I hope you’re well. Today we’re talking about something really important - we’re getting down to the root cause of body image issues. Many of us think that the way to feel more confident in our bodies is to change how they look through dieting and exercise. But if you’ve ever been on this journey, you may have noticed how the weight loss, toning up etc. never seems to be enough. There’s always another 5kg to lose until you hit your dream body, or another soft spot that you need to tighten up. In my personal experience, I have found that the more focused I am on working towards a ‘better’ body, the more unhappy I become with my body. It’s like some crazy reverse psychology! Why does this happen? Why isn’t ‘fixing’ your body the solution? This is the question I’m going to answer today.
What is body image?
Before we even go anywhere, I thought it would be wise to begin by defining body image. Body image refers to how you think and feel about your body, how you see yourself and the behaviours you adopt in response to your view, thoughts and feelings about your body. In technical terms, these four aspects are defined as the perceptive, cognitive, affective and behavioural aspects of body image (Johnson, 2022) . So, body image isn’t actually about your body, but rather how you respond to what you see in the mirror. I’m sharing this with you so that you can see that you really have the power to shift your relationship with your body; you do not have to remain stuck in an average or negative relationship with your body forever. If you want to learn more practical insights to set the foundation for improving your relationship with your body, download a free preview of my Food & Body Freedom Forever workbooks here.
How does body image relate to self-worth/identity?
Diet culture teaches us from a young age that people judge us by our physical appearance. This teaches us that how our bodies look is a very important determinant of our internal and external value. The external value is how people perceive our value, and the internal value is how we perceive our own value. Oftentimes, our internal value, or self-worth, is strongly influenced by how we think others value us. Because physical appearance is such a big part of how others judge us, and how we judge others if we haven’t consciously unlearned this behaviour, we then internalise how we look as a measure of our self-worth. This causes us to place our worth in and to define ourselves by the wrong thing. It’s not possible for every single person to meet the very narrow standards of beauty; in fact, most people will not.
The best way to heal body image issues
In order to truly feel better about ourselves as people and to have peace with our bodies, we need to reject the diet culture’s effect on the parameters we use to define our worth and identity. We also need to realise that our bodies are not the problem, but that there is a larger systemic issue at hand - diet culture. Practically speaking, we must begin to fight for a healthy self-definition by separating our body image from our internal value. The key thing here is to realise that while you have a body, you are not your body. Removing your physical appearance from what you believe defines you will help you start healing your self-worth. Healing your self-worth will help you rise above diet culture and begin to have a more compassionate relationship with your body. This work happens in the mind; changing your body is not a sustainable solution to body image issues.
My hope is that with each post, a little bit of diet culture messaging will chip away from your mind. It can seem like a lot to take in this different way of thinking, but truly having your eyes opened in this way is the foundation to freedom from body image struggles. If you’d like to be guided, step-by-step on how you can start putting this into practice to heal your relationship with your body, please download a free copy of a preview to my Food & Body Freedom coaching workbooks. Each workbook has an educational section and a reflection section where I provide questions that will prompt to you think deeply about your food/body beliefs, how you came to adopt those beliefs and how you can begin transforming them. You can get two workbooks, for free, here.
Make sure to come back to the blog next week and sign up to my short weekly newsletter so you stay in the loop with blog updates, upcoming video updates and new coaching offers that I’ll be sharing.