As it’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week I wanted to share the tips that have best helped me to deal with negative body image over the past 3 years that I have been in recovery from Anorexia. Whilst my mindset has changed a lot, negative body image is something that I still struggle with and there are definitely times or days when it’s more of a difficulty than others. There’s far too much emphasis on aesthetics nowadays and we’re definitely all guilty of being our own biggest critics, and so I wanted to share the tips that along the way that are helping me on my own journey of self acceptance, in the hope that they might help you too.
Awareness weeks like this are so important – before I suffered from an eating disorder myself, I didn’t realise just how complex of a mental health problem they are. They are completely and utterly consuming – they affect you mentally and physically, impacting your relationships, social and work life. This is one of the reasons why I’ve chosen to speak so openly and honestly about my experience of suffering from and recovering from Anorexia – opening up the conversation and sharing, not only helps people who are suffering themselves, but educates other people on what the reality is. Ultimately I hope that in results in there being better advice and health care available in the future.
Bad body image and body dysmorphia can of course affect anyone, regardless of whether you have an eating disorder or not – pressures from social media and constantly being bombarded with diet culture and airbrushed images can all cause us to think negatively about ourselves and our bodies. But In reality what we perceive to be flaws are most often the things that other people love most about us and often our imperfections are some of our most unique traits. Our insecurities and little quirks are part of ourselves that we all need to learn to be kinder to, embrace and love.
Self acceptance and love is definitely something that I am striving for and working towards. Naturally there are parts of our bodies that we’re never going to be 100% happy with, but this is something which is definitely amplified when you’re suffering or in recovery from an eating disorder. There is so much focus nowadays on aesthetics but life truly is about so much more than your weight or your outward appearance. Our bodies do so much for us irrespective of how we look – something which I myself continue to be on my own journey with.
Whether it’s distracting myself, avoiding comparison, finding self worth outside of my body or simply opening up and talking to someone – they’re all little things that I have found beneficial over the past 3 years and to this day are helping me on my own journey of self acceptance. Whilst sadly there is no miracle cure, I hope that these tips can help you deal with bad body image days and help you to feel better about yourself. But it’s not going to be the same for everyone – whilst these are all little self care methods that I have found beneficial, they simply might not work for you. In which case, draw inspiration from them and find what helps you to feel the happiest and most comfortable in your own skin. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This post is in no away intended to replace the advice of a medical professional – I’m speaking simply from experience and what has been beneficial for me. If you are suffering from, in recovery, or think that you have a disordered relationship with food then please visit your GP. You can also find advice and resources on the following websites: Beat, Mind and the NHS.
1. Don’t Compare Yourself To Other People
I truly believe that comparison is the thief of joy, but 24/7 access to social media, negative messages from diet culture and photoshopped images all make it far too easy. But what’s the point in wishing you were someone else? If we all looked the same when it would be boring and in reality, happiness comes from within – not what you look like on the outside.
Avoiding comparing yourself to other people might mean taking a mini break from social media, or if there’s someone in particular that makes you feel bad about yourself, then it’s ok to prioritise your own mental health and unfollow them. Striving to have someone else’s appearance is unrealistic – you and your body are unique, instead of putting so much effort and time in to wishing that you had someone else’s hair or bum, transfer it in to embracing and learning to love your own body for what it is.
2. Wear Something Comfy
This will be slightly different for everyone but make sure to wear something that you feel the most confident and least self conscious in. Personally crop tops are a no go for me at this time – I like a cosy jumper, jeans and a comfy pair of trainers. Getting up and doing my hair and make up always makes me feel so much better too. But I have to admit that I pretty much live in my dressing gown and pyjamas when I’m at home anyway, so for me they become even more of a go to at this time.
3. Distract Yourself
This is a lot easier said than done, but concentrate your energy on doing something that you love and that will take your mind off of the negative thoughts. It might be watching your favourite film, yoga, scrap-booking, listening to your favourite music or podcast, meditating or taking a bath. I find that even just going to work helps to keep me distracted. It’s so important to take some time for self care and do something that you enjoy. I also find that it helps to distract from any thoughts that creep in regarding food and exercise.
4. Find Self Worth Outside Of Your Body
I think we all need to realise that we are worth so much more than our outward appearance. Realistically your appearance or weight is not what defines you or dictates your life. Why do you love the people around you? Because of what they weigh? No, it’s because of their personalities, their smile, their talents and the way that they make you laugh – so why would you think that the same doesn’t apply to you?
One of my favourite quotes is that we shouldn’t say anything to ourselves that we wouldn’t openly say our best friend. Talk kindly to yourself and put the focus on all the the things that make you YOU, that aren’t related to your appearance. Try making a list of all of the things that you’ve achieved recently, your talents or a list of goals for the future to motivate you.
5. Acknowledge How Far You’ve Come
At times when I am struggling, I like to focus on all of the positives that recovery has brought me. I know that for me personally, I’ve come so far in the past 3 years so when I find the negative thoughts about my body, weight and restriction creeping in I remind myself of all the misery that my eating disorder brought me and compare that to everything that weight gain and recovery have brought me. Now I can eat out, enjoy meals with friends and family, I have a healthier relationship with food, I’m able to go to work and I’m more social. Looking back to the place where I was and comparing it to where I am now gives me a push to carry on and go even further.
6. Be Grateful
We’re all guilty of taking our bodies for granted and are far too quick to talk negatively about them – picking them apart and forgetting how much they do for us on a daily basis. Be grateful and thankful to your body – it keeps you alive, enables you to study, work and breath. It’s constantly working 24 hours a day to power you through what ever life throws at you so be grateful and know that this is so much more important than simply what it looks like.
For me, one of my biggest insecurities has always my thighs and so dealing with weight gain there has been difficult but now I try and put a positive spin on it and be grateful for all of the things that they enable me to do. Yes they may be bigger than they were a year or two years ago but they allow me to walk my dog, go to work and power me through workouts. And if that means that they happen to be bigger, then that’s something that I am grateful for.
Your body works so hard to simply keep you alive so don’t let it go under appreciated.
7. Open up and ask for help
Asking for help or acknowledging that you’re struggling isn’t a sign of weakness – in fact it’s one of the bravest thing that you can do. Opening up and getting it off of your chest can be so much more beneficial than you think. I find that simply getting those thoughts out of my own head and sharing them with someone else can be such a relief and reiterates that you’re not alone. I often off load to my mum, or send a message to one of my friends and I always feel so much better for it. If you don’t have someone close to you, then you can speak confidentially with a BEAT adviser via their helpline.
Do you have any tips or advice for dealing with bad body image days? Or are there any other particular topics that you want me to talk about in relation to Anorexia recovery? I would love to hear your thoughts so please leave them in the comments below or let me know over on Instagram @nourishingyas x