Changing your body will not change your body image.
The first time I heard someone say those words I gave them the side eye. The person making this declaration was a thin 20-something fitness influencer who rocked six-pack abs. That’s easy for you to say, I thought to myself.
But then I remembered that when I was in my 20s and was thin and also had six-pack abs, I was still unhappy with my body. Now here I am two decades, several dress sizes, and nearly 40 pounds later singing, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Joni Mitchell never lies!
OK, fitness influencer, you win. I believe you. I need to focus on having a healthy body image regardless of my weight or the size of my jeans. To figure out how to do this, I turned to certified health coach Tish Fletcher, who’s also the owner of Thrive Wellness Lounge in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Our body image is more about our mindset,” Fletcher says. And “fixing” one thing you’re unhappy with rarely turns out to be the fix you really need. Fletcher says her coaching experience has shown her that when a woman changes one thing about her body, she’ll often just move on to wanting to change something else.
“It's potentially a never-ending cycle until her mindset is adjusted and changed,” Fletcher says.
For some people, body image issues may be rooted in trauma that needs to be addressed by a therapist.
“It could have been trauma as a child, they could have been bullied and still not over that,” Fletcher says.
This trauma could even lead to you believing you need to look a certain way to be loved.
For others, however, the key to body confidence could begin with something as simple as gratitude.
“We only get one body. How dare we talk to our one body the way that we tend to do,” Fletcher says. What if instead of chastising our bodies for the parts that jiggle, we gave thanks to our bodies simply for carrying us through our day?
Adopting a positive body image that’s not dependent on your body’s shape or size won’t happen overnight. But here are some tips from Fletcher to get you started.
10 Simple Ways to Boost Your Body Image
Step off the scale. “Stop weighing yourself every day,” Fletcher advises. A number on a scale is not a good measure of your overall wellness, especially considering your weight can frequently fluctuate due to hormonal changes, she adds.
Ask better questions. Instead of always wondering, “How much do I weigh?” ask yourself better questions.
“How do you feel? How's your energy? How's your stress? How's your sleep? Those are the things that I focus on,” Fletcher says.
Buy a better bra. If you’re not feeling confident in your clothes, your bra may be to blame, Fletcher says. After getting a bra that fits properly, you may find that the top or dress you thought you could no longer wear suddenly looks great on you.
“Little things like that–they all add up,” Fletcher says.
Mind your mind. Be mindful of the music you’re listening to, the shows you’re watching, and the books, magazines, and websites you’re reading. Avoid content that fans the flames of those negative body image vibes.
Fletcher advises her clients to spend at least 10 minutes each morning fueling their minds with positive messages. This might involve prayer or meditation, gratitude journaling, or listening to uplifting music, sermons or podcasts.
Try a social media cleanse. Instead of hoping on the next “master cleanse” to lose weight, try a social media cleanse instead. Fletcher recommends unfollowing any social media accounts that tempt to you fall back into yo-yo dieting or that cause you to fall into the trap of comparison.
Watch your mouth. Blocking out negative energy won’t matter if the harshest messages are coming from you. Stop talking down to your body. Try repeating affirmations in the mirror each morning instead.
“Speak lovingly to yourself,” Fletcher says. “You wouldn't want someone to walk up to your daughter, or your niece, or your mom and say the things that you say to yourself about your body.”
Move your body. Find a type of movement you enjoy. There’s so much to choose from – walking, jogging, dancing, cycling, swimming. There are chair workouts you can try if you have mobility issues. When you move, “you are releasing happy signals,” Fletcher says.
Try something new. If you’re not sure what type of exercise you enjoy, try new things to find out. Trying new things can also give you a confidence boost.
Set a small, achievable goal. Once you start moving, set a small, achievable fitness goal to keep you moving. Remember, to focus on non-scale victories. So instead of obsessing over losing 30 pounds, you could set a goal to walk for 30 minutes every day. Or maybe you want to start weight training so you can lift your grandbaby without throwing out your back!
“Confidence is built when you achieve a goal,” Fletcher says.
Think beyond your body. Taking care of your body is essential. But remember that your body is just one part of who you are as a person.
“As long as there's breath in my body, there's still a purpose and I can't diminish it to just the way my body looks,” Fletcher says.
Remember, you’re an influencer too!
Whether we realize it or not, as we grow older, we have greater influence on family and friends who acknowledge and appreciate our wisdom.
“You might not think it, but there are definitely people who are watching us,” Fletcher says.
And as they see you celebrate and embrace your body you are teaching them to do the same. This, Fletcher says, is an inspiring way to foster generational health.
So, I’m no longer wishing for that body I had in my 20s. I’m in a different season of life so it’s only fitting that I have a different body to carry me through it. This is my body love era.