Wellbeing 2 - Body Image

Guest written by Emily Cashell for Mental Health Awareness Month.

This blog is a practical guide of steps you can take to feel more comfortable with your body image. If this is something you struggle with, give them a try.

Negative body image issues may involve being overly focused on your size, shape, weight, appearance or unrealistic ideals. The mental energy that body image issues exhaust is astounding and can often lead to secondary issues such as low self-esteem, a sense of isolation, depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and negative self-talk. As the focus is on external appearances, often people seek to solve their problems with external solutions. However, this is like trying to fix a broken car engine by polishing the outside; the issue is not with the body- it is with what is inside. The point is, when someone is unhappy with how they look, the problem is likely not with the body, it is with our mentality towards it. Body image issues are an important thing to normalise and discuss.

Loving your body can be hard, accepting your body can be difficult, but respecting your body is a step that we can all work towards. Here are some initial steps that I advise, they most certainly have helped me:


1. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about your body:

Image 1: @_nelly_london

Social media use is ubiquitous, most people use it. It can be harmful or useful depending on how you interact with it. I started unfollowing accounts that I compared myself to or wished I could be more like, it is nothing personal and does not mean that you do not support the person you have unfollowed, it is simply protecting your own wellbeing. Similarly, I started following accounts that empower me and make me feel included. Following people with similar body types or who promote inclusivity can help you feel seen or accepted, as well as realising that all bodies are different. They are uniquely

beautiful and a piece of art created by nature. The following accounts are some that have helped me appreciate my body:

- @_nelly_london

- @stephanieyeboah

- @alexlight_ldn

- @dralexgeorge

- @bornthorne

By consuming content that does not make you feel worse about yourself, you begin to no longer insult your appearance and wish change upon it.

2. List things that your body can do for you:

Image 2: My morning list of things that I am grateful that my body allows (Emily, 2022, Grattitudes)

Sometimes we get so concerned at how our bodies look that we lose sight of how incredible they actually are. Changing the narrative, you use to talk about your body is a really powerful exercise and can help you respect it for what it is as opposed to how it looks. The great thing about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere. Awareness is key, notice when you negatively talk about your appearance and then try it out. Here is a list of examples of how you could change the way you view your body:

- “My legs are too big” vs “My legs allow me to go on walks with my loved ones”

- “My skin is so bad” vs “My skin works hard to heal wounds”

- “My stretch marks are so ugly” vs “It is so cool how my body allows me to adapt and grow”

- “My nose is so big” vs “My nose allows me to smell delicious scents”

- “My chest is so small” vs “My chest efficiently protects my vital organs”

3. Wear comfortable clothes:

Image 3: Male in Psych Apparel hoodie (Psych Apparel, Instagram, accessed: 03/05/2022)

I have seen a quote before saying “If your shoes do not fit, you would not be mean to your feet about it, you would just go buy new shoes.” and the same applies to your clothes. You are not meant to fit into your clothes, your clothes are meant to fit you. A practical way of coming to terms with your body is wearing clothes that you feel comfortable in. Ignore the size labels, they vary from store to store anyway. Ignore the trends, they change every season. Ignore what people say is size appropriate, you are allowed to wear whatever you would like and no one has a right to comment on your body. When you feel comfortable in your clothes, you feel more comfortable in your skin. On a bad body image, I usually wear:

- Joggers or baggy shorts

- Baggy t-shirt

- A big hoody

- Sliders

Lose fitting clothes just help me feel relaxed and the more relaxed I am, the better I feel about myself. Note: what is comfortable for you may be different to what is comfortable for me.

4. Look after your body:

Image 4: The Mediterranean food plate (Annyart, Mediterranean Diet Image,, accessed: 03/05/2022)

When I feel good, I feel like I look good. When I look after my body it is visible to me and others; my skin glows, my nails strengthen, I feel more energetic, my hair looks thicker. Often, we allow diet culture or others to dictate what our bodies need. In actual fact, our body can tell us what it needs itself. If your body needs rest, you will know. If your body needs food, you will know. I have listed some things that help me feel better with myself generally, and in turn my body include:

- 7-9 hours sleep per night

- reduced screen time the first and last hour in my day

- 1 bottle of water every 1-2 hours

- washing my face each morning

- eating a Mediterranean diet (not strictly. A balanced diet allows for food freedom and variation. Your body requires different foods for different reasons)

- going on a daily walk (even if just 5 minutes)

5. Figure out why you are unhappy with your appearance:

Image 5: Unwrapping your beliefs (Shainna Ali, 2019, Therapy,, accessed: 03/05/2022)

I saved this point for last because it takes a bit more time and patience to try. Though our problems may be projected onto our body, often there is a deeper reason as to why we are unhappy with our body. To illustrate this point, consider why you have chosen the friends you have. Perhaps you like your friends because they are kind or funny or honest. Maybe you like your friends because you have lots in common or they help you try new things. I find it hard to believe that anyone would choose their real friends based upon appearance. With that in mind, it suggests that we value people based on who they are internally, not externally. If our worth is based upon our personality, our heart, our soul, our spirit, or whatever one believes in, then why do we think our appearance defines it? Perhaps when we do not like or believe in the worth of our internal self, we rely on our external self to cultivate worth. For me, I sometimes doubt that people will like me for me and so I think I have to compensate and get people to like how I look. However, by figuring this out I have realised two things: firstly, people in my life like me for my personality and not my appearance and, secondly, if I start recognising how my personality positively contributes to the world then I begin be less bothered by what my appearance can offer. If you need help figuring out why you actually have body issues, a Socratic questioning exercise may help, whereby you create a chain of questions until you reach the deeper issue.

Here is an example of a Socratic dialogue:

“I need to change my body. Why? Because I do not like how it looks? Why? Because X is too Y. Why does it matter? Because it looks ugly? Who says that? Me. Why do you care if it looks ugly or not? Because it is not nice to look at. Why do you need it to look nice? Because then I feel more confident. How would it make you feel more confident? Because I would not need to hide the parts I dislike. Why do you need to hide those parts? Because no one wants to see that. Why does it matter what people

think about your body? Because they will judge me. Why would they judge you? Because it is not pretty. Why do you want to be pretty? Because then I will be liked. Do think people would stop liking you if you were not pretty? No. So, you clearly have other things that make you a good person, right? I guess. What do you think it is? I don’t know.”

Apologies for the very long example, but what it illustrates is that often we have these beliefs in our head without even questioning why we have them. We think what we need to change is our bodies but sometimes it is how we value ourselves that we need to change. We cannot change our beliefs or body issues if we have not even established where the belief or issue originates. You could do this form of investigation as a monologue or a dialogue. Sometimes it helps to write it down or some people may prefer speaking to someone about it, or even having a discussion with yourself in the mirror. Explore different methods to discover what works for you.

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