one body shape and type over others and are calling for acceptance of all body types, regardless of size. And the biggest way for this to happen is if there is more accurate representation of their bodies portrayed in the media.

Perhaps no other feminist issue has galvanised so much support than the body acceptance movement – fat really is a feminist issue. Understandably so. We are all, after all, consumers of pop culture and would in one way or another be influenced and affected by its messages.

While I applaud all the women-focused websites out there for fighting for an issue that’s close to the hearts of so many women, I think there’s one thing that’s missing from the conversation: recognising the fact a change in mindset is each and every woman is going to take time.

I think many of us – myself included – will have “I hate my body” thoughts from time and time. And while it’s great that there is a wealth of articles out there that celebrate accepting your body as it is, I don’t think it’s going to do anyone any good if they were to start second-guessing themselves with thoughts such as, “I am a feminist; a strong, empowered, enlightened woman, so why am I still obsessed with the cellulite on my thighs?”

Think of how many years of conditioning we all underwent as a result of our exposure to pop culture and all of its unhealthy messages promoting thinness and perfection. Change, both in the media and as an attitude within each and everyone of us, is not going to come overnight and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. That’s the reason why I’m against Jezebel promoting a very aggressive brand of “my way or the highway” feminism; instead of promoting conversation, such a militant stance shuts down avenues of discussion, of women talking about the difficulties of transitioning to a more accepting attitudes towards their bodies.

In my early 20s, I was obsessed with losing weight. I weighed myself six times a day, counted calories and spent inordinate amounts of time on self-loathing. I focused on how much better my life would be if I could just lose 5kg. I’ve come very far from that dark period in my life where a focus on my weight was a symptom of the helplessness I felt in other areas of my life, but that doesn’t mean that I am not impervious to those residual “I hate my tummy” thoughts even as I approach my 31st birthday.

The big difference is that I now have a coping strategy. I’ve come to acknowledge that I’ll experience such negative thoughts every now and then no matter how enlightened I consider myself to be. Only now, I don’t let these thoughts suck me into a cesspool of self-hate and negativity.

I take the time to evaluate each and every one of those thoughts, working through them using logic and rationality. “Why am I thinking about my tummy? What can I do about it? Does this matter in the larger scheme of things?”

Then, I’ll turn to my attention to other things in my life that are far more important than the perceived bodily imperfection: “My body may not look like Adriana Lima’s but it’s strong and healthy, and I can throw a mean punch. I love what I do for a living and I never have Monday blues. I have family and friends that care about me and want to see me do well.”

What it all comes down to: Playing down the negative, accentuating the positive.

I’m not saying that this way of thinking will work for every woman grappling with bodily insecurity issues. I’m just saying that it’s important to have a conversation with yourself about it. Examine if it’s really your body that if you have issues with, or if it’s symptomatic of something else in your life that’s not going the way you want or envision.

Despite our best efforts, it can be hard to love our bodies fully 100% of the time, but that shouldn’t make you feel less of a feminist or empowered just because you bemoan “orange-peel thighs” every now and then. Remember: empowerment is all about knowing that you have the power to change things. And giving yourself time and being patient about coming into your own is perhaps one of the best things you can do for yourself.

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About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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