9 Ways to Nurture a Healthy Body Image

A major clothing retailer recently added a women's size XXXS (or 000—three zeroes) to its racks, fueling discussion of “vanity sizing” and the challenges of a negative body image.

Many studies link body-image dissatisfaction and eating disorders with exposure to mass media's “thin ideal,” according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

Yet a positive body image is crucial to happiness and wellness. Developing a healthy mind/body dialog can help you feel good in your skin, regardless of where you are on your wellness journey.

Silence Your Inner Body-Image Critic

Often we are our own worst enemy. Practicing good self-care and kindness may be a major shift, but take heart! Over time, these practices can send your internal critic packing:

  1. Have patience. Many people feel discouraged when their weight plateaus or pounds don't drop off as quickly as they had hoped. They then give up too quickly. Permanent weight loss takes time, though. When feeling discouraged, re-evaluate your food intake, habits and exercise plan. The longer it takes to achieve your goal weight, the more time there is to replace self-defeating beliefs that contributed to an unhealthy weight in the first place. Patience helps you do that. You not only lose weight responsibly, you become a more confident person in the process.
  2. Compliment yourself on one thing every day. When thinking of something you like about yourself, think beyond your appearance. Focus on your individuality instead. Take pride in things such as being a dependable staff member, a loving family member, and/or a reliable friend.
  3. Persevere through set-backs.
 It's normal to falter sometimes while learning new lifestyle habits. It doesn't matter that you slip, but what you do afterward does matter. Use set-backs as opportunities to reinforce yourself. For example, if you miss exercising for a while, tell yourself with no judgment, “Today is my day to keep moving forward.” Each time you persevere increases confidence.
  4. Accept your body. Honor your body now, even while you work to make it the best it can be. If it's hard right now to “love” or even “like” your body, that's OK. Start by respecting it. Focus your self-talk on motivation and appreciation. Give your body nutritious fuel and movement so it thrives. You'll reach your goals when you stop rebelling against your body. As you accept your body for the treasured gift it is, taking good care of it becomes your only option.
  5. Focus on your goal. Focus on where you're headed instead of obsessing about where you are. You can't make progress if you dwell on self-criticism. What you focus on, grows. So shift attention away from challenges and shortcomings and concentrate on the positive choices you're making. This inspires you to succeed and makes reaching your goal easier.
  6. Give yourself priority. Reshape your body and mind by making wellness “Job One.” Set and keep boundaries to protect your commitment to care for your health. If breaking promises to yourself is a pattern, examine why you're not committed to your goals. By making your wellness a priority, you'll not only reach your goal, but your success will also last.
  7. Keep a “compliment journal.” Write down every compliment you receive in a blank book. When you have a rough day, leaf through the journal to relive that warm, fuzzy feeling from when you first received the compliment.
  8. Bail out of the complaint brigade. When loved ones bemoan their shape (we all hear these comments sometimes), don't join in the put-downs. Rather, genuinely compliment something about their personality that you admire.
  9. Slam the breaks on negative self-talk. When you hear yourself slipping into negative self-talk-“I hate XYZ about myself”-stop immediately. Counteract that negativity with a loving thought. Would you say such harsh things to your best friend—or even a stranger? Of course not. It's time to become your own best friend and treat yourself with kindness and respect.

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